We’ve entered a new realm: upholstering chairs. In the last few months we’ve acquired several chairs and purchased upholstering equipment to make the process easier.
I recommend watching Marian Parson’s (aka Miss Mustard Seed) 6-part video series on upholstering chairs. She offers clear explanations and shows you exactly how to do things.
We thought this 1920s cane side chair would be perfect with our writing desk that is sitting at Avonlea Antique Mall. And a good beginner’s project.
We planned to use the original needlepoint seat but after David pulled out all the tacks around the seat cover, we saw that it had dry rot. The textile had been weakened by environments with poor temperature and moisture control.
We lifted off the needlepoint along with the batting and foam. In her early life this chair had a cane seat that matched her back. On her journey, though, someone cut out the cane seat and inserted a piece of retaining wood as a base to build upon.
We painted her Annie Sloan Chalk Paint Burgundy to match the writing desk. Clear and Dark Wax went on next.
You can see how we layered the base, building from the retaining wood, to the new foam cut with an electric knife, to the original batting, to the new batting.
I visited JoAnn’s a couple times to collect fabric swatches. Originally I tried to match the fabric with the aubusson blue, burgundy and gold of the desk. I gave up on that idea. A Waverley toile won. We practiced on scrap fabric and then plunged in. Along the way, we dealt with some issues.
If I cut the cushion cover using the old needlepoint fabric as my template, it wouldn’t be large enough because the new foam was a tad thicker and the new batting fluffier. We decided to cut the material larger than we needed and then we’d trim.
We trimmed and trimmed. In this next picture, you can see we still have more trimming to do. I’m pleased, however, with how the fabric centered up to show a gentle pastoral scene, complete with a sheep in the lower right corner.
Our search for burgundy gimp led us on a merry chase. We already had burgundy pillow cord (not gimp), but I continued to look everywhere locally for gimp. One saleslady explained that gimp is going out of fashion: double welt is the new trend. Ahhhhh.
I took a deep breath and painstakingly cut the round cord from its fabric strip. David and I hot glued the cord around the fabric. The puffed cushion actually sits higher than the cord.
We moved the chair into Avonlea to accompany the desk. What a nice set — but they can be purchased individually. Here are our photos from this afternoon’s shoot:
When we moved into our small booth at Avonlea Antique Mall last July, the walls were a freshly painted light gray, a perfectly lovely color. Unfortunately, we didn’t select it. The excitement of having our first space had us floating above such trivial details as paint options.
A neutral color can work beautifully, but in this case it was unimpressive. To make matters worse, we displayed some pieces painted in Annie Sloan’s Paris Grey.
This was our shop at Christmas. The not-for-sale poinsettia plant provided the biggest burst of color.
It took to a while to accept the inevitable: we needed to change the color of our booth.
After kicking around several ideas, we turned to a seasoned pro. Suzi, one of Avonlea’s delightful owners, studied our booth and proclaimed, “Aubergine.” That settled it. David and I headed to Lowe’s for paint.
We coordinated our project with Avonlea’s photographers. Their job is to take photos for the new online store that’s coming soon. While they whisked our furniture to their photography studio, we moved into the space with our paintbrushes and rollers.
We started disassembling the booth in the late afternoon for minimum inconvenience of customers and other vendors. We worked hard and fast, despite this photo showing me sitting down on the job.
At the end of a very long evening, we pushed our pieces into the booth, went home and collapsed. As much as we wanted to finish up, our bodies and the store were unwilling to accommodate. Too bad, really, but we would have been there until midnight or later.
I’m excited about a new addition that will enhance our booth’s new look: the gigantic mirror on the right. Made in Italy, it measures 55″ x 37″ and needs a large wall space to display its gorgeousness. Lucky for us, we have the perfect place for it in our space.
Homer wrote of “rosy-fingered dawn” in The Odyssey. For me, dawn came early and used her rosy fingers to slap me in the face. Getting out of bed was taxing because my body hurt and I wanted to sleep. But we pressed on.
David and I work well as a team. We’ve hung many, many pictures over the years and I know when to measure, when to hand him a hammer or drill, when to lift the frame for him to hang.
By the way, check out our new mirror, now front and center in the new snazzy space. Things are already looking up. Before we could even hang the mirror, a customer strolled by and took a photo of it to send it to her husband. Fingers crossed for a sale!
