Monday, September 30, 2013

A Sweet Treat For You

Mark D. Ruffner, 1984
I was sorting through my flat file recently and came upon an illustration I did for a Florida magazine almost 30 years ago. The idea was that if one subscribed to Florida Trend, the new subscriber would be rewarded with a baker's dozen of fresh donuts.

Mark D. Ruffner, 1984
The mailer was designed to arrive looking like a closed baker's box, sealed with an adhesive tab. When one lifted the cover . . .

click to enlarge   |   Mark D. Ruffner, 1984
. . . there would be a dozen juicy, glazed donuts! I achieved the illustration with a mixture of acrylics, airbrushed dyes, pencil and charcoal.

illustration by Paul Davis
I looked to the great illustrator Paul Davis for style. Paul Davis continues to be a source of inspiration, and you can read my posting about him and his iconic work here.

Mark D. Ruffner, 1984
Also inside the mailer was a die-cut 13th donut, redeemable at our local supermarket.

There have been some professional hazards connected with being a commercial artist, and one of them was that in order to complete this particular assignment, I went through two dozen glazed donuts!

Have a great week, and don't overdo.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Rolls-Royce Instructions to Chauffeurs
We had a family friend who was the president of a New York Rolls-Royce motor club. Whenever he'd visit, John would arrive driving a classic Rolls-Royce or Bentley, and it would cause a little stir in the neighborhood, and certainly in me! Of course no visit would be complete without a ride. At a much later date — when I was driving a Volkswagen Beetle — John gave me a little chauffeur's booklet published by Rolls-Royce.

Should you acquire the services of a chauffeur, and especially one to drive a Rolls-Royce, herewith are a few tips.

What A Good Chauffeur Should Know

Personal Appearance
A uniformed chauffeur must always present a smart appearance wearing a white shirt and collar with black tie and black shoes. Brown leather gloves must be worn when driving.

Appearance of Car
A clean car and engine reflect credit on the chauffeur and every opportunity should be taken to remove dust and/or surplus oil from the engine
It is also his responsibility to ensure that all the ash trays are empty and clean.

A chauffeur should always touch his cap when opening a door to allow a passenger entry or exit. At all times he should stand by his car ready to open or close doors and he must not take up his driving position until all passengers are comfortably seated. Upon arrival at his destination the chauffeur should always be the first out of the car to assist passengers to alight, and he must always walk round the back of his car to gain access to the driving seat, when occasion demands.

When keeping appointments a chauffeur should ensure that he is five minutes early as punctuality is essential.

If a member of the Royal Family is being driven, a chauffeur must remove his cap directly the Royal personage comes out a door, and must not put it on again until he starts driving; in the same way, when pulling up anywhere, he must remove his cap directly he stops the car and keep it off until the Royal personage has entered the doorway.

A chauffeur must not leave his driving seat unless the Royal personage is unattended.

Station Procedure
When meeting a passenger at a railway station a chauffeur should wait at the barrier to assist the passenger with his luggage. Before stowing the luggage he must first ensure that his passenger is comfortably seated.

If a passenger arrives at a station platform without a barrier, a chauffeur must be on the alert ready to carry out the above duties. The carrying of bags also applies to passengers leaving or entering an hotel.

Under no circumstances should a chauffeur enter into conversation unless first addressed by a passenger and his reply should then be brief but courteous, and the conversation should not be continued unless encouraged by the passenger.

Smoking is not done whilst driving a passenger, during waiting periods, or when en route to meet passengers; a chauffeur should not smoke in the car for at least half an hour before picking up a passenger and windows must be opened to remove all traces of smoke.

When undertaking unfamiliar journeys the chauffeur should ascertain the best route before departure. During inclement weather advice should be obtained from the R.A.C. or A.A., as to the best route.

Should a chauffeur be involved in an accident, however slight, he should obtain all the information necessary to complete the approved accident form, and it is essential to exchange names and addresses. Where possible, particulars of the other party’s Insurance Company should also be obtained.

