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Archive for September 2010

How Great Craftsmanship Touches People Deeply, Forever – Part 2

Two years ago, for her sixteenth birthday, I took my daughter to New York for a bite of the Big Apple and visit some of the sites I became familiar with, as a graduate student at NYU, during the early 1970s. One of these sites is officially known as The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine. It is also nicknamed St. John the Unfinished! Being in the second century of its construction (started in 1892), John the Divine is following the tradition of the world’s grand churches: it might take another two or three centuries to complete the construction!

Cathedral Saint John the Divine in New York

Cathedral Saint John the Divine in New York City - Courtesy of Wikipedia.com

Saint John the Divine - West Entrance Detail

Saint John the Divine - West Entrance Detail

Many things contribute to this Gothic building’s remarkable qualities. One of them is the massiveness of the structure. The exterior is over 600 feet in length and 232 feet in height. The interior height of the nave is 124 feet! It ranks as the fourth largest Christian church building in the world.

Throughout history, the building of churches like these served as the training ground for generations of craftsmen, from stone masons/carvers, architects, carpenters, to many other trades. Not every generation carried the same level of commitment as the past generation. World events such as wars, famine, disease or other calamities also slowed down the construction process. What is it that prevented these buildings from remaining unfinished messes (some of these buildings took 4 or 5 hundred years to complete.)? I believe that the answer can be found in what follows.

Chapel's Stone Carving Detail

Chapel's Stone Carving Detail

In December of 2001, there was a fire that destroyed a portion of the building. The building was under restoration for many years and reopened in late 2008. A blessing from this fire was that it made necessary the cleaning of the interior stone elements of the building, which restored the pristine quality of the stone carvings.

In the back of the church, there are several chapels. Each one is made of stone carvings, each one more magnificent than the other. After going through these chapels, the words that came to me were: “ These people were so grateful to God, for being here in America, that they wanted to express their gratitude through their carvings.” In doing the research for this blog, I discovered that these seven chapels are actually known as the “Chapels of the Tongues”. They are nationalistic chapels, each representing the seven most prominent ethnic groups who immigrated to New York, upon the opening of Ellis Island in 1892. That fortunate discovery helps to make the case that great craftsmanship transcends time and touches people, generation upon generations, in a way that inspires them to carry on the work started by past generations and finish up those great structures, even if it takes centuries!

How Great Craftsmanship Touches People Deeply, Forever – Part 1

During this past Labor Day weekend, my wife said that she had a DVD she wanted to share with me. She said it is about the rebuilding of an old house. On Saturday evening, we sat down and watched the 55-minute documentary. I was very touched, at many levels, by the movie. I will first give you a little background on this old house and then share my insights.

The Old Tick Hall

The Old Tick Hall

Tick Hall is part of a grouping of seven shingled cottages and a clubhouse, built in the 1880’s, in an area called Montauk, at the tip of Long Island, on a bluff overlooking the Atlantic ocean. The land was purchased in 1879, for $151,000, by a wealthy New Yorker named Arthur Benson. His idea was to build cottages for his friends. So he did. He retained the services of the famous landscape architect Olmsted, along with Stanford White as chief architect for the project and the best craftsmen he could find.

The houses were built in a shingled style, in an era when American architecture was just taking its first steps towards developing an identity of its own. Because the houses were built in a short time span, they are a “period” frozen in time. They represent an important step in the development of American architecture.

Rebuilt, Restored and Recreated Tick Hall

Rebuilt, Restored and Recreated Tick Hall

Dick Cavett and his wife Carrie Nye, after falling in love with Tick Hall, purchased the house in 1966. In March of 1997, the house burned to the ground! In spite of having no drawings, the Cavetts decided to rebuild Tick Hall, but not just to rebuild it: they set out to recreate Tick Hall, authentically, in a way that recreates the feeling of being there. What is it that can inspire people to spend millions of dollars to recreate the “feeling” of a house?

I believe that the answer lies in two words: great craftsmanship! Great craftsmanship would not exist without passion, intensity and love. These three elements, when combined, create an irresistible pull. When exposed to it, people may not realize what is going on, but they want to slow down, pause, sit down and relax. People can just be! They are deeply nurtured. In some blessed instances, when that environment is taken away, a hole is left in one’s life, that one wants to fill, at any cost. I believe that the Cavetts’ story with Tick Hall is the epitome of the impact great craftsmanship can have on one’s life. The recreation of Tick Hall worked because the team that rebuilt it matched the passion, intensity and love of the original builders. By watching the movie, you witness for yourself those elements in the folks involved on the project.

Eco Friendly Primers that Seal In Toxic Outgassing from Plywood and Drywall

Green paint is good for the environment, we all agree. Additionally, specially formulated green paint products can be an important step in reducing the hazards from toxic outgassing from construction materials like plywood and drywall.

Painting in Partnership, from the Chicago area, is currently involved on a green house painting project where a kitchen is being remodeled. The remodeling involves the use of new plywood for the sub-floor and new drywall for parts of the ceiling and walls. Our client being highly environmentally sensitive, a critical step in ensuring the success of this project consists in the careful selection of only the greenest of materials for the project.

Primers that Seal In Toxic Outgassing in Plywood and Drywall

Primers that Seal In Toxic Outgassing in Plywood and Drywall

The Project Coordinator and Interior Designer for the project, Ginny Blasco, specked green primers by AFM Safecoat for both the plywood and the drywall. The product of choice for the plywood is called Safe Seal. It penetrates deeply into the wood surfaces, seals in the exterior plywood surfaces and prevents future toxic outgassing of formaldehyde. The sheets of plywood are sealed with two coats of this product on both sides and all edges. The cuts are also sealed in the same manner. Since the Safe Seal product stays a little tacky when dry, we substituted the Hard Seal product as a second coat on the top face of the plywood sheets.

For the drywall, there are two products. One is a heavy-body primer called Primecoat HPV and is intended to seal in toxic outgassing in new drywall. The other, called Transitional Primer, is much thinner and is intended for previously painted drywall. Among Primecoat’s ingredients are limestone, calcined clay and calcium carbonate.

Doing green painting is more demanding. It requires a willingness to do research on alternative products, experiment to see which product will achieve the best result and, on occasion, develop new application techniques. Helping to produce a healthy environment for our chemically sensitive clients is part of what we do at Painting in Partnership.