Here’s the almost-finished space. The Aubergine color is much more dramatic. With the Palladio mirror as a centerpiece, this feels like an entirely different space.
These Before and After photos show the difference:
We are delighted with the Aubergine. It makes our space look like a designer’s showroom. One man stopped at our booth and asked, “What color is that?”
“Aubergine,” I said.
“Plum,” he corrected me.
Men. Whatever you call it, the color is rich, intense and beautiful.
Thanks so much for visiting us. Hope to see you next time.
Take a look at this glamorous star, all shimmer and style. She was showing her age when we first brought her home but we knew she had something special hidden away. We just needed to bring it out.
David asked me to include this next photo to give you an idea of the amount of work he did. We’re looking at the top of the dresser and a loose piece of veneer on a T-square. Once David removed the mirror, he found this strip had bubbled and loosened. It also had chunks missing. He cut and lifted that strip, then sanded, glued and clamped it in place. He cut other slices of veneer to fill in the gaps along that strip. Quite simply, he worked his magic.
We used Warm Silver to transform this Colonial Revival antique dresser from the 1900-1915 era. Warm Silver tends toward a golden tone, so I changed my plan for an accent color. I intended to use Royal Design Stencil Creme in Antique Gold but discovered there wouldn’t be much contrast. I switched to Antique Silver.
It took a few minutes to get used to a thinner paint than Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint. The Modern Masters Metallic Paint glided on smoothly with hardly a hint of brushstroke. The Warm Silver is opaque and we put 3 coats on the dresser. David kept reminding me: “Don’t forget to wait an hour before the next coat.”
This isn’t a fanciful piece, so at first I searched for details to highlight with the Antique Silver. The ones I chose were subtle and, of course, extremely time consuming. For instance, we went from this . . .
. . . to this:
I used Annie Sloan’s Clear Wax to seal her and then rubbed on Dark Wax for added texture and age. I got out my fancy brush and buffed her.
Finding the right knobs posed a challenge. I didn’t like the original hardware simply because I find them difficult to use. I searched everywhere — for months. Reeves of The Weathered Door recently offered an excellent post on hunting for hardware. It’s worth reading.
I ordered a brass set from the House of Antique Hardware, intending to paint them Antique Silver. They weren’t right, so back they went. I sampled a few from local stores before settling on these Gwen Silver Glass Knobs from Pier 1. I didn’t have to paint them and even though they don’t perfectly match the Antique Silver, they add an extra sprinkle of glamour to an already beautiful lady.
David restained the drawers and brushed on 3 coats of shellac. He finished the drawers off with 600 grit sandpaper. Smooth as a baby’s bottom. I used the Antique Silver Stencil Creme to create a vine pattern on the inside panels of each drawer.
Right now we don’t have room to display her at Avonlea Antique Mall. She’s at home, singing her siren song. I would love to keep her because she shimmers and glows like stars in the heavens. Let’s see how strong I remain.
David and Michael, our son, headed back to the Moorish mini-castle that we had muscled our way through the previous Thursday. Before we left I asked if the sale would run through Saturday. The sales rep said, “Not if we keep on selling like this!”
A line of native masks had caught Michael’s attention. He hoped they still hung on the wall two days later at new, affordable prices. I would have written them all off but he walked in and voilà! There was the one he wanted. He reached up, hoisted it down and wouldn’t let it out of his grasp.
The guys looked around the slim pickings and — another surprise — found a deer skull with antlers (not the one I tried to buy).
I joined them for the next leg of the excursion. Michael had identified another estate sale out at the beach. It wasn’t on my schedule, but spirits were high.
Of all the estate companies in town, we know this one the best because we are regular customers. We like the couple that runs the sales and they like us. The house, tucked back on a golf course, had a thinner crowd.
I checked out the living room, dining room and kitchen while David and Michael hit the bedrooms. I took a lovely painting off the wall and studied it. The frame was fantastic, but even at a 50% discount, I couldn’t afford it. Later, when I announced I was ready to check out, the cashier said,
“Bring that painting over here.”
“Oh, no. I decided not to buy that. It’s a little too expensive.”
“Get it. I’m going to give you a good price.”
And he did.
Here’s what Michael selected:
I picked up these two items. Check out these nesting dolls. Japanese, I think. Even the tiny one has a face painted on.
