Gomez Addams, the Astonishing Talking Cat, 1997 – 2015

gomez portrait 1.27.15

“I love cats because I enjoy my home, and little by little, they become its visible soul.” — Jean Cocteau

On January 25, 2015, at about 10:30 AM, Gomez Addams, the Astonishing Talking Cat of World Renown, passed away after a struggle with a protracted illness. He was eighteen years old. He is survived by his feline friend, Leah, his human friend, my mother Carol, and his devoted life companion, me. We are all devastated by his loss.

I loved Gomez as much as any human can love anything or anyone. I’ve had cats all my life. I’ve loved all of them, and I’ve grieved for all of them as they passed, each in their turn. But Gomez was special. He was more than a pet, he was a partner. His bond with me was more mutually interactive than any other cat I’ve known. It wasn’t just me doting on him. Everything each of us did, we did together. I was the mission-vision half of the team. I came up with the big plans and organizing initiatives and whatnot. Gomez was the operations/implementation supervisor. With his overbearing internal clock he kept me on track, made sure I never missed breakfast, lunch, dinner, studio time, desk/computer time, tv time, housekeeping time, snuggle time, bed time and wake-up time. And with his clear, feline focus on priorities, he made sure I never lost sight of the point of it all — to be happy. To be comfortable. To be filled with pleasure and stability and love. He informed and maintained all the daily routines that made up our home. While I seldom scored big wins in my role, he always delivered 120% in his.

He came to me randomly. Strangers dumped him off with my mother without warning when word got round that my previous cat, Gina the Notorious Adventuress, had fallen to cancer. “This is for your daughter,” she said they said. He appeared before me a little black barn cat, nameless, crawling with fleas, worm-infested, maybe about nine weeks old, probably the last of a litter to be gotten rid of, and his previous owners gone without trace. I thought ‘Well, I guess I have a new cat now,’ and I did what a person is supposed to do. First step: out with the fleas. I named him Gomez Addams after my favorite pop-culture character and image of the Ideal Man. Over the next couple of months, my little lost Addams lad was dewormed, neutered, litter-trained, made presentable like a delinquent with a court date. 

But it was all him from there. Starting with our landlord, it was Gomez and Gomez alone who charmed all comers and swayed all judges. A remarkable character emerged as he matured — debonair and impeccable, quietly grand in presence with just a tasteful hint of gravitas, expansive and substantial in personality. He was liked and admired by all who knew him. His good looks, cool attitude, and gift for oratory gained him celebrity in at least two states. Though not given to public displays of affection, he was kind to his friends and an endless source of joy to his fortunate intimates. An athlete and sportsman. A killer of mice. A singer. And in private, a lover of petting and kisses.

He was my constant companion for nearly twenty years. He joined me at a time when I was lost in the wilderness and struggling to put together an adult life for myself, to pick a direction and find my voice. I built my adult life. I did it with him and around him — in partnership with him as he grew into his own adult life. Little by little, he became the visible soul of my home, of the heart of my life, those things and spaces that were mine and definitive of me. He was there in all of them. Through good times and hard times, through human relationships growing and breaking down, through successes and failures, through betrayals and rejection, yes, even through sickness and health, he was there. Reliable, secure, warm and purring. Guardian against misfortune and ill-will. No matter what might happen out in the world, I always knew I would come home to peace and comfort and him.

He was my rock. We were so happy together.

But now he’s gone. I knew I would lose him. Cats, after all, just don’t live as long as humans. No amount of knowing could prepare me for this, though. I feel as if half my life has been ripped away. He was the soul of my home. He was the spirit that enlivened my private life. The soul is gone out of my house. There is no life, no joy in what I do now, day to day. Perhaps someday I’ll feel happy again, but I can’t even imagine where such happiness would come from, if not from him.

My dearest friend and closest companion lived a long, full, healthy and comfortable life. He died naturally in my arms, in the bed he’d shared with me his whole life, surrounded by his family. He passed away four days after my birthday, in the first month of the new year.

It was a damned hard January for a lot of people. I know many who are entering this year mourning loved ones or facing the imminent loss of loved ones, both beloved humans and beloved pets. Myself, I had such high hopes. I was looking forward to starting a new life-chapter, and I went into it armed with projects and resolutions. But this year has slammed into people’s lives with a wave of hardships and pain.