Washing of Car
The best time to wash a car is immediately after coming in especially if wet or muddy. Use only clean cold water, starting at the top and working down, with clean sponges and leathers (reserve one sponge and one leather for body panels). Window runs and door joints should not be exposed to the full force of the hose.

When leathering of the car the leather should be washed out frequently in clean water and all surplus water should be wrung out before use.

Do not forget to sponge and leather all the door frames and door edges and finally clean all windows inside and out winding down the moveable windows to clean the portion normally covered by the window runs.

Polishing Cellulose Paint
After washing and leathering off, allow to dry thoroughly before polishing, then apply a good wax polish using a soft moistened cloth. Polish with a firm pressure in a circular motion, then, using a new dry cloth, remove the excess polish and complete the operation of polishing with a third dry polishing cloth until a lustre is obtained. Complete a small area at a time. Polishing cloths must be free from grit. Do not use polish when the car is warm, or try to polish in the sun. Every third month, after washing, remove traffic film and other atmospheric deposits and the residual wax with a cleaning agent, such as Belco No. 7; afterwards re-wax.

Care of Upholstery
CLOTH. Should be brushed the way of the nap. Upholstery covers should be removed periodically and brushed, and cushions lightly beaten. Corners and pockets and recesses should be thoroughly brushed as a precaution against moth. A Vacuum Cleaner can be used to advantage on Head Linings, etc.

LEATHER. Should not be washed. It can be kept clean by an occasional wipe over with a damp (not wet) cloth. If necessary, a little neutral soap — such as curd or toilet soap — may be used. A specially prepared hide food for occasional use known as “Connolly’s” Hide Food can be used to improve the leather.

When Coachbuilt body door hinges are fitted with grease nipples these should be lubricated occasionally by means of the grease gun and the surplus lubricant must be removed.

Standard Steel body door hinges should not be lubricated as the hinges incorporate Oilite brushed and stainless steel hingepins, in fact the application of extra lubrication is likely to result in damage by causing dust to adhere to the working parts.

All door catches and striker plates should be wiped clean occasionally, and a small quantity of grease applied to the faces of the groove in the striker plate, removing surplus grease after application.

Chromium Plating
Atmospheric deposit can be removed by using one of many chrome cleaners on the market or Belco No. 7. (Metal Polishes must not be used.)

Removing Tar
Tar may be removed by the use of the proprietary solutions available, or by rubbing with a soft cloth moistened with a mixture of equal parts of Naptha and white spirit. (Turpentine substitute.)

White Sidewall Tyres
When yellowing of white sidewall tyres occurs the colour can be restored by using one of the proprietary brands of whitewall tyre cleaner. Brillo soap pads or other soap impregnated wire wool pads are convenient for quick whitewall cleansing whilst the car is being washed.

Car Mats
All mats should be removed weekly and given a good beating and brushing. Do not brush mats inside the car as this allows dust to accumulate on the trimming.

Instrument Panel and Window Fillets
These should be polished occasionally with wax polish, if they have a polished finish, otherwise it is sufficient to leather them off whenever the car is being washed.

  • Dry clean the Paintwork
  • Allow Anti-Freeze mixtures to get on paintwork
  • Dry clean Stainless Steel Radiator shells
  • Run engine unnecessarily in the garage.
  • Park the car under Lime trees when in blossom.
  • Leave windows open when leaving the car, especially in showery weather.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Making A Time Capsule

My blogging friend Steve, of An Urban Cottage, has been renovating the kitchen of his beautiful Greek Revival house, and recently solicited advice for what to put in a time capsule to mark the occasion.

I love the idea, and back when I was repositioning the front door of my own house, I did the same thing. I made my time capsule from a PVC pipe, which I also capped at both ends with PVC. Just to make sure that the eventual find was not mistaken for debris, I tied a red ribbon around the capsule, making it look like an old-time scroll case.

A time capsule fires the imagination of people of all ages, so by all means include your family, neighbors and friends. The process can have a magical effect for all involved.

An important consideration is to show the original view of the house; I'm fortunate to have an image of my house from when it was only two years old (it's 65 now).

