Show & Tell #31

Here’s the scoop on the “secret [com]mission” I mentioned a couple of months ago, but couldn’t – at the time – provide visuals for. Now that the surprise has been unveiled, I am able to share…

Last January my dear friend and designer of this wonderful website, Tzaddi, had a prized possession crunched up by one of her pups.

Maggie saw the wooden bird, and hey, it was located at perfect snatching height. By the time she was caught and made to spit out the pieces, Mags had chewed the head up pretty severely, leaving the body in several pieces.

The bird had been given to Tzaddi by someone very dear and represented a great deal of personal value.  In tears of frustration, she chucked the splintered pieces of wood in the trash.   Kenton secretly fished out all the pieces when she wasn’t looking. He planned on putting the pieces back together and surprising her, but because they both work out of their home, there never seemed to be an opportunity for him sneak away and work on it.

September rolled around, and still Kenton hadn’t been able to work on re building the tweeter.  I had been up on the Sunshine Coast helping T and K pretty-up a house they were planning to sell (it’s still available, too, and a lovely place if you are looking to buy in Gibsons…), and this was when Kenton asked if he could commission me to rebuild the bird.  I agreed, and smuggled the bird parts back across the ferry, hidden in my luggage.

When I got home I gently unpacked the fragments and tried fitting them together.  What I saw made me very nervous.  An entire third of the head was missing, including an eye and the top of the beak.  The chest had several deep puncture wounds.  Unfortunately, I don’t have any “before” photos, I didn’t think of taking any at the time.

After a month of procrastination – I’d never done any re-constructive work before, so I was a bit unsure about my ability to do it “right” – I began the process of gluing together the existing pieces and building up layers of plaster to fill in the missing parts.  No photos, as it still didn’t occur to me to document my progress. Yeah, I know…I continue to kick myself over it.

After many coats of plaster, finding a bead to replace the missing eye, and delicate sanding I was able to take the next big leap of faith: painting. With so much of the original painting of the head area being covered with plaster, I wasn’t sure how I should begin. From the original painted markings on the wings and tail, I was able to determine that the bird was a blue jay. I Googled images and found several photos of blue jays which showed different angles of the head.

Did you know that blue jays don’t always have the top feathers on their heads raised? Neither did I. I also didn’t know that feather pattern and colour varies quite considerably from bird to bird – I noticed this most in the black band that circles the “neck” area. They all seem to be slightly different, like a fingerprint.

My goal was to leave as much of the original painted finish as possible, which meant matching existing colours and brushstrokes.  I mixed up some acrylic paint, tested it over plaster, and then dove in. This is the bird after the first painting session:


Here’s the jay after the second paint session:

T-bird right

T-bird face

T-bird leftT-bird left

I have a feeling that the original jay had its mouth closed.  In The Crunching, Maggie split open the beak.  I decided to leave it that way, and to say that it was Maggie who gave the blue jay its voice.

On Christmas Day 2008, the jay was delivered to an astonished Tzaddi:

tzod w bird

The bird, not the same bird but hopefully even more cherished having been touched by Maggie and Kenton and me, now has a new home – far away from the jaws of pups who might be tempted 😉

One Response to “Show & Tell #31”

  1. Tzaddi says:

    I think you made it even more lovely than it was before. And with a voice it has so much more personality!

    Thanks for all the hard work and love 🙂