We decided to transport everything in two trips.
David and Michael drove back for the console and arrived around 4:30, which allowed time to get it out before the sale closed at 5 PM. Just as I settled in at home and put up my tired feet, David phoned to ask me if I wanted anything else. Because something unbelievable just happened.
The estate sale rep offered a 75% discount. That has never, ever happened. I cannot explain this miracle.
I mentioned a framed Japanese sketch and a lyre chair. David secured those along with an oval picture frame of a handsome-looking family.
I have not researched any of the items that are presented here. More study needed. But we had a great and exhausting weekend.
We visit a lot of estate sales. Usually they are well run, orderly and pretty routine. The estate rep’s job is to get as much money as possible for the client. My job is to select the day(s) we visit, seeking the widest selection at the lowest prices. It’s a dance. Sometimes a slow waltz, occasionally a fluid tango, and rarely a manic tarantella.
This weekend was crazy, so I thought I’d share our challenges and triumphs. Part 1 begins on a Thursday.
We entered the wrought-iron gates of a lavish, Moorish mini-fortress. A family crest with swords hung above the gates. Beyond lay two oversized oaken gates. This residence, stretching on forever, seemed more like a castle than a sleepy suburban home.
Such an intriguing structure ensured a mob of rabid shoppers who surged with first-day, first-hour passion. Opening day, by the way, offers no discounts.
Along with many others, I had pored over the photos posted on http://www.estatesales.net and knew we’d find this home brimming with treasures. Religious icons from around the globe: a replica Russian synagogue, Byzantine icons, crucifixes, rosaries. And antlers, masks, Spanish furniture, metal works, sculptures and paintings — just a few of items that drew eager shoppers from other states.
Usually an estate sale company provides holding pens of some kind. As shoppers select items, they place them in a plastic container or on a clearly designated table. Everybody respects the holding pen, typically located very close to the cashier.
Picture the press of people, too numerous to allow any coherent flow of traffic, bumping and jostling while continuously repeating “Excuse me” with little sincerity.
Among this crush of humanity — and a full room away from the cashier — I caught sight of something underneath a card table filled with merchandise. Wading though a sea of frantic people, I bent down and pulled out deer antlers.
This innocent act brought immediate wrath from a nearby shopper who quickly shoved her way next to me and angrily declared all of the items off limits.
“Somebody’s already claimed everything down there.”
She turned to another woman, “Didn’t that man say he wanted those?”
Her friend immediately picked up the refrain, “Yes, I’m pretty sure he said they’re his.”
Turning back to me, she explained, “Because I’m was interested in the one you’re holding but that man has already claimed it.”
That’s ridiculous and I don’t like hearsay. I need primary sources. These ladies were loud, pushy and utterly confident in their assessment. Like a fool, I set down my antlers and in two steps found a sales rep. Nope, she said, those aren’t being held for anybody.
I spun around to see the first lady holding my deer antlers — and with no interest in surrendering them. “Well, I wanted them first,” she said, matter-of-factly.
I kept mouth shut and pulled out another set: ram’s horns and pretty cool looking. I think they may be upside down in my photo.
The steep prices prevented us from buying much, but here’s what we walked away with:
This next one was a private sale, open to all, but the family had chosen to forego a professional estate-sale company. They were on their own. I don’t like private sales because things can go wrong quickly.
My dislike of private sales was further cemented after David and I found a small, beat-up Kittinger chest with numerous problems. A couple decorations were missing, but we found them in a drawer. OK, they could be reattached. The molding presented a bigger problem: an important corner piece was missing. David would have to create his own mold, fashion a replica and seamlessly attach it.
We debated for 20 minutes. The sticky-backed tag read “$75 — As Is.” The family member sitting in the room — the homeowner’s mother — acknowledged that it was a good price for that poor piece.
I took the tag to the cashier’s table, intending to ask for a $10 discount.You know, go bold or go home.
“This is for the small chest in the back room.”
“Can you describe it? I’m not sure which one.”
“The small Mediterranean one.”
“I can’t picture it . . . ”
And my BIG mistake: “The Kittinger.” (NEVER admit you know something about a piece.)
As soon as I said the name, the homeowner, sitting next to the cashier, snapped to attention.
“That’s not the right price,” she said, grabbing for the tag. I pulled it close to my chest, unwilling to surrender.