What the hell, 2015? What did we ever do to you? I know he was old and frail, but why did you take him from me before he could enjoy just one more warm spring day? Why did you dangle the hope of recovery when the vet’s care seemed to save him, only to shut down his organs a week after he showed marked improvement? My man. My poor little fellow.

By this time, I had planned to have the dollhouse finished and the first artworks using it in progress. I had planned to have my novel in beta-reading. I had planned to launch a new blog and an ambitious series of online projects. But I don’t know how to work without him watching me building my artworks, or resting his head on my arm while I write, or interrupting me to announce meal times. I don’t know how to keep to a schedule without him ticking off the segments of the day with his habits. I don’t know how to sleep without him by me in the dark.

I feel that I owe it to him to get back on track. He carried me emotionally all those years. He helped to build this human life I’m living. I can’t let it all be for nothing. I know I have to keep working toward those goals I had hoped to share with him.

But I don’t know how.

If I don’t figure it out — if this terrible pain and all the losses being suffered by my friends and family in the lead-up to this year don’t give way to — I don’t know, something somehow good in some way I can’t imagine — somehow beneficial to humanity — somehow conducive to growth and wisdom — then damn you, 2015. I will not forgive you. You had no need to be so cruel.

So this blog, which was to have been the journal of my new projects, will instead be a journal of my attempts to find my way again. He came to me when I was lost. Without him, I’m lost again. But I have to believe that I’m stronger and wiser now than I was then, and that strength and wisdom, such as it may be, is due in large part to him. I have to believe it even though I can’t feel it right now.

I believe in reincarnation. I believe our souls are eternal and journey from life to life and from one form to another, but that we remain consistent in who we are, the kinds of beings we are. Someday, somewhere, there will be a particularly astonishing and impressive beast of some kind, or maybe a tree that heals with its shade and supports countless lives, or a dark-haired man, big and robust, with piercing eyes and the gift of gab, who may seem outwardly somewhat staid and reserved and even dour, but who will prove to be the best of people, the most trustworthy of friends, the most loving of companions. He will be my Gomez reincarnated. If you meet him, treasure him.

Good-bye, Gomez, my beloved friend. I will never forget you. I will try hard, for your sake. I miss you. I miss you so much.

gomez close-up

 

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Floor Plans, Floor Plans: Miniature Project Phase 3 – Orchid Dollhouse Chapter 4

christmasholly4

Happy Holidays, Dear Readers.
‘Tis the season for Joy and Japes and Merrie Olde Jestes and all that sort of thing.

However, they’re working on the new extension on the house behind ours, and there’s a crew still rebuilding the snot out of My Sainted Mother’s favorite house down the block. Construction budgets know no holidays, only cash flow. So it is with my dollhouse, which I am determined to finish by the end of this year, or at least within the first half of January. Fortunately, I’m broke and only able to mount a pretty mingey Christmas for my loved ones. In this way, the miniature world is the opposite of the full-scale world — in miniature, the less money you have to throw around, the more work you can get done. 😉

Anyway… Observations on the third dry fit to mark room dimensions. With this fit, I’ll mark out ceiling light fixtures and measure floor and walls for the bathroom tiling.

orchid 3.1

One problem with these quaint old cottages is that their bathrooms are really, really tiny. I suppose most of them were built as mere waterclosets before people had baths upstairs as opposed to hauling out the tub in the kitchen. The itsy-bitsy old-house bathroom is an issue in life just as it is in the Orchid Dollhouse.

The room comes out equivalent to a mere 6.75 feet long by 4.5 feet wide. Watercloset indeed. With some placeholder props and tons of small-space bathroom design inspiration photos from Google and Bing, I think I’ve worked out a reasonable floor plan.

orchid 3.3

 

The two windows, side and dormer, pose a challenge, especially the one full-sized window, for which I blame Greenleaf for designing it that way, not myself for failing to notice and to cut a smaller window, which would have been smart of me. A bathroom with a view is nice for both the residents and the neighbors, I’m sure. 😉

Because of the narrowness of the room, the only reasonable placement for the shower is against the dormer at the back. With the toilet and a streamlined sink console on the one solid wall, that leaves easy pass-through in and out and access to the shower. I can put shelves over the sink and toilet for storage. I might even be able to fit in a compact clothes washer, possibly under the sink, perhaps with rods for hang-drying clothes in front of that big-ass window. At least my tiny tenants won’t have to worry about mildew with that much sunshine flooding in.

