Why I stopped painting furniture

Four years ago, I discovered the joys of Annie Sloan chalk paint.  I had just retired from 36 years of teaching high school and painting furniture filled a huge gap in my life.  I do not have the fine motor skills to be an artist but furniture transformation made me feel like one.  I loved everything about the business, from looking for bargains to paint, choosing a colour or technique, to marketing the piece.  But, the drive has started to wear off.  I don’t enjoy lifting large pieces, I have to paint in my kitchen or dining room and there is an explosion of fellow furniture painters.  I have to credit my stockist, Katrina, from Malenka Originals with the success of her business for this explosion.  She introduced Ottawa to chalk paint and thousands seem to have embraced it.  Many women are doing and loving what I did 4 years ago and I just don’t want to compete any more.  I have painted many beautiful pieces and I know there are some very happy people who bought them.  Here are a few favourites:

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Annie Sloan actually led me to another hobby/obsession-dyeing fabric.  I have become a textile artisan and have taught myself Shibori, Ice-dyeing and Sashiko embroidery.  Here are some examples-the first pillow was done with a flour paste resist and black dye.  The second one is an example of ice-dyeing.  You can find my shop here:   https://uwf-textiles.myshopify.com/

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Projects from 2016

This past year has been one of great creative growth for me.  I still painted a lot of furniture but discovered a new love indirectly through painting.  Last summer I was inspired by Annie Sloan’s Inspiration page to try shibori dyeing with chalk paint.  My efforts with chalk paint were attractive but I really wanted to see what using indigo and Procion MX dye would be like.  I haven’t looked back and have been very busy experimenting with different types of shibori for pillows, tea towels and scarves.  I used to sew many years ago and have now re-learned some of those skills as well.

Here are some of my favourite pillows and painted pieces from 2016:

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green-and-white-pillow

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Have a creative 2017, everyone.

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More Shibori Pillows

I recently wrote about using chalk paint to create shibori type designs on fabric.  I enjoyed learning about the process as I was dyeing the fabric and the results were good but not spectacular.  The best thing about dyeing with chalk paint is that it is easy: mix a bit of water into the paint, saturate the fabric for about 20 minutes, rinse, then iron the fabric when it has dried.  Here are some of the pillows:pillows-6

I am happy with the result but chalk paint does limit the type of design you can do.  Shibori needs contrast and in order to get that with paint it can’t be watered down too much.  You can’t get deep colour using paint nor can you get sharp design

I love the process of creating shibori design so much that I have moved on to dye.  Traditional shibori is done with indigo dye but I started with Procion MX dye which is a fiber reactive dye.  You can dye in cold water by adding salt to the bath and later soda ash which sets the dye.  Once it has been washed out, the dye is permanent.

Shibori is done with tying, binding and stitching fabric to resist the dye in places which is how the pattern is created.  These pillows were done with binding or blocking:

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The graphic  turquoise, blue and white one was done with clothes pegs.  The flower shape or starburst is a simple binding design.

My favourite technique so far is stitch shibori.  Designs are created by basting sections of the fabric then gathering the stitches tightly.  The pillow in the foreground was red dye on cotton duck.  You can see the zig-zag  created by the gathers.

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These 2 were done on silk shantung.  Procion MX can be used on silk but it is not the best dye for it, an acid dye is preferred .

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They turned out beautifully any way.  The arrow-like pattern is another binding type.  You pleat the fabric, wrap it around a rope, then tie string over the whole thing.  The diamond shapes were created with stitching on folds.

What I love about the technique are the endless designs and the surprises that you get from time to time.  I find it a very satisfying craft.

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Something in Turquoise

Annie Sloan recently introduce Giverny to her North American market.  It is a bright clear blue named after Monet’s village in France.  I had hoped that it was a bright turquoise-blue because photos of it make it look that way, but it’s not.  You can see it here.  I mixed it in a 1:1 ratio with Florence and a bit of white and got the colour that I wanted for this coffee table.  I bought this second-hand for my daughter; it is from some place like Indonesia and is heavy wood.  It had a thick brown stain on it but you could see the marks and knot holes through the stain.

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I stripped the top and found very rough wood.  Rather than cover it , I decided to keep the rough look because it is definitely reclaimed looking.   I applied 2 stains, walnut and grey,  and 3 coats of wipe-on poly.

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The base was painted in the chalk paint mix.  Deep chalk paint colours give great coverage and I didn’t have to use much paint.  I wanted a clean modern look suitable for this style.

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I love Annie Sloan’s stencil called Trees.  I stenciled some craft paper with it and lined the drawers.

