Lamentation

SCROLL DOWN FOR UPDATE!

Sami was able to patch the tusk.

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There was this blue elephant, see? I wrecked it and I am feeling very, very bad about it.

It was harvested from a curbside trashpile many years ago and spent most of its time in the garage, ignored and buried under our own junk. The top has a deep depression in it so it’s probably a planter. Maybe a base for a glass topped-end table. It came into the living room last year so we could look at it and ponder if it (a) could benefit from a spray paint makeover or (b) should go back to the trash. Believe me, nobody ever wanted to trash it. It has great detail in terms of elephant wrinkles, toenails and tassels that hang from the howdah and the deep aqua glaze that stuck in those details and made it all the more compelling.

Finally its day in the sun came and it was decided that it would go Glossy Ivory and move to Philadelphia where my daughter, the curbside harvester herself, would incorporate it into the decor of the apartment she’s moving into this weekend. This morning I picked it up to test how heavy it was and if I could carry it out to the deck myself or if I had to wait for Sami to do it. It was surprisingly light and manageable. I thought all along that it was concrete but it turns out to be made of plaster. I walked it through the kitchen on the way out to the deck but I misjudged how wide it was as I carried it.

You know, when I was getting near the kitchen table, I thought maybe I should put it down and regroup for the rest of the trip. But I was so pleased with how I was managing and proud that I didn’t need any help to do this so I kept on going. So funny how life changes in a flash because right then is when  I crashed it into the side of a chair as i passed it.

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Severe tusk damage. Sad face sad face sad face. SAD FACE!  I tried gluing it back together and it will probably be okay if I just find that one last piece. Maybe Sami can patch it up. He’s pretty good with holes in drywall maybe he can fill this. He thinks he can.

My daughter took the news very well. “It’s ok. At the end of the day it came from the garbage, right?” she texted back to me. I offered to spray paint the faded garden gnome hoisting a foaming beer mug for her but she declined. She’s really not upset about it but I feel terrible. I was the guardian of the blue elephant and I failed.

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UPDATE! Sami was able to patch the tusk and also an area on the butt that we didn’t see before. Apparently, the plaster body has a slip coat over it and that is where the glaze was applied. That slip coat is no thicker and no stronger than the hard candy shell on an M&M. The elephant’s butt had an irregularly shaped 2″x 2″ section where the glazed shell fell off. Sami patched that too.

I sprayed a light test coat of Krylon Gloss Ivory on one side this morning and at the first pass, it became obvious that the entire shell is crazed. But I’m moving ahead anyway. It is my destiny to prop up imperfect things that are temporary and preserve them and share them as long as I can.  Vintage redwood patio furniture that rots and crumbles, mid-century dinnerware that chips and smashes, even The Painted Deer which seemed indestructible but was felled by a hurricane.

There’s a lesson in all this I guess. Something about how all things are transient, or don’t get too attached to material things. Or maybe just you are a weirdo stop wasting your time. But how can I stop? And why should I? This thing is going to be magnificent. For as long as it lasts.

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RIGHT? Maybe if I use enough spray paint it will strengthen the crazed shell and prolong the life of the elephant. Maybe.

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10 thoughts on “Lamentation

  1. That elephant is a true thing of beauty so I’ll raise you one :(:(:(:(:(
    Think of all the great ME antiquities destroyed in recent years and not a tear shed by the destroyers and no effort to repair. But this is not the case in the Suzette household where the values of culture and civilized humanity reign.

  2. It must be a sad day for you. Perhaps you need to hoist a foaming beer mug to your lips to take your mind off the poor elephant who was so close to becoming an objet d’art. That is, before you broke him. 😉

  3. Take heart. From the picture, and since you plan to paint it, I believe there’s reason for hope. And remember, elephants have an altogether different set of values than us when it comes to appearances.

  4. Hmm.. you are a tad beyond crazing here (crazing is a result of the pottery being in temps that varied from “hot” to “cold”..) in most vintage pieces it is accepted…. and doesn’t really bring down the value. Mr. Sami did an outstanding job.. as did you with your painting of the piece. Perhaps a new career in pottery restoration??

  5. In the vintage guitar market old paint “checks” – develops shallow cracks in the surface – from changes in temp or UV rays. Dirt, sweat, cigarette smoke etc gets into those crevices and adds value to the instrument, also referred to as “mojo.” The manufacturers saw this as a defect and switched to a polyurethane paint that doesn’t check. When I re-finish old guitars, I use the original nitrocellulose lacquer so that it will.

    Weird.

    I have a feeling our generation is the last that values re-furbishing, re-using, re-purposing. When I take an old tool or whatever and re-use it for something else my daughter thinks I am wacky. “Just buy a new one.”

    • New tools are not as well made. Nor do they have the patina of having been used, maybe for generations. The feel in the hand.

      • Most people now buy their tools at Lowes/HD/Walmart, where cheap Chinese crap is sold. Yes, you can buy Porter-Cable, Milwaukee or Bosch tools there, but at 3x the price, so most people walk out with a Ryobi. (I confess to this at times.)

        They not only have no “patina”, they can be downright dangerous to use: dull blades and bits, cheap wiring, plastic parts that break at critical moments.

        I have approx. 6 large power tools and about 8 hand-held power tools. I managed over time to get decent versions of most things through garage sales, Craigs List, etc. You can buy Delta or Craftsman used and, if old enough, were made here in the US. Used power tools never cost more than 40% of new. (You just have to figure out how to lift them into the car and rewire the garage with 220v outlets.)

        Pet Theory of the Day: things began to go downhill when kids no longer had to take mandatory shop class in high school.

        I’m sure Mr. Sami has an opinion on this when not fulminating on the situation in Egypt.

  6. I applaud your determination to make your elephant right for your daughter. I would have been sick about it. And would have tried to fix it.

    I am from that generation.

    Unfortunately I am also a plant rescuer whose rescued plants never really look lush and wonderful. Just alive.

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