So that the finder might know something of previous owners, I placed this self-caricature, along with a long, chatty letter. I mentioned four citrus trees in my back yard, and they're already past history!

I also added a photograph of Rosemary, a colorful belle and prior owner who lived in the house for more than 36 years.

I included letters from family members, my immediate neighbors (who wrote down things I had never known about the neighborhood), and friends. The friend who installed the new door wrote a note. I also asked my friends to contribute small items of significance to themselves, and to talk about the symbolism.

One friend, who is a stained glass artist, put in a piece of Kokomo glass. Friends added a Sea Urchin spine and Allamanda flower, both typical of this area.

A friend who spent years in advertising contributed a tear sheet of his commercial drawings and a coded message!

Another friend, proud of her Celtic heritage, put in a brass rubbing inspired by the Book of Kells.

If you found a time capsule, you might want to know as much as possible about what was happening in the world at the moment the capsule was hidden. So I included a complete edition of the day's newspaper, as well as a magazine celebrating the city's centennial.

I also put some personal effects into the capsule, and then, just to make sure its discovery was an exciting moment, I added a 1921 silver dollar.

If you're a homeowner, there are numerous opportunities to create time capsules. What would you include?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Falling in Love with Architecture

My recent postings on the Biltmore Estate, and an Internet conversation on children's building blocks, got me to thinking about my own set of childhood building blocks.

When I was about seven, I bought a very colorful set of wooden building blocks that came from Japan. That was back in the days before Japan had geared up to become an industrial and technological giant, and when most of their exports were to be found in dime stores. I did in fact purchase the building blocks with my own savings at a dime store.

For me, the deciding factor in making the purchase was that the set had windows through which one could actually see. The frames were made of wood, and the glass was a ruby red acetate that backed onto orange paper panes. I thought the effect was stunning, and I still do.

It didn't hurt that the set included turned wooden columns, painted a shiny red suited for Pompeii or the Forbidden City.
Very soon one set wasn't enough, and I supplemented the original blocks with additional sets. And suddenly, like George Washington Vanderbilt, I imagined great buildings.

And now I want to make an observation about the value of such simple "building blocks" in today's digital world.

When I see young children and even toddlers consumed by digital games and digital imagery, I really believe that they're being shortchanged by not being encouraged to create with their own hands, and in three dimensions.

There is an interesting challenge and benefit in playing with simpler toys, which is that more imagination is then required. Fantasizing with simple 3-dimensional materials is a valuable process that engages multiple senses while also often teaching the rewards of delayed gratification. That in turn teaches us to be aware of the here and now, where we often miss beauty, inspiration and solutions.

Mark D. Ruffner   |
Where do small flights of fancy end up?

You can also read my posting
on Anchor Building Blocks, here.

Friday, September 6, 2013

More of Biltmore

Mark D. Ruffner © 2013

Biltmore Company
George and his wife Edith Vanderbilt would often have breakfast in the Tapestry Gallery, so named for its three Belgian tapestries, dating to around 1530. The 90-foot room was designed to replicate the long galleries of the great English houses. From this room, they would walk out onto a terrace that faced Biltmore's rear view, below.

Mark D. Ruffner © 2013
The trees that you see here are not actually original to the property. When Vanderbilt acquired all these acres, it was spent farmland, and very bare. Frederick Olmsted advised Vanderbilt to have gardens around Biltmore, an extensive lawn, and then to plant a forest beyond. So the trees that you see here were planted by George Vanderbilt.

Standing on this terrace and looking to the right, one sees the view that is this post's first image.

Mark D. Ruffner © 2013
Here's a detail that I enjoyed — the copper cap to the Biltmore roof, with an alternating monogram and family crest of three acorns. I note that Kate Middleton's family has recently designed a similar crest.

Mark D. Ruffner © 2013
Vanderbilt was interested in all of the most current technology. Realizing that his servants might not own watches (perhaps he could have bought a few), Vanderbilt installed clocks in all of the service rooms and had them all electronically synchronized to this clock, above the stables.

