Making a Jewelry Organizer From Junk

how to make a jewelry organizerHaving a teenage girl has definitely made me think more about jewelry than I have for a long time. I used to care about jewelry when I was still dating……a million years ago, but now I think my husband is just glad if I show up clean and not smelling of paint. To be completely honest, he’ll still take me out dirty and smelly but only because he doesn’t have many other offers……..not that I do. Anyway, back to the jewelry. I got an idea for a hanging jewelry organizer when I was rummaging through my junk and I thought I’d share the steps I went through to create it, just in case you have some junk laying around too…..oh, and some jewelry. In the above photo you can see what I started with. The frame and back board were originally together as a piece of “art” from Ross. The “art” was ugly so I pulled it out and used the back. I bought it at an estate liquidator place for $5, which is high (I think the guy thought it was “art” too) but he gave me two others for $1 so I’m telling myself I paid $2 for it. Ah, the rationalizations of the hoarder mind. The ugly metal knobs are in two pieces and I found them at a thrift store for 50 cents each.  I think the metal screen is used for radiators, but since we don’t have those in San Diego, that may be an urban legend. I found it in my friend’s garage and she let me take it for free. Yay! gilding size appliedI decided to gild the frame with metal leaf. The first step in gilding is applying gilding size and I always use Rolco Aquasize which is water-based and dries quickly. Gilding size is a watery adhesive that you brush on. The photo above shows the frame after the size was applied, which is why it’s shiny. The metal leaf I used is called Celestial Leaf and the color is Moonbeam. This is a variegated metal leaf, so the color is inconsistent, which I actually love. Celestial Leaf comes in books and each sheet is applied individually. metal leaf applied After the size has dried and become tacky, lay a piece of leaf on the surface and push it in to the crevices with a soft brush. Try to not touch the leaf with your bare hands as the oil from your hands can discolor the leaf. When you have the entire surface covered in leaf, smooth it out with a sheepskin pad. If you don’t have a sheepskin pad you can use a really soft rag, but just know that it may scratch the leaf if it’s not truly soft. frame gilded in Celestial leaf When the leaf is all shiny and pretty you can spray a coat of varnish on it to protect it from tarnish. I really recommend this step if it will be hung near a shower. Modern Masters and Faux Effects productsMoving on to the knobs….after cleaning them well, I primed them with Faux Effects Black SetCoat, but you could use any metal primer that works with water based paint. I painted them first with with one coat of Antique Bronze metallic paint from Modern Masters and then a second coat in Pale Gold. knobs painted in metallic paintMetallic paint can be fairly transparent which is why I used a black primer. I stippled (fancy word for blobbing on light layers of paint) a thin coat of each color with a small, badly, crumpled artist brush. Use a bad brush so that the pattern is irregular. Smooth brushes leave streaks if you just brush on metallic paint. You can get a better look by stabbing it on randomly, while allowing a little of the black primer peek through. Silk soft paint Now for the fun part; the backboard. I sanded the board to get rid of scratches but it was still a little uneven. I decided to hide the blemishes by using this Blue Pearl paint called Silk Soft, in the color Asian Silk. This is a metallic paint that actually has small fibers in it making it thicker and textured to the touch. To amplify this effect I applied it heavily with a rough chip brush in one direction. It looks very much like raw silk and it’s a great background for the next step. lace stencil from Royal Design StudioI used a new stencil from Royal Design Studio called Snowflake Lace. Royal Design just released a whole group of lace stencils that are really fun to use. I used Modern Masters metallic paint in Black Cherry and a brush from Royal Design Studio. Please don’t consider doing this with anything other than a stencil brush. Sponge brushes and artist brushes suck and should never be used for stenciling. You can use them, just don’t call me crying about it when it’s hideous. I told you not to use them. Dip your brush lightly in the paint, then rub off the excess paint in a swirling motion on a paper towel until there’s barely any paint on your brush. Swirl your brush lightly on the edges of the stencil openings, working your way into the center of each opening. Lift the stencil to check your progress as you go. It takes very little paint to leave an impression. beautiful job stencilingDo you see any blobs of paint? Any ooze under the stencil? No? That’s because I used a proper brush and a very light amount of paint.  It’s not rocket science. Just use the right brush for the project, and don’t go heavy with the paint. finished jewelry organizerWhen all the pieces were painted and pretty I put them together. The metal screen didn’t need to be painted, I just sanded off the dullness before attaching it to the backboard. The screen and the knobs were attached with bolts after I drilled holes in the board. necklace and ear ring holderSo from pieces of junk I created a great place to organize jewelry. I love how it all came together. It’s for sale in my Etsy shop now if you know anybody that could use a little help with corralling their accessories. This was so fun, I may have to make another one. Inventory used: Metallic paint