Like many real houses of its type, altered over generations, the Orchid has features that don’t make sense but are not unusual. For instance, why are there two windows in the only spot that works for a bathroom, but only one smallish window in the only spot that works for the master bedroom, under the gable in the center front? (Note: These windows will be installed when the roof is completed.)

orchid 3.2

 

That big triangular gable in the center is prime interior real estate. It would be silly to put the bathroom in it. Anyway, the bathroom should be on the same side as the kitchen in a house this size. The smaller the structure, the more compact the plumbing lines are going to be.

The kit originally includes only one partition wall for each floor, so for most Orchid Houses, the bedroom is much larger and has three windows — the gable, the dormer and the side window. It also has the stairs coming up right in the room. That makes me twitchy. It feels too much like a loft for this kind of house. If it was of an older period or if it were a converted carriage-house type of cottage, it would be fine, but for houses of this type, a bedroom without a door just doesn’t seem right. There may be such cottages of this style and period, but internet searches for “Nantucket cottage floor plans” pretty universally show bedrooms with doors.

So the way I’m envisioning this:

A) You go upstairs to the landing and turn left, then right. You are in a short, narrow hallway. On your immediate right is the door to the bedroom. In front of you at the end of the hallway is the door to the bathroom.

Or, alternatively,

B) You turn left off the stairs and on your right will be the bedroom door. You pass through the bedroom to get to the en-suite bathroom. Not the ideal arrangement for overnight guests sleeping on the sofa, but not unheard of in a small one-bedroom home.

I’ll decide which of these I’ll go with after the gable is constructed and I see how the furniture fits in. Either way, it makes for a dark bedroom, unless we assume windows in the back roof.

This runs into one of the ways dollhouses are never realistic. You can count on three things to break suspension of disbelief in most commercially pre-fabbed dollhouses:

  • the stairways will always be too tight;
  • the bathtubs will always be too small; and
  • the open back will always require you to assume structural features that couldn’t possibly work.

In the Orchid’s case, the pitch of the roof and the length of the second-floor partition wall make it impossible to have a passage from one room to another that wouldn’t be at least a head too short for an average miniature adult to use without stooping significantly, if the back roof actually existed.

orchid 3.6

With the original roof angle, the bedroom and bathroom doors would be 4.5 inch/feet high at their tallest point, tapering down to less than 1 inch/foot high. If we assume residents who are 5-6 inch/feet tall, this would clearly result in a lawsuit against the architect. “Your honor, are we supposed to crawl in and out of the bathroom like mice?”

Either the walls need to be cut shorter than 8 inches long, which would make the rooms impractically small, or the back roof needs to be angled differently. Only you can’t easily change the pitch of the roof because of all the gingerbread and other exterior details that go with the house. If I ever decide to build a back wall and roof to enclose the house completely, for exterior images or just to be totally obsessive, I will have to construct an extension of the back roof and possibly a second gable, widening the second floor in the center and leaving the two sides as they are.

I suppose I could fit in a tiny home office/guest room that way…

Wow, this rabbit hole sure is deep. 😛

 

Wishing All a Joyous Holiday Season

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Wow, Watch That Paint Dry: Miniature Project Phase 3 — Orchid Dollhouse, Chapter 3

Experiments with interior finishes…

While waiting for various things to dry, I thought I’d post a bit about how I’m painting this wood and cardboard dollhouse.

To create an illusion of space in this tiny container, I’m going with gloss and semi-gloss. The experts at Greenleaf actually recommend against a gloss/high-gloss finish as it will highlight every imperfection, and they recommend in favor of semi-gloss for blurring over minor imperfections. But I’m looking to maximize interior light, and to that end, I’m using both.

SEMI-GLOSS PAINT MIXTURE:

As mentioned in my last post on this topic, I achieved a pretty good “eggshell” semi-gloss by mixing acrylic paint with PVA glue.

