“It’s a small world (but I wouldn’t want to paint it)”
This was one of my dad’s little sayings when I was growing up (he’s an artist with a sense of humour!). This always made me giggle, but since catching the ‘upcycling furniture’ bug, I’ve started looking at things in a different way.
Whilst hunting for bargains at our local car boot sale one Sunday morning, a piece of graffiti caught my eye. The day before had been Bristol Volksfest, and the farm buildings were covered in amazing artwork that had been done during the festival. The piece I spotted said: “It’s a small world – let’s paint it!” Which I think is a much better saying.
Upcycling furniture does become a bit of an obsession. I’m a terrible guest to have round at your house, I’ll covet your furniture and imagine what colour I’d paint it if I could get my hands on it.
My mother in law has some beautiful pieces that I fantasise about painting every time we visit, but I don’t think I’ve quite won her round to the idea of painting furniture yet (probably because all my upcycles are a little too colourful for her tastes!). My mum has caught the bug though and gradually I’m turning her house into a gallery, it’s like a little shrine to Annie Sloan (which is the chalk paint that I use). So far I’ve painted cupboards, picture frames, tables, a dresser, chest of drawers, the fireplace, the woodwork and even the floorboards! And I’ve used over 10 different colours – she is very colourful too.
After doing a furniture painting course, friends began commissioning me to upcycle their furniture. I was allowed to experiment with colour combinations and the first piece that I did, is still one of my favourites. A lovely wooden chest of drawers, which my friend had bought from Camden market in the 80’s, it was expensive but she had desperately wanted it and has moved it from home to home with her since. I painted the drawers in green and red which sounds a bit crazy but worked so well. She love’s it now as much as when she bought it – if not a teeny bit more!!
After completing a few commissions I set up my website and began thinking about how I could move my business forward. It’s quite a daunting prospect setting up a new venture but sometimes things just seem to fall into place and you feel like you are following along the path that has been set for you.
I had booked tickets to go to a charity event for Penny Brohn Cancer Care ‘The Splendiferous Occasion’ at the very beautiful setting of Kings Weston House, which just happens to be (nearly) in my back garden. It sounded like a wonderful event with special guest speakers, beauty treatments, children’s activities as well as a fabulous selection of stalls. It then occurred to me that this would be the perfect place for me to exhibit and with just 4 days to go before the event I booked one of the last spots available and began painting like crazy to get some stock to take.
That first time when you appear publicly displaying your ‘wares’ is very nerve racking. You’re putting yourself out there and seeing people’s reactions face to face. I’d only been painting furniture for a few months and was really anxious.
One of the last pieces that I painted for the event was a large wooden kitchen chair that had been given to me. I had this idea of painting it grey with yellow bees and a honeycomb pattern. My husband thought I was a bit mad – who would want a big wooden kitchen chair with bees on! I created a stencil which he laser cut for me and I got it finished the night before the event.
The next morning, as I was setting up, one of the first people to come over and see my stall (before the event had even opened) was one of the other exhibitors. She was a beekeeper and was selling beauty products made from her honey (Honey Bee Beautiful – check them out they are divine!). She loved my chair, bought it and took it straight round to her stall to sit on!
I saw this as a sign that I was doing what I was meant to be doing and must learn to trust myself, and my instincts, more!
My latest upcycle has undergone quite a transformation and i’ve been thinking about getting a little more creative with my paintbrush. I’m not sure how it will turn out but I’m going to trust my instincts and give it a go and if it’s a success I’ll share some pictures with you next time!
Article first published in Antiques Plus, West Country Life magazine 19.03.16