Building the Historic ’Purrservation’ Cat

Written by Margaret Nowack

It all started with a suggestion.

A member of Cultivate Catskill, during one of the only meetings I have missed, suggested that I create a cat for the Heart of Catskill Association’s (HOCA) annual Cat ‘N Around Catskill event the takes place between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Later, when asked, I agreed.

Those of you who have done a cat know that it is not simply painting a giant fiberglass cat. First, you must have a good idea, be able to verbally express that idea, and be able to sketch it on a two-dimensional template provided by HOCA. This alone was a challenge. I did ten iterations.

Normally, after a reception displaying the accepted ideas and sketches, sponsors rise up and pay to sponsor a cat. As I already had a sponsor, Cultivate Catskill, that part was easy. Since our group is keenly interested in historic preservation, as I am, I decided to build an Italianate house – one of the most common architectural styles in Catskill – around the cat.

After the idea and sketch are approved, you must choose your cat. They come in two positions, sitting and standing, both with saucy expressions and ample room for an awful lot of artist material. I took my standing cat straight off the reception table at the preliminary event, and left the seated one as the sole example for other artists. I was in a hurry! I had miniature bricks to make.

My cat was pure white, a clean canvas waiting for artistry.

Great artistry sometimes needs great preparation. After deciding on the exact size of the miniature bricks, I launched myself into brick manufacturing. Imagine after all these years, brick making has finally returned to Catskill!

I made a brick mold that made 150 quarter-inch thick bricks and 50 half inch bricks.

Brick ingredients were concrete coloring in yellow and red, a mortar fortifier and tile grout. It made strong and beautiful little bricks. I made over 1000 of them.

The bricks had to be a certain size for the cat.

Next came lots of ‘figuring’ with paper and cardboard templates.

Followed by affixing the bricks to the cat.

Window frames, flower boxes, flowers and other details were all made from a two part modeling clay called Apoxie. I used five pounds of it.Fussy work, windows! But worth it.Each of the seven windows has a story … and two have a cat.

The stones of the ‘foundation’ are real stones found here in the woods. The roof is real copper, made from very pliable flashing.Trying to patinate the copper under plastic wrap.Final touches on the flower boxes.

I’ve become very attached to the cat, and when it was finally finished and ready to be hauled off to the HOCA office, I felt something akin to postpartum depression. The days following his departure, I was listless and uninspired. Could it be that I missed molding tiny roses and geraniums? And adhering bricks with toxic construction adhesive? It’s possible. I look forward to seeing him on the streets in a couple of months!

Editor’s Note: All of us involved with Cultivate Catskill thank Meg for all her hard work and artistic genius. We hope everyone enjoys this Historic ‘Purrservation’ Cat during the summer months.

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