How-To Paint a Ceiling Medallion

painting tutorialI have always wanted to paint one of these decorative ceiling medallions and last week an old client of mine handed me an unfinished one simply asking me to “do my magic.” I was all over it.

unfinished medallionIf you haven’t seen these you can find them almost anywhere that sells lighting. This one came from Home Depot and is made of foam. They come primed and ready to paint.

metallic paintI chose to use Modern Masters metallic paint in the color Brass which coordinates with the other fixtures in the room where this will be installed. The glazing brush I’m using came from Pierre Finkelstein’s collection and is perfect for getting into the nooks and crannies on this piece.

stipplingMetallic paint will show brush marks if you try to simply brush it on, making it look streaky. It’s best to use a stippling, pouncing motion to not only get the paint in the crevices but to also give the paint a more even finish. This paint is a little transparent so it required three coats.

painting finishedWhen the three coats of brass were on I painted the inside and outside rings with two coats of an off white latex paint. The latex was in a satin finish which is important because I planned on glazing it. If I had painted it with craft paints or matte latex the glaze wouldn’t work properly and the piece would end up too dark and splotchy.

painter's tapeThe chandelier that will hang under this medallion is chrome and glass, so I decided to add aluminum leaf on one part of the molding and on a couple small pieces on the inside carving. The first step in applying leaf is applying a liquid size which is very runny so I taped off the ring to prevent the size from dripping where I didn’t want it to go.

Leafing sizeI use Rolco Aquasize because it’s water based and dries faster. Traditional oil-based size takes forever to tack up. I buy the metal leaf from Royal Design Studio, which is really close to my house and has a great selection. You can buy online from them as well.

Apply the size in thin layers with a soft brush. The size is the consistency of water so there’s really no way to put on a thick coat. It takes 25 minutes to dry and get tacky. If after 25 minutes it’s not tacky enough, put on one more thin coat.

A quick note on metal leafing: True metal leafing is an art form that takes years to master and pristine tools and environments. What I’m describing here is what I call Crafter’s Leafing. I’m just gluing on shiny metal. I’m breaking every rule of leafing, and I’m fully aware, so there’s no need to point it out.

aluminum leafMetal leaf comes in square sheets and is lighter than air, so don’t do this outside or near an open window, or while you’re blow drying your hair. Simply lay a piece of leaf over an area with size. It will stick immediately.

small soft brushI used a small soft brush to press the leaf into the crevices. Don’t press it with your fingers because the oil on your hands can discolor the leaf.

sheepskin padWhen all the leaf is on, burnish or rub softly with a sheepskin pad. This will even out the sheen and remove any little flakes lying around.

missing leafIf there are places where the leaf is missing, it just means you missed a spot when you were applying size. That’s easy to do when working with light colors because the size is transparent. Apply more size to the spot and add leaf when it’s tacky. It will blend in when you burnish it.

burnish marksAfter I burnished the leaf I noticed that it had left grey smudges along the edges. I touched it up with the latex paint before moving on to the next step.

glaze applicationI wanted to age the whole piece so I mixed up a very dark glaze and applied it heavily in small sections. Don’t glaze the whole piece at once or the glaze will dry before you can rag it off.

