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NOVEMBER 2005

My granddaughter Jenna called me recently because she was going to have the Veterans Day holiday off from school. "Nana, could I come over and spend the night and maybe do a project?" Well, that kind of question is music to my ears!

We spent Friday relaxing while she told me about a field trip her class had taken to the art museum. "Oh, it was just great, Nana! Why, they have this painting of Jesus and his mother that is hundreds of years old," and then she told me all about all the wonderful things they had seen at the museum. "And guess what I want to do for my project? I want to do a museum!"

Fortunately not Friday afternoon, because she wanted to watch a Sponge Bob episode that she had missed earlier. "What happens," she said, "is that he doesn't feed his pet snail properly and his pet runs away and Sponge Bob gets very sad. And trust me," she nodded emphatically, "You do not want to see a sponge cry!"

"And why is that?" I asked.
"Well, just think how much water he can soak up!" she replied.

So, that afternoon as she watched Sponge Bob crying his little sponge-y eyes out, instead of taking my nap, I lay there and thought about what was in my stash that could be used to create a museum.

Saturday morning she contemplated my as-usual messy work area as I mused about what container would work for a museum display. Her eye fell on a figure I had purchased at the Goodwill Store some time ago. "Nana! Look what you have!" she said excitedly. "Now I know what my project can be. I want to do a tomb of the last Prince of Egypt!" So, that's what started this project.

And at that point, I knew what container we could use. My husband had recently purchased an air compressor and had given me the two halves of the styrofoam packaging. "Figured you might do something with these," he had said, and they had been lying on the sofa in the den for at least a week, waiting for me to put them away somewhere.

We examined the two halves. This one, we decided, I would use for my next adobe setting.

"This is perfect for my tomb, Nana! It already even has a doorway!"

So, step one was to figure out what she would use in the tomb along with the Prince's statue, which fit nicely in one corner. "I know what else needs to go in there, Nana; pots. And maybe something else ...." Then she remembered seeing straw mats in pictures, so I rummaged for something that would work.

The Prince figure was quite heavy, and the styrofoam container was fairly thin, so I explained that we should probably use gesso to help strengthen it. This necessitated an explanation of what gesso is and how it is used.

So, here are the beginning materials: gesso and red iron oxide paint, along with a bit of straw yellow, to mix in with the gesso; a foam brush, a stirring stick, a handy tool to open resistant paint lids and the spray bottle of water for dilution and for clean-up as needed.

I poured gesso into the cup and added a couple of blub-blubs of red iron oxide and one blub of the yellow and stirred, adding more until we were satisfied with the color.

As we looked at the interior, I pointed out that the doorway should probably be painted a dark color. "That's right," she said. "That will make it look like it stretches a long way, like the tunnels in tombs do."

At this point she picked out a grayish-black paint and used her sponge brush to paint the doorway and the facings.

Here Jenna has begun the process of coating the outside of the box. This is a messy process, and when she finished the outside, we took time to clean up, washing the paintbrush and place mats and clearing away wet, messy paper towels.

Notice her shirt? That's one of the t-shirts from my old writing center days. It says The Write Place on the front. When we do messy projects, I drag out these shirts for the kids to wear so they won't mess up their nice clothes. Um, ask me how I know NOW to do this!

After painting and antiquing the interior, she turned the box upside down to reach all the crevices and applied a second coat of the dark paint to the doorway.

Unfortunately, I was called away to the phone or something and forgot to take a picture of the antiquing process. I squirted puddles of the undiluted red iron oxide, black, and a bit of the straw yellow, edges touching, onto a plastic coffee can lid. Using a scrunched up bit of slightly dampened paper towel she dry brushed and patted the three colors onto the interior so that there was a natural unevenness to the stone.

At this point, we needed to clean up the mess again, and then took a little break for a snack while the paint dried.

The doorway needed trim of some kind, so she found heiroglyphics on the internet and printed them out. After we cut them out, she brushed glue around the doorway but asked me to help apply the pieces, which I did with tweezers at her direction. "I am still not too good with tweezers in a little space," she confided.

While the trim dried, Jenna began antiquing the pieces which would go inside the box. Here she is wiping off the stain on the statue, leaving the dark color in the crevices.

Here she applies stain to one of the pots.

Here is the box with the trim around the doorway. She is coating the floor with a thin layer of glue.

Sand is sprinkled into the wet glue, with the excess shaken off.

At this point the items have been glued in place. We used a combination of a coat of tacky glue and a drop of super glue because the statue was so heavy.

Here is a closeup of the doorway.

The statue sits regally in one corner.

And on the other side of the doorway are two large pots and a straw mat which she painted orange and green. "I saw Egyptian things painted like that before, Nana," she had told me.

And there is a black cat in one of the pots, looking over toward the Last Prince of Egypt!

And here is Jenna holding her roombox, just before she left for home.

And by the way, when we were cruising on the internet, we discovered that the above heiroglyphs would spell Jenna.

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