For this project, I’m using Liquitex® Basics® acrylic paint and acrylic gesso and Blick® Studio Acrylics paint. My glue is Elmer’s® Glue-All® multi-purpose white (PVA) glue. I’m using a 2-inch, flat, square brush and a .5-inch, flat, square brush. A lot of people prefer sponge brushes for things like this, but I just don’t like them. They’re a pain to work with after a couple of hours. I go with bristles, the cheaper the better.

I mix approximately two parts glue with three parts paint and thin slightly with water. Work as dry as you can and still be able to move the paint around comfortably and smoothly. The dollhouse materials (cardboard and thin plywood) warp easily and are highly absorbent. You don’t want either your paint or your brushes too wet. 

However, don’t let your brushes dry out, either, or the glue will be difficult or impossible to remove. I let my brushes rest in water between coats, and then blot them on a sponge to dry them enough to work with. Be sure to wash the brushes with soap and warm water when you quit for the day.

Adding glue to the paint will give it a slightly thicker, more viscous consistency as well as a semi-gloss finish when dry. You may have to do three or four coats as it will also make the paint slightly translucent. I’m doing four to as many as six coats because I want solid color and also a heavily “painted on” surface to suggest fresh paint laid over many old layers.

HIGH GLOSS FINISH:

I bought some gloss Mod Podge® for surfaces that will need shininess such as the bathroom tiles. 

I also need a fixative for the floors and first floor ceiling, which feature “floorboards” drawn in #2 pencil over white paint. The pencil lines need a top coat to prevent smudging, and I need to spray it on to avoid making the smudges I want to prevent.

I want a higher gloss on the floors and ceiling anyway. I figure, just like stained hardwood, painted floors would get a glossy polyurethane top coat, which would be easy to clean and polish. (No, I’m not going to mop and polish dollhouse floors. The point is it should seem realistic.)

And I want a glossy ceiling because I do, okay? I like a glossy ceiling. It reflects light down into the room. I like that. So sue me.

The Great Glossy-Matte Ceiling War of 1980-Something:

I may be working out a family conflict with this project, just a little. Way back when I was but a wee lass in high school, My Sainted Mother (MSM) and I got into a UN-level conflict over the redecoration of our home. These were those difficult years when I, maturing into myself, came out as having different tastes than she did. We fought about, omg, everything — dishes, towels, how far the coffee table should be set from the sofa, etc.

The living/dining room ceiling became an unexpected hot-zone. See, the room was over fifteen feet long, with windows at one end, which only got indirect or reflected sun. MSM, who likes things “cozy,” wanted a matte white ceiling. I, preferring to be able to see across a room, wanted a glossy white ceiling.

Paraphrasing:

MSM: “Are you insane? I’m not putting gloss paint on the ceiling. It’s weird.”

Me: “It’s not weird. It’s in magazines. It’ll brighten the place up.”

MSM: “That’s ridiculous. It’ll make the ceiling look lower.”

Me: “Says who? It’s a white ceiling. Glossy isn’t going to make it look any lower, but it will bounce sunlight around the room.”

MSM: “Nonsense. Glossy ceilings are not a thing. Nobody does that.”

Me: “It’s right here!” (points at magazine) “Look up! There’s a patch of light on that ceiling right now. If that were glossy, that light would get reflected further into the room. It’s physics!”

MSM: “What do you know about physics? You’re an art student!”

I was also a kid, so MSM won that one, and a matte ceiling was what we had. To this day, the controversy continues. When I mentioned that I was considering a glossy ceiling in my dollhouse to maximize light for photography, MSM had this to say (quoted in its entirety):

“Oh, you and your light, light, light.”

😀

So anyway…

To use Mod Podge as a spray fixative, I mixed about one part Mod Podge with about four or five parts water in a small pump spray bottle. Shake vigorously, making sure that the Mod Podge is fully mixed into the water (it helps to use a clear bottle). Spray on a light, even coat. Blow on it gently to get rid of any bubbles. While it’s wet, use a pin or tiny corner of a tissue to lift any dust or fuzz that falls in. Let dry completely. For a higher gloss finish, do a second light, even coat. Let dry. 

Result — Exactly what I was looking for. YES!

