Purveyor of Bollocks to the Crowned Heads of Europe
Sunday, 8 June 2014
Every now and then, my work takes me off in a completely different direction from the stone and marble that it is supposed to consist of, and I love it. You know how I like tangents - I believe I may have mentioned it before, quite recently.
So it is with this zinc bucket. It was made as a liner to a large, oval, white marble urn which I have just finished restoring, and it has a couple of holes in it as well as the base coming away from the walls in places.
It was decided (by me) that it would be too dangerous to weld it - zinc gives off a lethal white smoke when burned, which will even be absorbed through the skin - so I have willingly taken on the job of putting it back together again, using tarnished zinc-tinted resin and glass fibre tissue.
To get the ingredients for this, I traveled back to the shape-shifting ingredients shop which lies somewhere between Melksham and Devizes, almost at the foot of an ancient and strikingly stark hill-fort, where many important battles have been fought. It had not moved since I was last there, so I found it quite easily.
This place - I think I mentioned it before as well - is run by a Christian sect, which I believe may be Plymouth Brethren, but you would only guess this by the lack of women in the warehouse, and that all the menfolk seem to be related.
The last time I went there to buy some specialist plaster, I was handed a free gift by the cheery bloke in the dispatch department - a bottle of rather nice, Rose wine. This time as I was leaving, he opened a large box and extracted a tube which had the company logo and web address, etc. It turned out to contain some very pleasant, sweet oat biscuits. I had only spent about £7, and if these biscuits were on sale in Waitrose, they would have been about £4. It is such a strange place, for a variety of reasons.
I had already treated the inside of the bucket with hydrochloric acid, wrongly believing those white specks to be a calcium build-up caused by about 200 years of hard water trickling over it, but they - as it turns out - are pure zinc oxide. 'Zinc White', in fact, the same stuff as the Lead White substitute - that is next to impossible to buy these days - is made of.
As I was trying to remove what I thought to be calcite from the inside of the bucket, I suddenly had a brainwave. Why not just add to it?
I knew that, somewhere on my client's estate, there is what is known as a 'petrifying spring'. These rare springs are so pack-full of saturated calcium carbonate, that any object left in the flowing water will be - in quite a short period of time - given an even coating of off-white stone.
I thought that this would be such a romantically fitting patina to give the old bucket, that I emailed my client that night to suggest it.
He replied by saying that - just for the moment - we will see what the bucket looks like in its repaired, natural state, then take it from there. I can just see him rolling his eyes at the estate manager when explaining what mad scheme I had come up with this time.
A few years ago, I bought a job-lot of fossilised wood - about two tons, in fact - from a local dealer.
Before I arrived and bought the lot, he was trying to sell it in small, individual pieces placed strategically around the shop, and he had asked his wife to write little cards for them with a description and price on each one.
When he put them up, he saw that his wife had labeled them. 'Terrified Wood'.