Stars and Stripes

There are many times that I get the opportunity to create something for an individual. Instead of someone purchasing something from me, already made, they come to me with a once loved piece of furniture, desperately seeking new life. Recently, I had a customer contact me in regards to this very thing. She had seen my work at a show, loved it, and wanted me to do something for her. She had two end tables that she cherished, but they were outdated and used. She wanted to bring some color into her home, and thought these pieces would be a great way to do it.

My first step, when I design a custom piece, is to talk with the customer. I like to get a feeling for who they are, and what they like. As they talk I just make a huge list of things they say to me, sort of like an idea chart. After I nail down a few key things, I then sit down and draw out a few (3-4) sketches, (various ideas, concepts and colors). Then I pick out color chips to go along with them. I enclose a variety of color chips (of the colors they want, because we all know, red doesn’t just mean red). Colored pencils don’t always convey the vibrancy of the colors I use, so the color chips give them a better visual of the paints they have available to them.

Now, let me just say this, I don’t intimidate easy, but this customers “list” was far away from what I normally do. I know that as an artist you should have the ability to adapt to whatever your customer wants, but for whatever reason this time I felt intimidated. Let me show you why; this was her list;

Retired Coronial in the Army
A lot of “Texas” and patriotic d├ęcor
Symmetrical, tailored, and detailed
Loves the leather faux that I had done in other pieces
Wants red, white and blue, as well as, the black and white checks

So, with all that, I sat down to draw. I sat, I sat, and I sat some more. I had a creative block!!!!!! I was panicking! All these different elements sat in front of me. How was I going to make something fantastic out of it? Then I thought of my grandmother.

When I was a little girl I would watch my beautiful, five foot tall, Italian grandmother, cook. Scattered in front of her on the counters would be a mish mash of ingredients, different spices chopped up, a variety of meats and pastas, you name it. She never used measuring cups or spoons, just grabbed different items with her thick little fists, and threw it in a pot. All while Frank Sinatra blared from her 1950’s stereo. Like a small conductor commanding Beethoven’s 5th symphony she commanded those ingredients to play how she saw fight... Soon the house would smell fantastic, and those once scattered ingredients, became a beautifully prepared dish she would serve with pride. To my Nona, food was love, and she loved the process of creating it!

So, as I sat there, trying to figure out what to do with all these different “ingredients” and I thought of Grandma. I put a little country music on, plugged in my I-Pod buds, and started mixing it up. On the other side of the page I wrote this;

Texas, equals cowboys, bandanas, and cow print
Army equals patriotism, stars & stripes
The faux leather, a well worked saddle.
Circles and checks me
Simple design

I decided to keep things a bit more conservative then I usually do, because that was who the customer was, but I did include the circles, as well as, the checks because that is who I am. I took all of these interesting ingredients, hers and mine, and with my hands, threw them all together to make something I (or grandma) would be proud of.

See to me, creating is love; just like grandma, I create something beautiful out of a variety of different ingredients. I hope they love the finished pieces as much as I loved making them!


lynmcf said...

hello ... yesterday I bought an old sewing chest and my head is full of ideas about painting it ... then I found your WONDERFUL site ... I am in the UK so there is no point me asking which paints you use ... your designs are GORGEOUS

Mary said...

Hi!!! I'm so glad you found me! Thank you so much for your compliment! You know I just use regular acrylic interior house paint. Here in NY, I use Benjamin Moore, Lowes/Valspar, or Pittsburg. Not sure if you have any of those in the UK, but thought I would just put it out there! Good Luck with your painting. I'd love to see a picture of your work when you’re done. I'm on Face Book as well; perhaps you could load it up there? It's under The Decorative Paintbrush. Thanks again for following my blog!

PEA said...

WOW you did it, you got all those elements into these tables. I needed some inspiration for my little chair I am working on.
Thanks so much for sharing your talent with us.

Keri said...

Mary, I love the new life you are bringing to previously loved furniture. Recycling has a variety of faces and yours is one filled with color and joy. Your work is inspirational.