Note: This would, of course, work equally well with matte Mod Podge as a fixative for drawings on board or other hard surface. I wouldn’t recommend it directly on paper or fabric. It is mostly water, after all.

lightlightlight

Light, light, light!

 

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The Walls! — Miniature Project Phase 3: Orchid Dollhouse, Chapter 2

Continuing the adventure of building my first dollhouse…

After the windows and door were constructed and most of them installed, and after I’d planned and built the first parts of the extension, I’ve moved on to the next stage — preparing the walls and planning the floor plan.

This is where I first begin to feel a little bogged down, though I don’t think I really am yet. The instructions are getting more complicated, with several steps overlapping each other (as in “do this, but first do that”). This is also where I need to make decisions about wall coverings and so forth. A lot of waiting for paint to dry and glue to set up is involved, as well as some putting it all together and then taking it all apart again.

I find myself making more solid commitments re colors and finishes than I had planned. The kit comes with tips from the manufacturer about various methods for finishing the interior and exterior. I was going to go with one of their recommendations in which wall and floor coverings are cut with templates and then fixed in place after construction with removable double-sided tape. In the actual doing of it, however, I’m just painting the wood and gluing paper onto it. Although I would like to have a house that can be redecorated easily, I’d rather get the construction right on this, my first try. I don’t also want to battle with hanging 1:12 scale wall paper. I’ll figure out how to get rid of a slate gray accent wall when that sort of thing goes out of style in full scale. 😉

At this stage, I’m also making full-sized tracings of all the major parts to use for cutting future wall coverings and future walls, too, for future houses. That’s another complication I’ve added by choice. So, basically, I have only myself to blame.

BEHOLD!

orchid 2.1

The floor plan begins with a second dry fit. A paint stirrer indicates placement of the stairs. A mini manikin gives proportion.

 

Sunlight in the studio creates interesting interior light on the gessoed walls.

Sunlight in the studio creates interesting interior light on the gessoed walls.

 

Construction zone with the templates I'm making as I go along.

Construction zone with the templates I’m making as I go along.

 

Partition wall placement.

Partition wall placement.

 

With extension walls.

With extension walls.

 

The extension and interior wall are just wedged or taped in place for now. The original Orchid house comes with one partition wall for each floor. I’m adding a second full partition on the second floor to create a landing separate from the bedroom and a second half-long wall on the first floor to create an entry foyer.

The mannikin and some random furniture pieces are set about for proportion. To my happy surprise, between this photo above and the first dry-fit photo further above, I think the walls make the first floor look bigger.

Note: The extension side walls will probably be hinged to swing out for easier access and camera angles.

 

orchid 2.6

 

I love this close-up view of the roughed-out kitchen. The light is great. I like the details and textures. I can’t wait to start playing/working with this thing. 🙂

 

orchid 2.7

Clothespin clamps.

 

This is why I feel like I’m slowing down. Clamping, drying, clamping, drying… Ugh. How many rounds of Freecell can I play in day?

After figuring out the wall placements, I took that dry-fit apart so the parts could all be fully painted, etc. This is as far as I’ve gotten so far.

Below are some photos of the first finished parts leaning up on each other. Here you can see the semi-gloss shine on the acrylic paint/PVA glue mix I’ve been using. You can also see the floorboard lines drawn on the first floor.

 

orchid 2.10 orchid 2.9 orchid 2.8

 

Right now I’m painting and finishing the interior walls. I’m building windows for the extension walls, and I just decided that the rooms will need baseboards, so I’m adding those to the interior walls before installation. I’m also experiencing commitment anxiety about bathroom tiles and papering one kitchen wall.

More to come.

 

 

 

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Entering the Weeds: Miniature Project Phase 3: Orchid Dollhouse, Chapter 1

As hinted in my post about Phase 2 of my miniatures project, I need to learn how to build dollhouses. Serendipitously, I recently spotted a good deal on the Greenleaf/Corona Concepts Orchid Dollhouse kit at Home Depot, and as it is one of the simplest kits, I went for it. I then Googled the hell out of the Orchid and garnered much in the way of tips and tutorials from miniaturists who have built it before, for which I am very grateful. I felt prepared for the worst when I opened the box.