The glaze I use isn’t readily available to DIY people, but if I could give you a recipe I would tell you to  go to an art supply store and pick up Golden’s Acrylic glaze and Van Dyke Brown fluid acrylic. I would mix one part pigment to six parts glaze. Always test it before slopping it on the whole piece.

ragging offOnce you get the glaze on a section, remove it from the high points with a soft rag. Leave the glaze in the crevices.

hake brushI use a soft hake brush to stipple the glaze in the low flat areas. It evens out the glaze, blends it with the adjoining section and gets rid of smears. Work in small sections around the piece, glazing the outside molding last. Acrylic glazes take 24 hours to dry completely and may take even longer where the glaze puddles in the crevices.

finished medallionI love how the glaze settled in the outside molding. It took just enough shine off the aluminum leaf to make it pretty and not garish.

Beautiful medallionSo there it is. I’ll post a picture of it when it gets hung with the chandelier. They’re really happy with it and I had a lot of fun painting it. Now it’s your turn!

A small note: this didn’t end up being the final product thanks to the client’s wanting more metal leafing. Please go to this post to see the real final product.

Creating a Craft Fair Display from Scratch

salvaged sanity displayThis past week I’ve been working furiously on the display I’ll be taking to A Gilded Life art retreat this coming Wednesday. I say furiously because anyone getting in my way or slowing me down has definitely experienced my wrath (sincerest apologies to my family). I finished it yesterday and I’m pretty happy with the results. I’ll take photos at the actual event….this is just what it looks like in my dining room.

mail organizer displaySalvaged Sanity mail organizers should ideally be displayed on walls, but since this venue doesn’t provide any, and I can’t fit those in a Prius, I had to come up with something else. The most important factor the display had to work around was that it had to break down into parts small enough to fit in my car, and be easy enough to put together by myself.

My husband came up with the designs for the table racks and I came up with the idea for using an IKEA $10 clothes rack for hanging the Design-Your-Own message center components. Other than the IKEA purchase all the other parts were salvaged either from the Habitat for Humanity ReStore or my studio.

standing display rackThe hanging table racks are made from two 1″ x 4″s and two 30″ sections of 1/2″ x 1″molding to fit a standard 30″ x 72″ banquet table. You could actually fit three of these racks on this size table, but I needed only two. I added hooks at the top of the 1″x 4″s for my boards to hang on. The rack fits right over the edges of the table and the weight of the hanging boards balances each other. They fit snug enough that if you remove one of them, the other side stays in place.

IKEA clothes rack display

To display the pieces that are for sale a’ la carte I used chandelier chain, s-hooks and gutter screens to hang everything from the clothes rack. All that stuff folds down to practically nothing and yesI had all that stuff in my studio.

craft show display tableFor the table top holders I got lucky at the ReStore when I found an old wooden sliding door track. I cut it into four equal pieces and my boards slide right on to them. I formed triangles out of two organizers tied together at the top and their bottoms stabilized in the wood tracks.

I had the fabric for the tablecloth (a thrift store find) and all the material for the signs in various corners of my home. So this whole thing came together for less than $20 and a lot of imagination.

Today I’m doing the hard part – figuring out how to get it all in my car and still be able to see out the windows. I’ve always loved a good puzzle. Wish me luck!

We love a good time crunch

A couple days ago my daughter and I became keenly aware that she will begin her senior year in a little over two weeks. One of our main goals for her summer break was to remodel her bathroom. This house was a model home when we bought it and it came with wallpaper in every bathroom. That was 12 years ago and I have only removed the wallpaper off one of them.


Not only did we get this wallpaper but we got this terry cloth curtain thing as well. We thought it was cute when we bought the house. Now we think it’s just nasty.