“That’s what it’s marked.”
“It should be $175. Somebody wrote it wrong. I called out the price but they wrote it wrong.”
“Look, I’m willing to pay the amount on this tag. $75. Because that’s what’s marked. I can pay for the piece and walk out with it right now.”
“No. It’s mine and I’m telling you that you can’t have it for that price.”
Defeated and steamed, I waited for David and Michael, our son, to come downstairs. I delivered the news and we knew what to do: leave immediately.
This large, charitable estate sale opened its doors 3 hours before we arrived. Every single piece of antique furniture that I was interested in lacked a price tag. That means somebody had already grabbed the tags and planned to buy the items. The buyer was either in line or still shopping.
Well, it turns out that antiques were unavailable because our State Attorney’s representative, who waited 1.5 hours for the doors to open, was buying in bulk to furnish their new offices in antique style. I just read about an Illinois Representative who found himself in hot water after he had his office decorated in Downtown Abbey’s style (because the decorator donated her services, but it counted as a gift). Is a trend forming in public buildings?
Anyway, this man purchased at least 11 big pieces. Good for him but so sad for me.
But this estate sale wasn’t a complete wash. Michael found a couple pieces of Mid-Century Modern by Dixie and we quickly pulled off their tags. I picked up a wooden cigar box from Honduras just because it looked quirky.
Michael stopped to look at another Mid-Century Modern cabinet but, again, no price tag. After a while, however, it became apparent that nobody was purchasing it. A friendly sales rep scurried to find an answer.
Sold. The man running this sale had purchased it on behalf of his housekeeper and forgotten to affix a Sold sign to the piece. Ewwww. Sorry, Michael. He was discouraged about that, but he’ll still be able to strip and stain his lovely MCM furniture and sell them.
The diamonds drove us crazy and nearly defeated us. More on that later.
We acquired this lady’s writing desk on an estate sale’s final day. We’d first laid eyes on her a couple days earlier and expected someone to snap her up. Imagine our surprise (and my secret happiness) when we returned for deep discounts and there she sat, lonely and neglected. No question about it. She was coming home with us.
Her body is exceptionally narrow. With the lid closed, she measures 11″ at her widest part. That’s a big positive for the owner of a small house or apartment needing a petite desk. I also love her convenient pigeonholes.
Lithe and beautiful, that’s what she is. Just look at those details.
I checked with our furniture expert and learned that she was made around the 1900s, probably birch wood and stained mahogany. Ohhhhhhh. We prefer not to paint antiques.
David and I tossed around some ideas. But first he needed to do a few minor repairs and replace the old, worn-out hinges.
We decided to paint her something special, something that would make her the most attractive girl in town.
Annie Sloan’s new Burgundy paint was perfect. For a contrasting interior color we chose Aubusson Blue. Wait. How about stenciling diamonds with the Aubusson and gold? How hard could that be?
I love the Burgundy. Annie Sloan compares it to dark cherries. Personally, I see it as a bowl of juicy, ripe plums on a sizzling summer day. The color looks unbelievably rich once the Dark Wax goes on.
I studied videos and read blogs to learn about diamond techniques. I began enthusiastically, confident in my abilities. By Day 3 my enthusiasm shrank to crankiness. No matter how hard I tried, my diamonds refused to follow a straight line. Thankfully, David stepped in to save the day.
He salvaged most of my diamonds and carefully traced the outlines for new ones.
Here’s the board that flips outward. See how he’s using painter’s tape for the points of the diamonds?
The full writing surface is below. He struggled with those diamonds for a few days and was so happy to finish them.
While David worked on the diamonds, I painted gold stockings on our little lady:
It took us weeks to get her looking glamorous. Look at these details:
I just want to mention that the lowering of her lovely lid provides a writing surface but throws her off balance. She must be affixed to the wall for maximum support, but that’s not a big deal. Another thought: while I used AS Clear and Dark Wax on the exterior and pigeonholes, I only used Clear Wax on the Aubusson and Gold diamonds.
Look at her gold stockings! Imagine sitting here with your laptop, drink in hand, taking care of business as twilight descends. The creek is just a few yards away.
I have the perfect chair for this desk but that will take more time because I must reupholster the seat and paint the chair. As for this little lady, she’s heading to Avonlea Antique Mall tomorrow.