Hrm…

 

orchid 1.1

 

That’s a lot of little diagrams and bits and stuff. Oh, well, in for a penny, in for a pound. I rolled up the old sleeves, cranked up the KC & the Sunshine Band on Pandora, and got busy.

Needless to say, simple is never good enough. Almost immediately, I decided I needed more square inchage and a better floor plan. I built a first floor extension and two more partition walls out of corrugated cardboard and manila cardstock. I also took care to follow the manufacturer’s directions, but I’m finding that some steps need to be reordered to accommodate my changes. Also, I wish I had constructed the windows separately to be installed later rather than finishing and installing them in the first phase as the instructions required. It would be much easier to install paper and siding without having to cut around window frames. I’ll do it that way next time.

The Orchid Dollhouse is a Carpenter Gothic cottage like those that famously adorn Martha’s Vineyard here in Massachusetts, so I’m going for a streamlined version of that look. For the exterior, I’ll be doing a clapboard style in shades of cadet blue with white trim and probably slate gray shingles. I also scoured the internet for inspiration photos for clean, modern interiors. My miniature interior will be a hybrid New England/Scandinavian style. Ceilings, floors and most of the walls will be white. The kitchen, half of the living room and the upstairs landing will feature accent wall colors.

For the floors and ceilings, I first paint two to three coats then draw on plank lines to suggest painted hardwood. Since the cold is upon us and I can’t keep my windows open, I’m using acrylic paint and gesso instead of latex. To get an eggshell semi-gloss finish, I mix PVA glue (Elmer’s) into the paint. It gives it a thicker consistency that holds some brush texture, suggestive of an old house painted many times. I’m happy with the effect. It has a nice, subtle gleam in the right light.

Here are some photos of the first phase of the Orchid construction, the part where my work table looked like a miniature Home Depot loading zone.

 

Step 1: Window frames.

Step 1: Window frames.

Windows and door all set.

Windows and door all set.

Exterior windows

Exterior windows

orchid 1.5

 

The manufacturer’s instructions ask us to finish the window casements, install them into the wall cutouts, then add and finish (paint or whatever) the frames. Then they want us to add the sills, caps and other decorative features, all before we finish the walls. They want us to do all that so we can paint parts of the main walls to match the casements to create the look of double hung windows. However, I don’t like that process much. I think it’s just going to complicate finishing the interior and exterior walls. Next time, I’ll pre-fab the casements and frames as separate pieces, finish the walls, and then install the windows.

The Orchid house comes with one door, which the instructions ask us to build but not install until most of the front of the house is completed. I haven’t got that far yet, and I’m not sure how easy it will be to install the door, especially as I want it hinged. I think I’ll end up changing the order of those steps on my next house as well.

 

First floor extension platform

First floor extension platform

Extended first floor

Extended first floor

Underside supports

Underside supports

 

The kit comes with a strip of wood that supports the floor and acts as a fourth support along with the bottoms of the three side walls (front, left and right).  I cut several copies of that strip and cut them to length to use as floor joists to support the seam between the wood original floor and my cardboard extension. It’s all held together with PVA glue and masking tape and came out remarkable sturdy. It will be gessoed top and bottom and then finished in white. The original wood strip, painted white, will be used to neaten the visible edge of the floor just as it is meant to.

First dry fit.

First dry fit.

orchid 1.10

 

Initial dry fit test for proportion with rough cut extension side walls. As you can see, the original Orchid is a very small house indeed at 1:12 scale. With the extension enlarging the first floor only, I think I’ll have a comfortable cottage.

Finally, the instructions suggest it will take about eight hours to build the Orchid without changes or fancy adornments. HA! Eight hours. Try eight weeks (and counting). It does sort-of follow the Murphy’s Law corollary rule for project planning. When planning any project, figure out how long it should take, then double the number and increase the unit of measure to the next higher unit. Thus you should plan four weeks to complete a two-day project. This one is a bit more extreme in that it increases the unit of measure two levels, but then I am building a whole extension. If you don’t make changes and keep to the basic wood surface of the kit parts, you could probably complete this eight-hour project in sixteen days, no problem. 😉

More progress reports to follow. I’m having a blast with this. 🙂

 

Credits:  Reference links to GreenleafDollhouses.com and the Library of Congress.

 

 

 

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