My daughter was five when we bought the house so everything about the bathroom was perfect for her. Now she’s 17 and the room has been making her itchy for about 3 years. Can’t imagine why. I mean, what 17 year old girl doesn’t like primary colored stripes? Yesterday we started the remodel. We bought paint for this room because the color she wants is a bright, clear aqua and I don’t have the kind of white or blue to make that color from my Stash.

vinyl tile

We also bought new flooring because this is the tile she’s been living with for the last 12 years. The thing about this kind of vinyl tile is that it’s so durable, you’ll never feel like it needs replacing. You will end up with a teenager walking on tiles fit for a nursery and wishing it was flammable. It’s not. This stuff will last forever.

removing wallpaper

So yesterday we started removing the wallpaper. We started in the afternoon and nearly got it done. It’s fairly therapeutic.

For all you out there who think,” I would’ve just painted over it,” you’re right; that would have been easier…………lazy! In bathrooms I just don’t like risking it. If you paint over wallpaper you are running the risk of the wallpaper failing at some point with all the steam it endures. If the wallpaper starts coming off and you’ve painted over it, it really sucks to remove it and you may have to sand through all the paint and paper to get to a clean surface. (Which is what you deserve for being so lazy) Sanding sucks and really, really sucks when you have to sand through anything with adhesive on it. Just don’t do it.

Upon removal we also discovered that the people who built the house took a shortcut and applied the wallpaper straight to the drywall. No priming beforehand. Awesome. It makes the job a little more difficult. The technique I’m using is:

  1. Tear off the top vinyl layer
  2. Spray the paper liner with a 50/50 mixture of vinegar and water
  3. Wait 5 minutes for the liner to get saturated
  4. Scrape it off with a taping knife
  5. Throw the wet gooey mess in the trashcan (or on the floor when you just don’t care anymore)
  6. Go back to step 2 and repeat the sequence 5 million times

We’ll have the rest torn off by this afternoon and start painting after it’s all clean and dry.

Repurposing Trash

chalk paint tableOkay, so I’m kinda cheating by showing the ‘After’ picture first…..just trying to get you to stay on my blog for more than 12 seconds. What’s the rush?! Okay, okay, I’ll move on…..

My friend was looking for a piece of furniture to use in a photo shoot and I found this sewing table in my neighborhood on trash day. It had great mid-century modern style, and no rats living inside, so I threw it in the back of my car.

Annie Sloan's chalk paintI painted it with Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint and it looked great in the photo. The thing was, I painted it in what I call “Photo Lazy Style.” Meaning, it was painted so that it looks good in a photo, but not good enough to be used in real life. The inside and back side weren’t painted, because they aren’t seen in the photo.

damaged tableThis piece is actually a sewing table, so the top opens up and it has a hole for a sewing machine to be stored in (I know that seems obvious, but I’m just trying to keep everyone in the loop). The wood had a heavy varnish on it that was damaged and chipping away. I used Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint in Barcelona Orange to make it photo ready, but the inside was left for me to do later.

planter liningI sanded the wood with an 80 grit sandpaper and then stapled a plastic liner around the edge of the hole. (This ended up being a bad idea… stay tuned)

trim moldingBecause I thought the black plastic around the edge looked tacky, I quickly cut a few pieces of trim to cover them and nailed them down. I had also hoped that they would help keep the plastic attached (totally didn’t work…….keep staying tuned).