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I stenciled one way then in different directions over top.  It has a modern primitive look that matches the table.jean-4

This is going in a contemporary living room with a leather couch and a pale grey rug that has bits of colour in it, one of which is turquoise.

 

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Decoupage to the Rescue

Three years ago, I wrote a post about waterfall furniture.  It certainly is not my favourite style of vintage furniture and I usually avoid painting it.  My blog post, however, is very popular ( 20,000 views) so I am guessing that there are a lot of people who want to know about its value or history.  You can read it here if you are interested.   This waterfall vanity was given to me by a friend who had bought it rather cheaply, so I  painted it.

waterfall vanity

The veneer on the top was not in great shape.  At first, I tried to patch it but there was just too much peeling so I removed all the veneer in the middle section.  The other top sections looked ok but had thin cracks where the wood had dried out.  Unfortunately, I decided to paint those sections as is, which was a mistake.  The paint made the cracks more noticeable.  I had originally wanted to stencil across the top of this table but I decided that might not be the best course.  S0, rather than start all over, I chose to conceal the cracks with decoupaged napkins.  I had a package of birds and flowers that had a white background which seemed suitable for the feminine look I was going for.

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I used Mod Podge to apply the pieces then I sealed the top with 3 coats of acrylic varnish.  The table and the matching chair are painted in Annie Sloan Pure White chalk paint mixed with a bit of grey to give it some pigment.  Pure white is a devil to work with so I try to add something to it.  Old White is good addition but I wanted a cooler tone.  I even painted the seat  of the chair  which was covered in brown vinyl.

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There was some nice detail on the front of the vanity so I painted it a pale pink to match the roses in the paper and added gold gilding paste on top of that.  I also painted the insides of the drawers in pink.

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This vanity has a matching mirror but I am not fond of the frameless look which was typical of the era.

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The overall effect is totally feminine but why not?  It is a dressing table after all.

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Waterfalls are still not my style but this did turn out very well.

 

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Tribal/Boho Style

Boho(bohemian) style is a mixture of colour, pattern and furniture eras.  It is bold, eclectic and vintage looking.  Tribal style, on the other hand, uses earth tones and is inspired by native cultures, using their patterns and artifacts in decor items.  Both styles are popular today and both have connections to the 1960’s and earlier eras.

I wanted to try stenciling paint on stained wood and this little table seemed like the perfect project.  It is oak, probably from the 1970’s and it had a glossy poly finish.  I stripped the top and stained it with dark walnut to make it a bit darker.  Then I applied a large wall stencil with white chalk paint.

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One of the nice things about large stencils is that they give you the repeat pattern outline on all 4 sides so that it is easy to match up the pattern accurately.  I used a stencil brush and was careful to off-load most of the paint.  Taping down the stencil and off-loading are the key to getting clean lines.

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I painted the base in matte black and added some white paint to the small handle so that it mimics the stencil.  I like the look of black with dark wood and this seems an appropriate combination for the mid-century lines of the table and the tribal look.

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Strictly speaking,  I wouldn’t say that the stencil is a tribal pattern but it resembles one.

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I see it as a boho/tribal look because of the mix of colours and styles.

 

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Retro meets Glam

Furniture produced after the Second World War shows a definite shift from darker heavier woods and colours to those that are light, less bulky and even whimsical.  Heywood Wakefield is credited with bringing this shift in American tastes by introducing a line of blonde furniture that became very popular in the 1950’s.  There is a definite revival of interest in this furniture because it is retro looking and it is very well-made.  You can read about this revival here.

Blonde furniture was usually birch or maple with a golden or pale stain.  The set that I bought is blonde mahogany which was achieved by bleaching the wood before staining it.  It is made by Gibbard, a well-known manufacturer of fine furniture in Canada.  It came with a frameless mirror but that look is too dated for most people.

gibbard desk 1gibbard nighstand

It is mahogany veneer over solid wood.  The original owner had kept a glass top on both pieces and they were in near perfect condition.  The brass knobs are distinctive and original.

I refinished the tops and painted the bodies in Pure White with a bit of French Linen mixed in.  It is still white but has a grey tone.  Pure White has no pigment and needs many coats; by adding some colour to it, you get a lot better coverage.  Because the wood had been bleached originally, it would not take a dark stain so I opted for a chestnut colour which was close to the original but richer in tone.

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I cleaned the beautiful brass knobs then added some gilding paste to make them brighter.  It makes a great desk or could still be used as a dressing table in a bedroom.

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It definitely has a glam look to it.

 

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