Thanks so much for visiting. We love it when you leave comments.
This was a black lantern assembled from flattened Japanese coins. You will just have to believe me on the color. I found it at the thrift store when I almost kicked it.
I asked David to take a few Before photos and then left to run a few errands. This was, in hindsight, a mistake because I neglected to specify where he should take the photos. As soon as I left he grabbed the lantern, carried it out into the afternoon sun and snapped away. Granted, we are delighted to see the sun after a miserable week of rain, but unfortunately the direct light completely changed the lantern’s color. Instead of black, it looks bronzy-blue. Ironically, the washed out colors in this picture are startlingly similar to my end goal of this piece.
I wanted to create the illusion of verdigris on the lantern, similar to our Chinese warrior statue. He stands watch outside our front door and his metal is beginning to show weathering. I love seeing him every time I enter our house. I assume he’s based on the terra-cotta army figures found in China by farmers digging a water well — an estimated 8,000 soldiers found, along with chariots and horses. And a small one stands in front of my door.
Apartment Therapy provided historical information on verdigris which I found delightful because I didn’t know about the salt, honey, vinegar, urine and wine.
“The name comes from the French ‘vert de gris,’ which roughly translates to ‘green of Greece,’ and in fact, recipes for verdigris are found throughout ancient literature and include ingredients like salt, honey, vinegar and even urine to be applied to copper plates in order to cause the necessary chemical reaction. In France, verdigris pigment was produced in conjuction with wine, as the acetic acid of fermenting grapes was found to be an efficient catalyst to quickly rust copper. The bluish green patina was then scraped off the metal and ground into pigments.”
After his photo shoot, David spray painted the lantern gold, forming the important base layer. I wanted a bit of gold to peek through after I distressed it. The lantern sits on gorgeous hand- painted Japanese fabric, which I picked up at an estate sale for a song. I’d like to transform it into a wall hanging if I can figure out how to do it easily and inexpensively.
Next, I followed the procedure described in my Verdigris Cherubs post. I dry brushed Annie Sloan’s Louis Blue and Antibes in patches until I covered each side.
To get a softer, older look, I needed to add a whitish patina. I mixed water and Old White at a ratio of 2:1 and quickly brushed it on one side of the lantern at a time. I did this part outside. While that glaze was wet, I sprayed on water and then dabbed it with a cotton cloth. After everything dried, I distressed the lantern with 220 grit sandpaper. I used an extremely light touch so that I didn’t expose the black underlayer.
Here is the finished product, sitting among the Florida oranges as the sun is rushing toward the horizon.
I’m pleased with the result of faux aged green, blue, white and hint of gold. I chose not to wax the lantern so that it can be used indoors or outside.
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It’s a circus poster! What child doesn’t love the colors and promised excitement of the circus? This artwork would look great in a child’s room. And Leo, my heavy, handsome lion, is ready to stand guard.
Let me back up, though. I visited an estate sale at the home of an adult circus enthusiast. Circus plates, figurines, even vinyl records–this house had it all. I bought the poster, selecting it from many, because it looked visually arresting but more importantly it was the one I could afford.
This poster features Madame Olympia Desvall, a German-born equestrian. A New York Times article from 1907 described Madame as a “graceful rider with a troup [sic] of well-trained dogs.” Her Barnum & Bailey act included horses, ponies, and birds, all of which followed her around the ring, performing various tricks. Look at those dogs somersaulting and spinning in wheels. One horse has wings. Just how high can he soar?
But Madame and menagerie needed a frame, which David produced after scouting out a few sales. Plain oak with a band of white linen. Nothing special to see here. In fact, the whole thing is rather a yawn.
I painted it with ASCP Old Ochre and used Arles on the linen band but haven’t added wax yet in this photo:
It still wasn’t where it needed to be, so I added Clear Wax followed by Dark Wax to warm it up and give it some age. It’s hard to see the wax on the left side of the photo below because light washes it out. A mat and glass came next, secured at a new local frame shop. I love how the complete package turned out. The frame and mat are neutral enough to draw the eye to the vivid circus colors.
We carried the artwork into our booth at Avonlea Antique Mall and positioned the mighty Leo next to it. I really hope they can be sold as a set. Leo’s body color matches the linen stripe on the frame. Good luck, Madame, wherever your new adventures lead you. Take Leo with you.
