Saturday, August 3, 2013

American Paint Company ~ Chalk Painting in Miniature

I know! A new post from me! Don't everybody faint!

I cannot believe it will be almost 2 years since I had anything to say but I have discovered something I'd like to share so this is a good time to jump back in.

Flashback... Summer 2012.  My friend Cheryl, a decorative furniture painter as well as miniaturist, used some left over ASCP on a few pieces of vintage miniature furniture.

"You should try this," she said. "You would really like it for your miniature furniture re-dos".

"Sure", I reply.  "I'll put it on my list."

Fast Forward... Summer 2013.  Cheryl now has her own brick and mortar business. One of the things she stocks is American Paint Company's Clay/Chalk/Mineral base paint (aka "chalk paint").

“You should try this,” she says. “You would really like it for your miniature furniture re-dos”.

"Sure", I reply.  "Send me some sample jars."  And so began my love affair with chalk paint.

I have been rehabilitating miniature furniture for several years.  Sometimes it’s decent furniture that simply needs a breath of fresh air:  lovely Bespaq but oh so boring...

Sometimes it’s damaged furniture that is beyond hope of looking like it once did:  One leg gone, two others wobbly

And, often, it’s inexpensive (often tacky) stuff that needs a complete re-do:  yeah...sad, really sad.

 I like experimenting with different styles and finishes. Frequently, they end up quite fanciful and would be uniquely stylish pieces in real life homes as well as miniature ones. 

However, I was never really happy with the paint I was using, be it latex from the hardware store or acrylic craft paint from the hobby store.  I didn’t always like the coverage, or the sheen or the way it sanded/aged or took varnish, yada, yada.  I had heard of chalk paint and milk paint and knew that furniture painters lauded them both, but I had used milk paint before and wasn’t a fan.  There wasn’t a retail outlet for any kind of chalk paint near me plus I heard it was quite expensive ($40/quart) and one could only purchase it by the quart or gallon.  My friend's situation afforded me the opportunity to try it.  

What is "Chalk Paint"?
Chalk paint, in one form or another, has been around for centuries.  It is made from water and color pigments and some sort of binding agent, such as natural clays or the mineral in chalk.  Traditional gesso is a type of chalk paint; so is whitewash.  There are no oils or synthetics in it whatsoever.  It is completely organic, extremely easy to use and clean up is soap and water.

Don't Try This At Home... 
While there are lots of “recipes” on the Internet for homemade chalk paint, I wouldn’t waste my time and money. Mixing Plaster of Paris with water and latex paint usually results in a slowly hardening, gloppy mess that doesn’t begin to produce the beautiful results of commercially made chalk paint.  Also, don’t confuse this with “chalkboard paint” which produces a surface on which one can write with chalk… totally different animal. 

Why Do I Love This Paint?
1.  No odor. None. Ever.  Solvent free. No acrylic co-polymers. No ethylene glycol. No fungicides. No VOC.  Just water, pigment and minerals.  As a result, it does have a shelf life of 2 years but I expect mine will be used up by then. 

2. Texture.  Thick, smooth and creamy. Goes on like silk off a spool and thins easily with water.  I just dip my brush in water and then into the paint. No gloppiness or stringy-ness that I always see with latex or acrylic.  They don’t recommend stirring or shaking and I’ve not felt any need to do so. Because I do not want to contaminate the paint in any way, I transfer a small amount to another container (like a lid) with a clean craft stick. I am then free to add as much or little water as I feel I need... and it dilutes almost immediately, similar to watercolor paints.

3.  Ease of preparation of the wood or other substrate.  The company says it will stick to any non-oily surface without sanding... and it seems to.  I used it on a resin pedestal that had been coated with what appeared to be high gloss tinted varnish and the black, used undiluted, covered in one coat. I usually give everything a light sanding… just because.  Most importantly, you need to degrease the piece.  You can use TSP, if you have it.  Even soap and water like Simple Green works. I have used Greased Lightning Cleaner with success. Obviously, the better the prep, the better the outcome.

This table was factory-painted that white coating that nothing ever seems to cover, like the bench in the photo.  The top of the trestle table was stripped and then heavily sanded to the bare wood; the base was not.


All I did with the base was lightly sand and apply two coats of Beach Glass, which I allowed to dry thoroughly in between. Then I lightly sanded with super-fine sandpaper and applied another thinned coat. When that was dry, I buffed with a white pad and the finish was very smooth.  I decided to add a coat of Vintage Wax to the base when I waxed the top and I loved how it turned out. 

4.  Coverage.  I read that some users get great coverage on raw or heavily sanded wood with a single coat and that has been my experience as well.  I needed only one (undiluted) coat of Dollar Bill on a small wooden plaque I intend to use as a vignette base. 

For the furniture, I’ve been using several light coats with fine-grit sanding between coats 2 and 3.  On darker stained wood, I have needed a thicker coat for the second coat.  But it all depends on the look you are going for.  The bottom line is that the more coats with sanding, the better the look. This chair will have a “shabby” look so I don’t care if it chips…in fact, I want it to.

