Sending out early Valentines Greetings to you and yours...wishing you a warm, loving and peaceful weekend no matter where you are. May the magic of love, in whatever form it takes, bring to you a smile this day and every day!
I'm having so much fun with the Hemp house project! As you may recall, this was a brand new material for me to work with so that meant I had to do a lot of testing first to see what was possible. In this picture you can see some of those early tests:
#1 shows the raw, dried stems that I got from Joel at Vermont Hemp Company. The stems have a lot of strength and are quite dense so I know I'll use them as structural supports. The pile of straightened material ( #2) is what I developed by taking the raw bark-like strands that are shown at the very top. These are the fibers that are used for rope and fabric making. They are very long (sometimes over 3 ft long!) and the strips are somewhat malleable, but they first have to be dampened and straightened, which is what I did to get the thin strips in #2. This took quite a bit of time to achieve, but the golden-honey colour strips are fun to work with once you get them. The back-side has a shimmery creamy white appearance so I wanted to use both sides if I could in my designs.
I used some strips to weave a panel # 3 and # 4 in the image above, #3 shows all the strips with the same side up and #4 shows using the front side/back side up in an alternating pattern.
#4 shows how I then trimmed a woven section to fit my paper pattern shape to begin the window walls for the house. #5 shows another treatment which was just laying down several strips in a row and laminating them to the hemp-paper pattern directly. I use epoxy for this process as I don't want the strips to come off the support and the epoxy seems to work really well for that.
I took all the pattern pieces and tackled the window and door panels first since these give the main shape to each of the projections that come off the base. Here you can see all the finished window panels:
it was important to me to make each panel a little different but because they are all made from the same materials they all have a nice harmonious balance, design-wise. Except for the glue holding them all together, these are 100% hemp. The door panel required a little different treatment as I wanted it to be a bit more sparkly.
There were several trials with real draongfly wings as mentioned previously. I had hoped they would work as "glass" doors, but I just didn't feel confident that they would be durable enough and I thought it would be such a shame if down the road something happened to the doors...it would ruin the whole sculpture. So to be cautious, I used the same concept only with different materials. I had some photographs of dragonfly wings that had been printed on clear acetate. These are what I ended up using. They were the same idea, just very strong. Here they are installed with their glass "jewels" in place to add a bit of sparkle. The white stuff is the fluffy hemp that is used to make thread. I rolled/spun it very loosely to make a fat length and then cross-stitched it on with some decorative hemp cord. This whole panel is very small, less than 4 inches tall...the door itself is about 2.25 inches tall. After this step I added a few Austrian crystal micro beads sprinkled on the white fluff arch, to add a bit more sparkle. I don't have a photo of that yet.
Next it was time to tackle the roof sections. I was absolutely thrilled that the hand-made paper from Japan arrived. It was gorgeous and this photograph does not do it justice but it is the back-ground in the photo below:
Here we have all my roof patterns transferred to the hemp paper support panels, cut out and laminated. Each roof section is made from two sheets of the heavy hemp paper and is then glued together. In my experimenting, I discovered that hemp paper will take a bit of manipulation when it is wet and when it dries will hold the shape if white glue is used in the dampening process. So each roof got a bit of molding and shaping while it was wet and then the pattern was traced onto the dried panel and cut out as you can see above. I was very excited about the curly, turned up ends that this process allowed- it was a bit like my birch-bark curls I sometimes add to my other faerie houses so this was an added bonus. The diamond cut-outs will be places where the interior lights will be allowed to shine thru the roof, a bit like sky-lights in reverse. Since I had no idea how I was going to cover these roofs, I had to do more experimenting! And here is the horrible, yet very instructive result!
This is not an actual roof but a piece constructed to test several techniques - there are actually SIX tests in this single piece. It was a bit discouraging at first because all the things I thought I was going to be able to do, did not in the end work out. But with more trials and tests I finally found a solution that I was quite pleased with..... but I'll save that for next time!!