Chalk Paint supplies


I used Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint in Provence for the inside. Annie Sloan’s Chalk paint is popular for many reasons, but mostly because it will stick to nearly anything without need for a primer. Typically she does it with brushes without smoothing out the brush marks. I wanted this to be smoother so I rolled it………okay, okay, I did it with a roller cuz it’s faster……sheesh!

blue chalk paintThis is the piece done with two coats.

failure to use primerWhen working with questionable topcoats or veneers they recommend always priming it with shellac. When I did the orange on the outside I did it right and sprayed a layer of  shellac before I painted and it kept all the old nasty stuff from seeping through the orange paint. This piece is destined for the outside and I want it to look weathered pretty quickly so I painted it without a primer. I bumped up the contrast on the photo so you can see the discoloration coming through the paint. Just wanted you to know why you prime if your goal is to have a pristine piece of furniture.

potted tableHere it is after I put the plants in and placed random objects on it to make the photo prettier. (Cuz people regularly wrap books in burlap, leave adorable tea cups out and place their gardening trowels just so………whatever, leave me alone)

chalk paint tableSo here’s the story behind the story (thanks for staying tuned): The plastic lining started to tear when I got the plants and soil in. I had a bad feeling that would happen. I had initially planned on using chicken wire first, but that seemed like overkill, turns out that would have been the right amount of kill. When the plastic started to tear I grabbed a piece of muslin and laid down underneath the table and stapled it to the underside of the table as a reinforcement. I have a feeling that will rot away in a few months and I’ll come out in the morning to an empty table and a pile of dead flowers on my porch. Whatever, at least I got a good photo today, and I think it’s adorable.

I did a lot of things with this piece that I wouldn’t have done if I had planned on using it inside or if I was going to sell it. Please keep that in mind when you read through the process. Since it was rescued from the trash, and being used as a planter, I skipped a lot of steps. Please don’t judge my painting ability by this post. I’m way more anal with stuff that matters….ask anyone that lives with me.


Vintage Table Makeover

retro magazine tableThis adorable table caught my eye a few months ago in the sad part of my favorite thrift store. The Veteran’s thrift store in Chula Vista has a section outside that you get to through the back of the store. The first section is still indoors and they keep bigger items, crappy glassware, furniture and hardware in big bins. If you push through that you end up outside and this is where the sad stuff is. I say it’s sad because the store puts pieces there when they’ve given up on them. They let them weather the rain and the sun and dust accumulation. It’s sad, but luckily this stuff is also marked down to real cheap. This is where this table was, in the sad zone.

vintage magazine tableSo this is the state it was in when I put it in my car. Pretty good shape, really. Some scratches, but no real dings or damage. The top was practically perfect. One of the reasons I picked it up is that I could see that you could unscrew the legs, top and post from the magazine rack portion, making it easier to paint. To start the paint process I  took it all apart.

Let me start by saying that, although this blog was created to document my using up my paint stash until it disappears, I did end up spray painting the primer and base coat. Yes, I bought spray paint. Here’s the thing…..when I started painting pieces like this years ago I did everything by hand, with tiny brushes. It took f*#king forever and it never looked good. Pieces with spindles need to be spray painted. That’s just my opinion, but I’m pretty sure most painters would agree with me. Except tole painters……I’m almost positive that they get some sort of sick pleasure in painting with brushes with 3 hairs in them and spending 6 months on a serving tray. Not judging, just saying.

prepping a wood table

When you spray paint an item it’s important to set the pieces up in a way that you can get at all angles, that you don’t have to touch them, and that they won’t stick to anything. In this photo I have them set up to do the undersides first. When they dried I turned them over and placed something small (in this case several pebbles) between the freshly painted underside and the work surface. You’ll also notice that I have screwed the legs into shoe boxes. This is so I can move them around with out touching them, and spray from all sides. The shoe boxes can go in the recycling bin when you’re done.

spray primer stepThis shows the pieces after they’ve been sprayed with primer. I used a Valspar primer. I tend to buy primers that claim they will work on everything, including plastic. If it can stick to plastic it will stick to anything.

