Wednesday, 18 July 2012

e.e. cummings is rolling in his grave

I no longer want to scratch my retinas out when I look at it, so I suppose that’s progress.

The enormous blank wall in the dining room drove me crazy, especially since the room itself has no interesting furniture, but we had nothing to hang. We’re uni students. The closest we come to wall art is flow charts on the constitutional status of the industrial relations power. So there were two main mission targets: make something big, and make it cheap. Alisa Burke’s tutorial on creating large paintings full of text was perfect, and coincidentally used the same poem I had in mind.

I started by measuring the wall to decide how big to build the frame for my ‘canvas’ – I decided on 2 x 1 metres. I built the frame out of radiata pine (not ‘radiator’ pine, everybody knows that…thank you, Google). It has two delightful attributes:
1. It’s light, so it hangs easily, and;
2. It’s about 80 cents a metre, so you could build the Great Wall of China out of it and still have money left over for lunch.

The first step is, obviously, measuring and sawing the wood to size (remember to subtract the width of the top and bottom pieces when you’re measuring the side pieces).

This photo serves no useful purpose, and I’m not actually sure why Lawrence took it. Was he staggered by my ability to hold a measuring tape and a pencil in the same hand?

I then drilled two holes about three-quarters the length of the nail (which was 10 cm), right through the top piece and partly into the side piece. It’s okay if it’s a little bigger than the nail: that last quarter you hammer in is the bit that holds it in. Don’t place the hole too close to the edge of the wood, or it’ll split and you’ll have to make the Walk of Shame back into the hardware store. I didn’t actually take a photo at the time, but this is the x-ray version of the finished product.

Repeat three times, once for each corner. I also added a piece of wood down the middle, since otherwise the middle of the material would sag. One advantage of this type of frame is that you don’t have to add picture hangers: you can just rest the edge of the top piece of wood on top of the wall hooks, provided you don’t live with people prone to kicking walls in frustration.

I’d bought a king size bed sheet from the tip shop for a dollar, so the total cost of the project was less than ten dollars. Stapling the material on is mostly easy, as long as you start with a couple of staples on each side before stapling along the whole length. But the corners are my Kryptonite. I hate it when tutorials say to staple the corners like you’re wrapping a present, because I wrap a present by putting it in a gift bag. The method I eventually came up with was something like this:

I didn’t wash the sheet before I used it, of course, since there was no way I could wait another day. I’ve given up on telling people not to stand too close or sniff it, since the friendly advice invariably gets me strange, slightly disgusted looks. And, well, anybody who goes around sniffing other people’s wall hangings probably deserves whatever they get.

My biggest mistake was painting it freehand: it’s such a personal poem that it felt too mass-market made in China to stencil it. The problem is that I have incredibly unattractive handwriting, and nobody told me that it wasn’t going to become pretty cursive script just because I was using a paintbrush and not a pencil. The frame wasn’t long enough and was too wide, because instead of sizing it according to what I was painting, I sized it according to HIDE BORING WALL PAINT.

Maybe it looks better from a distance.


Lyndon convinced me not to take it down: he said “Not everything has to be perfect, Rach”, and I suppose he might be right. However, if anyone asks where it came from, I fully intend to lie and tell them that Lyndon did it.

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