A Word About Distressing...
Most of the time, distressing it is achieved by sanding, but that can leave scratch marks on the painted surface.  A better way is "wet distressing" which is possible due to the nature of the paint.  After the little plaque was completely dry (about 4 hours), I applied an undiluted coat of Lincoln's Hat. I waited a bit for that to dry up and then went in with a wet cloth and gently rubbed away the black paint where I might normally sand for wear. Voila!  Beautiful distressed/worn finish... no scratch marks! The results are remarkable.

Speaking of Wax... 
I mentioned that I waxed the top of the trestle table as well as the base.  I've used paste wax on real life furniture... my "farmhouse" dining table came with a can. But I never considered using it on miniature furniture before.

"Try it," said Cheryl.  "You'll like it".   I did.  I do!  
Wax doesn't lend itself to every miniature furniture application but when it does, it produces an absolutely silken finish. Love it!

 ... And Colors...
 No, they're not Sherman Williams or Folk Art.  They don’t have a bazillion colors. 

As a matter of fact, they only have about 30 at the moment and easily 1/3 of those I’d consider “neutral”.  But they are rich, clear, vibrant colors.  Plus I love the names … Beach Glass, Wild Horses, Dawn’s Early Light.  I can mix my own colors because the paint is so pure it is easy to do.

Why American Paint Company Chalk Paint...

Three reasons. It's made in the good old US of A and has been for 25 years. By buying it, I am supporting their business, the business of my friend who sells their paint, and my business.    

All US based business.  Win-win-win all around!  

Here are links to my friend's business and the American Paint Company websites:

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Lemony Snicket!

Some of you may recall that I'm in the process of renovating/redecorating a rather larger dollhouse.  The only room which could even come close to being called "finished" is the kitchen.  I was somewhat inspirated by the color scheme of Monet's kitchen/dining room in Giverny.

I had collected most of the furniture but I wanted a hutch so took some time to make one ( an initial disaster and the subject of an "Ask Tabitha" post, I think...)  and I am now pleased to say that all the pieces are completed. 

I wanted them "dressed", as if someone was actually using the kitchen so I prevailed on my dear friend, Kim Saulter, from Kim's Minis to provide the magic.  Real life had been taking over Kim's mini life of late and she needed that extra incentive to entice the Muse to return. 

As you will see, the results are breathtaking!!  Kim is back in her mini kitchen and all is right with the world!!

This first piece is the sink.  I no longer have any idea where I got it from or who the manufacturer is but it is metal and very substantial.  The cut lemons are by Amanda Speakman, Amanspeak Miniatures.

The stove is by Bodo Henning ... another substantial metal piece.  And just LOOK at the amazing sweets Kim has made!!  I think the blueberry cobbler looks good enough to eat....

This little dining table and chairs (2) is by M&R Miniatures out of Rochester, NY.  He doesn't have a website, sells only at shows.  There is a work table in the same colors also.

Ann Ceasar made the lemon meringue pie, which I've had for YEARS and am only just now using. 
If you look closely, you can see some of Kim's AMAZING lemon bars!
Don't they look real??!!

Here is the companion worktable with more of Kim's goodies!

Just look at the attention to detail!  Some cupcakes finished...some just started...some waiting their turn...

This glazed Lemon pound cake is to DIE for!!

Ta Da!
This is the hutch that drove me crazy. I painted, stripped, re-painted, hated the color, re-painted, sanded....  on and on...   But that is a topic for another time.

Right now, feast your eyes on Kim's splendid sweets!

This lemon trifle was made by my friend Lisa McQuaid from the Every Day Gourmet.   She has an Esty shop and makes a variety of foods that one would use "everyday".  But I really love her trifles.

All the rest was made by Kim.  What wonderful confections!  I am over the moon with the results!

In addition to all the scrumptious goodies you see here, Kim included some chocolate chip and lemon cookies.  She was one busy lady.  I cannot thank her enough for all the time and effort put into this.

But more than that, I am really proud of her and glad she is my friend (though we have never met...).  She took all those lemons life was lobbing her way, chopped them up and made the most beautiful things from them.  I am very happy for her ... and for me, too!

She can make any sort of confection you can dream up so if you are in the market for something sweet or just want to see what Kim is up to in the mini kitchen, visit her Etsy shop.  You won't be disappointed.


Sunday, May 29, 2011


...on my best mini ever.  Though you can see he is not so mini anymore!

It seems like it's been a crazy ride since way before opening night of Godspell in April.
Matt had a major role as The Baptist in this production.
That's him in the red/black stripes at Dress Rehearsal.

 He's always done Tech since he was a Freshman.  Lighting, sound, stage manager and Tech Director.
He's had several minor roles in the recent past but even then he still functioned as Stage Manager.
This time, he relinguished that to an underclassman and threw himself into singing, acting and dancing!
He had a blast!

He graduated from HS last weekend
and my 90 y/o mother made a plane trip here for it.

We are all so proud of him! 
 The white hood is for National Honor Society
and the gold/black braid is for graduating magna cum laude.

He also recieved a special award for achievement in the Arts.

Matt and his two bestest buddies
(who will miss him terribly when he is away at school!)