When you buy vintage pieces you never know what kind of products were used on it before it got to you. Back in the day, they didn’t have the EPA, so all kinds of nasty stuff was used. Basic water-base primer doesn’t stick to everything, especially not nasty oil-based stuff. You also don’t know if wax has been used which is really hard to paint over. So I always go for hard core products to prevent my getting all the way to the last layer, pulling the tape, and the whole finish coming off (That happens and it’s ugly). When that happens my husband comes home and I’ve been drinking since noon (It’s 5 o’clock somewhere, people!) and he says things like, “You can just paint it again!” ……..and then I stab him in his sleep. Let’s just say it’s better to use hard core primers, OK?

green paint layerSo here are the pieces painted a nice green apple color. The thing is, I went in to Lowe’s with every intention of coming home with a nice cream color. I got to the spray paint cage and after they figured out I wasn’t a tagger, they opened the cage for me to grab my paint. I really did try to grab a can of white or vanilla or ivory but I ended up grabbing this green instead. It’s a problem. I’m addicted to this color. I’m sorry, but I love it.

stenciled tableI decided to stick with the era it was created in and went with a retro green, yellow and orange palette. The stencil I used on the top is from Royal Design Studio. I think it fits the style of the table perfectly. This stencil comes in a set with a bunch of different sizes and patterns and I’ve used them a thousand times. Totally worth it.

vintage side tableI hand painted the rest of the details with a steady hand and a small brush. I top coated it, again with a spray product because I wanted to make sure it got in all the crevices.

It’s an adorable piece and it’s for sale in my Etsy shop now, all ready to go to a new, loving home.

Inventory used: acrylic craft paints

Bad Stenciling – And How to Avoid It

handpainted file boxStenciling is my favorite paint technique. My first lesson in painting was in stenciling. Because it was easy to learn and achieve good results, it gave me the courage to venture into more advanced techniques. Now when I was taking my first lesson I didn’t realize that my teacher was one of the best stencil artists in the world (Melanie Royals), so I learned the right way and didn’t have a lot of major mistakes. She’s an excellent teacher, so I got good quickly, but I realize now that I was really lucky to have her as, my first teacher.

14 years later, I still believe stenciling is the best introduction into painting for beginners. So you can understand my horror when I opened a magazine last week to an article on stenciling and saw this:

ImageI actually gasped when I saw this, audibly gasped. Now I have seen bad stenciling, it happens, but I have never seen it published. I am not going to tell you what magazine this is because I don’t want to be mean. The rest of the magazine is really quite lovely and it even has an article on a really talented decorative painter, unfortunately they didn’t consult with her on this article.

ImageThis shot is even worse. I know, it’s horrible. I can’t believe they killed trees to print this page. It’s really shameful.

I read the article which made it really clear what went wrong. They used sponge brushes. I’m sure you’ve seen sponge brushes in stores and maybe you even bought them. Maybe you even used them and as a result you decided you suck and put away the paint and stencils in that box of shame you keep in the back corner of your closet. I’m here to tell you, you don’t suck. Sponge brushes are a cruel invention, produced by sadistic manufacturers to tear down your confidence and trash your dreams of becoming an artist. Throw them away, (yes, even if they’re Martha Stewart sponge brushes. I know they look pretty, but they suck. Throw them out!).

ImageOk, this is the last bad picture I swear.

If you want good results, I recommend using stencil brushes. Stenciling is done with a dry brush. What I mean by that is, you load the tips of the stencil brush with paint, then you swirl it around on a paper towel until it’s nearly dry, then you do the same swirling motion on the stencil, using an even but light pressure, making sure you don’t squish or force paint under the stencil. Some people also try pouncing with brushes, and while there are instances for using a pouncing technique, you are squishing paint and are risking run-unders. There are great tutorials on the Royal Design Studio website.

Sponge brushes are squishy and they hold a lot of paint. I don’t care if you pounce it on paper towels first, the only way to use them is to squish them. Squishing causes paint to run under the stencil and leaves you with the disastrous results I’ve shown you in the three previous photos. You can’t win with sponge brushes, it’s not possible.

stenciled borderStenciling is a great technique, but if you’ve tried and failed before, please go buy some brushes and try again. You will do better than you did with the sponge brushes. I promise.