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"What started with a light switch?"

“What started with a light switch?”

“The youth gets together his materials to build a bridge to the moon, or perchance, a palace or temple on the earth, and, at length the middle-aged man concludes to build a wood-shed with them.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Urcuqui Ecuador – Sarah Dettman invited me to visit Urcuqui over a year ago to look at a renovation project of an old adobe property. Sarah and her husband Eloy planned to convert the space into a coffee shop with an apartment on the first level and the owners’ living quarters on the second floor. This past March between Semana Santa and a friend’s wedding, we drove to the site and tossed around creative ideas.

The name of the cafe, Arbol de la Vida, provided endless ideas for artistic touches, and Sarah and another friend Linnda visioned a giant tree on the wall to greet people when they stepped into the cafe. Beyond that wall was a neutral area between the bathrooms, and we discussed hanging a framed painting of a tree in that space.

Blending the actual tree with the wall via paint....

Blending the actual tree with the wall via paint….

When I returned this past week for a three-day “Time for Art!” session with the family, I was pleased to see that grand tree already taking shape on the adobe wall. The maestro had fashioned a believable tree trunk and limbs from parts of trees, and the effect was strong and powerful.

What's real and what's paint? (Acrylic)

What’s real and what’s paint? (Acrylic)

My eye went next to the blank wall between the two bathrooms, though there was one little-but important obstacle in the way of placing a painting in that space. The light switch had been placed dead center in the wall. Only a few seconds passed before I suggested a creative compromise: “Let’s paint a big tree and design the light switch into part of the tree… “ Sarah gave me one of her classic, “Are you sure about this?” looks, and I added, “It could be its belly button!” and then she looked even more doubtful. I asked if there was a remnant piece of plywood or some kind of building material that we could use…. (No, but they would buy something) Added to the shopping list were about 100 tiny mirrors…

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Three or four coats of white paint later – and after tossing around ideas with Sarah, I began painting the ‘whimsical’ ceibo tree. Sarah and family were working on a mosaic project in the loft area that overlooked the main area where I was painting. As their mosaic grew, so did the tree.

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After the basic form of the tree was finished, next came the deep blue swirls of color, painted ‘just wide enough’ for the little mirrors. I worked late into the night so that it would be ready for a protective water-based acrylic sealer the next morning. (Sarah’s first task of the day!) Although I slept later than everyone else, it was still fun to witness their reactions to the finished painting!

After coffee, everyone glued mirrors to the swirls of color, which gave the tree a more-powerful presence. The maestro, who was working in another area, fished the wires through the painting and secured the panel to the wall.

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The finale, of course, was placing the light switch and confirming that it worked! The tree represents the combined energies of all who helped, and hopefully it will radiate that good energy to all who pause to admire it!

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The ‘normal’ lens on my camera malfunctioned several months ago, so all photos are taken with the lens used for bringing far-off subjects closer. I stood on the scaffold to take a few photos then took a few more from the loft. With or without a final group photo, everyone was pleased with the results!
(Imagine a group of smiling faces here!)

Would you enjoy using this light switch?!

Would you enjoy using this light switch?!

*The title of this post came from another impromptu project, ‘It Started with one Light Pole.” Hmmmm; I wonder what will come next in this series!

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