After being laid low by sickness, David and Michael, our son, stormed an estate sale without me and carried off loot. Unable to roll out of my bed and miserable with bronchitis when they brought their treasures home, they presented them to me in the bedroom as if I were a particularly congested maharani: two carved wooden ducks, an ornate pitcher, 3 antique German etchings, and a couple of mirrors.
The wooden ducks intrigued me. A colored silk tassel tied to a hole in the bill decorates each one.
They are 20th century, but represent a wonderful tradition. Korean wedding ducks. The reason they play a special role in Korean weddings is due to ducks’ propensity to mate for life. The original practice of the groom bearing a pair of live ducks or geese to his bride-to-be’s family has shifted to presenting beautifully carved wooden ones. Photo Source.
In Korean tradition, selection of the carver was important. He required possession of five fortunes: wealth, health, no family history of divorce, a good wife, and many sons. As the carver worked, he prayed the couple would acquire a lifetime of happiness, peace, prosperity and many children. He carved for honor, not money.
The carver of our ducks used two pieces of wood to carve and assemble.
For a wedding ceremony, both ducks are wrapped in a cloth with only their necks and heads are visible. After the ceremony, the groom’s mother tosses the duck to the bride. If she catches it in her apron, her first child will be a boy.
During the course of a marriage, the ducks are prominently displayed in the home. Either partner may arrange the ducks to communicate feelings: side-by-side means marital harmony; tail-to-tail means things are a bit rocky; bill-to-bill means exceptional marital bliss.
Check out the photo of this happy couple. I’ve added an arrow so you can easily find their ducks — and the bills are touching. Photo source.
Before I leave you, I want to share a photo of the elegant, engraved copper pitcher the men brought me. It’s tall — 13.5 inches. While I wanted to believe it was ancient and exotic, an appraiser identified it as North American dated circa 1900. There is something Art Nouveau about it. I polished it last night with a simple paste of lemon juice and salt. Look at all those floral arabesques.
Years ago I traveled solo to Japan following a business trip to the Republic of China (Taiwan). I doubted I’d ever get to Asia again and wanted to see as much as I could.
I visited the Great Buddha of Kamakura, a massive bronze sculpture, originally cast in 1252. His size creates a sense of power, but his peaceful expression conveys serenity. He originally resided in a wooden temple but a series of typhoons and tidal waves destroyed that temple and others that followed. Since 1495 — over 500 years — he meditates out in the elements, calmly enduring rain, heat, and snow.
I took my photo during the summer:
I recently acquired a replica of this Great Buddha. I bought him at an estate sale and he came with a note taped to his bottom: “1994, To Vicky from Haruko Sato, wife of Bishop of Kamakura (Great Daibutsu).” Great Daibutsu means Great Buddha.
That stirred memories of my visit — he still inspires awe. And a Japanese bishop’s wife gave this statue as a gift to a woman visiting the shrine. I needed to do him justice.
1. I could leave him matte black, his original state when the gift was exchanged.
2. I could recreate the verdigris patina that I used on my cherub candle holders and attempt to match Buddha’s present-day patina.
3. I decided to paint him Annie Sloan’s Emperor’s Silk, a red with an Asian sensibility, and add gold foil. The original Great Buddha of Kamakura once dazzled worshippers with his gold leaf covering. No longer. But there’s still a hint of gold on his right cheek.
Imagine approaching that original temple and catching sight of the magnificent Buddha gleaming inside:
Step into the temple and have the breath knocked out of you. Virtual reality is amazing because it integrates geometric and photometric models with environmental scenes. The result is a hologram that offers an intimate sense of the original shrine and Buddha’s golden glory.
Here is my Buddha after a coat of Emperor’s Silk. Clearly, I have not yet achieved my vision. A couple more coats followed.
I pulled out my Artisan Enhancements’ gold foil next. After brushing on the liquid Size I waited about 30 minutes and carefully applied the foil. Now, foil can be tricky because it’s like a finicky cat. You never know how it’s going to settle. I hoped for a strong contrast of the red and gold, and that’s what I got. I waited 24 hours and brushed Clear Finish over the very patient Buddha.
His supreme dignity intact, he may continue his meditations uninterrupted.
Here’s one final photo from my trip to Kamakura:
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