Thursday, January 19, 2012

Pail Memories of Summer

"Wherever it is likely that you grew up in America between 1880 and 1950 and played along a shoreline during balmy summer days, you owned a beach pail."  (Theriaults)  And, today these beautifully lithographed beach pails from long ago, the ones that managed to survive, sun, sand and rust, are highly prized by collectors. They were often thematic with nursery scenes, anthropomorphic animals, and naturally, children playing by the shore. 

Back last summer a customer commissioned me to paint her a little beach pail for the 1911 Daisy doll.  As with all my projects I carefully reseach and dream until the vision is clear between my little mouse ears as to how I wish to approach the piece.  Finding a suitable little pail the correct size, and not some cheaply made wedding favor, was quite a task.  What I eventually found was a set of Hallmark votive candles melted into three little vintage-type pails.  I was delighted, and of course bought them.  Preparing them for the hand-painted scene I wished to do was another matter.  Getting the wax out was the first matter to solve.  What I discovered was that hitting the metal with a hair dyrer would loosen the wax until you could pop out the candle.  Thinking this was the end of the story, I tried to enamel spray paint the pail thinking it would cover the existing paint such as you see on the green pail.  This was not to be the case as the enamel ran into a sticky mess.  The problem?  Wax had dispersed somehow on the exterior as well as thinly coating the interior.  To solve this problem I took a bottle of Pure Acetone and scrubbed away at the little pail for hours removing any existing wax and paint, such as you see in the black pail.
Next was to mask off the interior, the edges and the handle at separate times to enamel spray the pail red and the handle gold, leaving the edges the original black of the pail.  I had a very good idea of how I wished to pail to look as I was trying to emulate a pail from around the same time Daisy was "born", which had been lithographed with Art Nouveau borders around a serene Victorian display of children playing in the sand.   This pail was shown in the Theriault's book Life's a Beach.  The wonderous pails and tin beach toys within those pages were enchanting and highly inspiring.  Yet after several days of base paint preparations, time and tide saw me working on a variety of other projects appropriate to the seasons before I could once again pick up the pail and begin the task of painting the beach scene and border.

By the time the first of January rolled around, I'd been mocked for several months by this little pail, and I seriously doubted whether or not I could actually paint it.  Out of practice painting in miniature, I began very slowly once again selecting an appropriate scene that would be size appropriate for the pail.  I chose one of a little girl and her brother startled by a little crab racing along the shore that I found on the Internet.  The little girl takes her shovel and tries to shoo the pinching shell creature back into the water...or perchance into her own little beach pail.  The color scheme I chose closely resembles the original, although altered to blend with a shiny red pepper pail.  The Nouveau gold enamel work, purple pansies and scroll corners at the top were inspired by the pail in Life's a Beach.
The last and nerve wracking thing to do, once the painting was complete, was to spray it with a high gloss finish to protect the artwork and enamel.  I knew the gloss would adhere nicely to acrylic paint, enamel and to metal, but would this work on the combination?  I took a deep breath and gently sprayed the gloss back and forth wetting it thoroughly.  It took two coats and the result is what you see. 

As you can see there are two more pails to do something with.  Perhaps I'll do another.  One for my own Daisy.  Perhaps two, and sell the other.   When the winter winds whip hard and snow blankets the ground, it is the memories of summer that keep us warm.

Miss E. Mouse 

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