He's just returned from a Carnival Cruise with 8 of his good friends
(and 3 very brave parents!)

I am hoping that I will now be able to get back to "mini-ing" (and blogging about it!) but the Summer seems like it will be crazy, too.  Althought the Fall term at University of Florida doesn't start until the end of August, Matt's enrolled for a Summer B session and that starts the end of June.  We all need to be up there for a preview next weekend and there are several other "events" parents are expected to attend before the Fall term.

I also have a mini show the end of July to prepare for.  I'd better get cracking....

Love to you all!  Thanks for reading my blog.  I promise to get that Conservatory finished and photographed.  Hester has been mostly useless of late...



Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Some friends are finding they cannot sign in and make a post on their own blogs lately so this to see if I can...


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Conservatory Floor - Using DAS Air Dry Clay

I needed to wait for the spackle on the walls to thoroughly dry before I “washed” them so I decided to go ahead and plan out the floor. The kit came with a 12x12 piece of 3/8 inch thick MDF meant to be used for the floor. I will be making a base for this so I can meld it to the house but for now, I wanted to plan and layout something for the inside of the Conservatory.

I really dislike MDF…I’d rather use Gator board or even the paper-covered foamcore from the Dollar Store than deal with MDF. But since it was the material included, I bit the bullet and forged on.

There are two reasons why I hate MDF. First, it is heavy. Second, it warps…badly. It just sucks up any available moisture if not sealed. I used a coat of white glue to seal the little bit of MDF used on the walls but this was a large piece and I was looking for quick and easy.

I did have some spray sealer by Deft that I’ve used before but I didn’t want to set up the spray booth in the garage. I also happened upon some acrylic matte medium so I decided to see what happened if I brushed that on.

I slathered a light coat of it on both sides and all four edges and let it dry. I dried really quickly and left a slightly rough texture on the board. .. and no warping noted! I thought the “tooth” left from the matte medium might help whatever I used for flooring stick better.

I set the dry fitted Conservatory walls on the base and penciled in the interior. I only wanted the inside done; I was planning something else for the exterior. I was looking through my stash of faux marble tiles and brick stenciling kits when I heard a “tsk….”

“The inside of the Titania’s Conservatory is flagstone…like she saw in old castles on her trip to England as a child. I thought you knew…..”

I turned with a question but Hester had flounced off… I meant to ask about color. I am sure she will advise me in time. Hopefully before I start painting.

So flagstone it is.

I didn’t have any Creative Paperclay and though it is readily available in the US, I didn’t want to make the trip into town to get some. I did have some white DAS air drying clay, however, which I bought at Michaels when my UK friends said Creative PaperClay was nearly impossible to get over there. I’d wanted to see if this stuff was comparable. It certainly is cheaper. It is made in Italy, which was all the information I could get off the package as it was all in languages other than English.

It comes in a 1 kilo (2.2 lb) package. I had the “white” , though I would have called it grey...also comes in terra cotta. It is much heavier and denser than Creative PaperClay but it is not as sticky. It has a more leathery feel.

I tried rolling it out as I do PaperClay but it took more elbow grease.

I think it would have run nicely through the pasta machine which I will do if I use it again. It also doesn’t “seam” as nicely as PaperClay does if you are piecing it…which I had to do for the floor.

Before I applied it, I brushed Elmer’s Glue All inside the pencil line.


A lot of people don’t glue their air dry clay to the substrate but that is how I was taught to do it. I think it helps with the shrinkage, though I didn’t notice much with this product. I rolled it out to 1/8 inch thick on my rolling board.

When it was all in place, I spritzed it lightly with water and covered it with a damp paper towel. As I worked, I folded the towel back, bit by bit. I didn’t notice much premature drying except at the very edges.

I used the same tools as I use for PaperClay. The DAS is a little stiffer so I had to press a little harder but otherwise they all worked fine.

It took a lot longer to totally dry than PaperClay. I can usually paint PaperClay within 12 hours but this is going to be a good 24 hrs before I can do that.

The only cracking was where I had to seam it and only slightly. I filled that in with some lightweight spackle. I don’t yet know if will be apparent when painted.

Like PaperClay, it will shrink away from a cut edge. See where I made the groove a little deeper than I should have…where I didn’t cut through, the edges of the “flagstone” are fine.

I used about ½ of the package for the floor and sealed the rest in aluminum foil and put it in a freezer grade ziplock bag. I can usually “freshen up” PaperClay “ that has gotten dry but I don’t know if that will work with this clay. The fact that it didn’t seam that well using water makes me think that it won’t. But sometime, I’ll try an experiment to see.

Overall, I like this product. Despite it’s odd smell when wet (I can only describe as the smell emitted by working machinery…like ozone..), it is a pretty good substitute for Creative PaperClay. It was much less drying to my hands and required little clean-up as it really didn’t stick to my tools as PaperClay usually does.

But I will still use PaperClay, depending on the project. PaperClay is much lighter when dry.

I should be ready to paint both the “stucco” wall and these flagstones by tonight but unless I get word from “herself”, I’m a little nervous about the color of the flagstone.

I’m sure I’ll get it wrong and never hear the end of it….