Huge apologies for the tumbleweed blowing across the barren landscape of the blog this week, but that is all set to change – this is set to be a VERY busy month!It’s officially August, meaning Craft Month has begun, courtesy of Craft NI. This year’s theme is ‘Culture of Making’ – focusing on makers living and working in Northern Ireland, and how the place has influenced their creations.
Here’s an at-a-glance guide to all the events. Click here for more information and a link to the full programme.
The first event I’m going to is the second in ReFound‘s 5 – 9 series; a clever reference to the evening hours many people use to get creative ventures off the ground, outside of their ‘9 – 5’ working day.
What better time than Craft Month to launch my new monthly series of Monday Makes guest posts from a selection of talented makers at ReFound?
The first guest post is courtesy of Anastasija Andrejeva. The Latvia-born Russian artist studied Interior Design in Riga College of Architecture and Design before moving to Bangor to continue her art and design studies. She’s now headed to the University of Ulster to become a Product and Furniture Designer.
She has upcycled a number of furniture and interior items for ReFound, including the cute and quirky telephone table below, which I believe is a lovely example of NI’s influence on her creativity. I’ll hand over to Anastasija to bring us through her ReFound Make.
For removing old varnish:
- Paint and varnish stripper
- Sand paper and steel wool
- White spirit (from local DIY store)
For decorative paint work:
- Acrylic primer/stain killer,
- Foam rollers,
- Quality synthetic brushes,
- Clear polyurethane varnish (all from local interior decorating shop),
- System 3 acrylic paints,
- Artist’s brushes for acrylic paints,
- Black Sharpie marker (Easons)
For seat reupholstery and art work:
- Upholstery fabric with fire retardent backing (ordered on ebay),
- Staple gun and staples( local DIY store)
- Dylon fabric paints (borrowed from a friend)
“It all started for me with ReFound’s pop-up shop in Bangor for the European Waste Reduction Week 2012 in November.
Jill O’Neill (who runs ReFound), together with local artists’ organization Firsty and North Down Borough Council put out a call for artists to participate in upcoming event, which would require an artistic interaction with used pieces of furniture in order to give them a new lease of life and encourage people to rethink their ways of waste disposal.
The council provided us with a range of pieces to choose between, from a local waste recycling centre.
This regency-style hallway table caught my eye as soon as I saw it, so I took it home and began thinking about what I was going to do with it. The deadline for this project was just under three weeks away.
Firstly I detached the top drawer and the seat; then a thick layer of mahogany stain and varnish had to be removed entirely.
The varnish stripper I used was easily applied with a brush, and after half an hour it was ready to scrape off with steel wool. In some areas, where the lacquer was thicker, two applications were required.
After I made sure all remains of varnish were off, I wiped the entire table with a clean cloth dipped in white spirit and sanded it thoroughly leaving the surface as smooth as possible. When painting furniture, surface preparation is everything!
The more time I spend cleaning and sanding, the easier it becomes to apply paint and leaves a nice smooth finish. Then the surface was ready for primer application; I painted 2 coats, sanding lightly after each coat.
As any art graduate would know, an art foundation course is packed with learning new techniques and doing a lot of research.
At the time, I was captivated by bright colours and the intricate designs of Mexican arts and crafts, so I started playing with some patterns and colour combinations. The most detailed part of the table was its legs, so I decided I would accentuate every carved ridge and every curve with bright contrasting colour palette.
I did several sketches, showed them to friends and family and chose the ’people’s favourite’ so to say.
I then drew sketches of the table to decide on the overall colour scheme. The use of regal colours was self-evident but not intentional, although I can admit that after living in the UK for seven years, I may have been subconsciously influenced by British culture.
But at the time, since a project like this was a first for me, I was just having fun with it; and I was generally guided by the contrasting or complementary qualities of the colours of the chosen design.
As an overall design was taking shape, I still thought the table wasn’t enough ‘fun’, hence the addition of my best friend’s dog’s portrait (below I am sketching it on paper), and a chess board on top of the drawer, which actually has the right amount of checks to play real chess on it! As a designer I always feel the necessity to add a little purpose to my art.
When it came to reupholstering the seat I went for cream velvet fabric with fire retardant backing that I ordered from ebay.
Although initially I planned to make the seat red, I changed my mind last minute and went for a more subtle option to avoid overabundance of strong hues.
I removed old upholstery from the seat, keeping the foam filler as it was in good shape. Normally, it would need changed according to modern fire safety regulations, but fireproof upholstery sorted that.
I then cut out a rectangle from new fabric using the old upholstery as a stencil and painted the dog’s head freehand with specialised fabric paints. When painting was finished and dry I sealed the image with an iron on the hottest setting to make the surface washable. Then my new upholstery was ready to be stapled back in place!
The hardest and most time-consuming parts were painting the legs and the chess board. It’s been a painstaking process applying intricate designs onto curved surfaces using the finest brushes, and even a permanent marker on some areas.
So, if you are ever to embark on a project like this, make sure you have a lot of patience and a steady hand!
I painted one leg per day and attended to the other parts using the drying times effectively. I applied two coats of each colour and after all decorative work was finished I painted on two more coats of acrylic (polyurethane) varnish to seal all the hard work.
I then screwed all components back together and the table now looked brand new. The only sign of the table’s age was the drawer pull which I decided to leave as a reminder of the table’s origin.”
I don’t know about you, but this wonderful article has really inspired me to try my hand at a bit of furniture upcycling – something I’ve been wanting to do for a while! I’m surprised at some of the simple materials used – acrylic paints, for example. I’m also glad to have a shopping list to hand for the more technical stuff, like varnish remover and primer.
A huge thank-you to Anastasija and Jill for this brilliant first ReFound Makes. Can’t wait for the next one at the beginning of September! Do get in touch if this encourages you to revamp some old furniture – I’ll publish any pics sent in (with permission, of course).