Mark D. Ruffner © 2013
Today the stables serve as a café, with booths where there had once been stalls.

Mark D. Ruffner © 2013
Biltmore's gardens are extensive and a long enough walk from the house that I think some guests may have accessed them by carriage. On the other hand, Vanderbilt was keen on exercise; he installed a gym in Biltmore, with rowing machines and showers, and encouraged his guests to take hikes.

The Conservatory's Orchid Room   |   Mark D. Ruffner © 2013

The Conservatory Potting Room, used today as it was 100 years ago  |  Ruffner © 2013

Mark D. Ruffner © 2013
These fountains are at opposite ends of the estate, but I enjoy the way that they nonetheless complement each other.

Mark D. Ruffner © 2013
I'll end with this statue. The photo was shot in the late afternoon under a pergola, and the statue had a beautiful green aura that seemed to glow.

I hope you enjoyed my tour of Biltmore!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

A Visit to Biltmore

Mark D. Ruffner © 2013
Mark D. Ruffner © 2013

I recently visited the Biltmore Estate with my friend Sandy. I'm not sure if it's still the largest house in the United States, but it is certainly the grandest. First, a quick look at the Vanderbilt lineage . . .  |  |
Cornelius Vanderbilt (1794-1877, left) borrowed $100 from his mother and turned it into $100-million by investing in steamships and railroads. His eldest son, William Henry Vanderbilt (1821-1885, center) inherited the bulk of the fortune and within a decade nearly doubled it, becoming the richest man in the world. William Henry's youngest child, George Washington Vanderbilt (1862-1914, right) spent his life traveling and collecting — and building Biltmore.   |
George W. Vanderbilt relied on the expertise of two brilliant designers. Richard Morris Hunt (1827-1895) was Biltmore's architect. Among his other accomplishments are the facade of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the pedestal for the Statue of Liberty. Frederick Law Olmstead, Sr. (1822-1903), the father of American landscaping, designed the grounds of Biltmore. He's probably best know for designing New York's Central Park and for consulting on the preservation of Yosemite National Park. Vanderbilt, Hunt and Olmstead became a great collaborative team, all working closely together.    |

Hunt was somewhat of a father figure to Vanderbilt, and together they toured Europe to look at great architecture and gain inspiration. Biltmore was primarily inspired by three 16th-century French châteaux. One can see how Chenonceau (above, top) and Chambord (above, bottom) inspired building materials, Biltmore's roof line and details like the elaborate dormer windows.
Without a doubt, the clearest inspiration for Biltmore is the Chateau de Blois, above. Below are details from Biltmore.

Mark D. Ruffner © 2013
Mark D. Ruffner © 2013
Work on Biltmore began in 1889 and the house was completed in time for a Christmas 1895 celebration. Onsite brickworks produced a staggering 32,000 bricks daily, and Indiana limestone and Italian marble were delivered by a specially installed rail line. There was an onsite woodworking factory and eventually a 300-acre nursery. George Vanderbilt was still in his 20s at the time.
My favorite room was George Vanderbilt's own bedroom. The bed is Portuguese, and Richard Morris Hunt designed other pieces of furniture to match it.
I'd like to call your attention to two details. First, notice the Italian marble bathtub with claw feet, reflected in the mirror. Second, take a look at the gold leafed wall covering, which is burlap. I thought that was strange until I realized that the nubbiness of burlap is of course a superb surface for adherence. I love it when materials usually considered as lesser are turned into luxe.
Vanderbilt's favorite room was the library, which at 10,000 books, actually housed less than half of his collection. Hunt designed the room to fit the Venetian ceiling painting by Giovanni Pelligrini (1675-1741). Vanderbilt had seriously collected books since his childhood and in fact had a library adjoining his childhood bedroom in New York. He encouraged guests to borrow books during their visits, and made the library accessible from the second-floor bedrooms via a door behind the over mantle — you can see the door at the upper left of the above photo.

To read more about this library and George W. Vanderbilt's love of books, I direct you to an excellent article by Samuel Todd Walker, here.

More on Biltmore
in the next posting.