• Deb MacCallum

So What Paint Do You Use?


So what paint products do you use? No matter who you ask that question to; be prepared for a passionate reply. This is a question I have been asking each time I come across a new friend, or a new shop in a new location across the country.

The responses range from: “it’s made in my country”, “my friend said it’s the best”, “I made it myself”, “because it’s cheap”, “it’s all I can find”, “the guy at the hardware store said it was really good” and variations on that theme.

In 2015, my husband and I went on a motorhome trip from New Brunswick, Canada to California and back. Furniture repainters and finishers are everywhere! We talked to painters and crafters in Maine, Michigan, Oregon, Texas, California, New Orleans in the US and in Canada to British Columbia and back. Repainting and refinishing old furniture is definitely “a thing” for many people!

What hooked me was the outstanding amount of solid wood vintage furniture that seems to be stashed everywhere around me here in New Brunswick, Canada. Who needs Ikea when you have access to things like this at your typical round of weekend garage sales. I picked up some beautiful waterfall dressers that had been languishing in an attic a few years back. The owner had inherited them from her Grandma’s house, and simply had no room for them. They were destined for the roadside, if I had not bought all three pieces for a nominal $60. At the time, I didn’t know what to do with them either, but I couldn’t stand the idea of them going out with the garbage. So, I stowed them in the barn and kept on researching.

I decided to make my own matte furniture paint. I picked up a stash of calcium carbonate, mixed it in with some top quality matte Behr paint and started painting. I read an article written by The Navage Patch, talking about what the army guys add to paint, to make sure the paint sticks to bridges they build. Calcium carbonate, and for the really tough environments he said they would throw in a little talc. Who knew? Good enough for me, so I started experimenting with that combination.

Our barn was the ugliest thing on the property; untaped drywall, holes, and the usual mismatch of solid wood cabinets, metal shelving and second hand substrates of dubious integrity. I decided to paint it all. No primer, no cleaning (except for the spiderwebs, they were a little creepy). I filled in the holes and got to work. Right off the bat the blue, reminiscent of Annie Sloan’s Duck Egg Blue and Fusion Mineral Paints Inglenook made the barn look ever so much better! That was in the Fall of 2014.

Then disaster struck. The retina in my left eye detached and I was rushed to Halifax for emergency surgery. Four months later, deja vu, and the other eye experienced a severe detachment and back to Halifax I went. For the next year I struggled with weak eye muscles and double vision. You would not believe how impacted your eyes are whenever you are the least bit tired. Thankfully I had very skilled surgeons, and a cooperative body and have experienced a complete recovery. Once the surgery was complete, all I needed to do was rest and let nature take its course.

Fast forward to 2015. So I wandered out to the barn interior I had painted, and discovered an interesting thing. The paint was solid. It stuck to the metal, it stuck to plastic, veneer, dirty old drywall, and oil base paint on old cabinets. It was absolutely solid. I gave everything the fingernail test. (that is stick out your finger with your strongest nail and attempt to destroy the surface of the paint) It did not budge. The paint had cured. The barn is not heated and and is vulnerable to moisture, extreme temperature of heat and cold, and all was solid.

First Lesson Learned

If your number one reason for painting furniture, is because you don’t want to do any prep… just mix your own.

There all all kinds of recipes on the internet to give that a whirl. That will be the cheapest way to get solid reliable coverage on your project. I did that… for a while.

So with the “what do I need to do to make the paint stick” out of the way, I was still curious about the designer paints. I really did want to be more creative than just painting a piece a solid colour and be done with it. White is nice, black is great….. gray is always popular but… I wanted to do more.

I kept researching. I really fell in love with painting because of the quality of projects I found in various independently owned designer paint shops. They were usually connected to a used furniture collection and sweet little decor items and sometimes a fabric store. My ever indulgent husband helped me on my quest. We snooped out the coolest shops and I kept collecting my favourite repaints on Pinterest. I was hooked.

I live in Saint John, New Brunswick, and down on Water Street I found Suite Serendipity, an Annie Sloan Paint and decor shop and began peppering Melissa with questions which she patiently answered. The paint is not cheap. At the time, there were no other franchises of paint around at all. So, my first reason reason for choosing this particular paint line was accessibility.

Second Lesson Learned

I wanted to be part of a community of painters and yes more and more was accessible on line, but I needed face time.

I had so many questions and there were more and more products available all the time. Whatever paint line you choose, connect yourself to a skilled stockist. Someone who really loves the products and is using them in a way that you fall in love with yourself. That is the person you will learn the most from, and have the most successful experience with if you really want to explore the possibilities.

What amazes me, is how repainting has simply spread across the continent and as far as that goes, the world! Even the big box hardware stores and good old Walmart carry chalky finish paints. What you don’t get with those purchases typically, is any more than the most basic knowledge from those stores. Sometimes in a dedicated paint department you might come across an enthusiast, but that is about it.

Community was huge for me. Next I discovered Carte Blanche in Moncton, another Annie Sloan shop and another passionate painter. Her shop in Dieppe, is absolutely beautiful and not to be missed if you are interested in painting. Her fabulous location is right across from the Dieppe Market, a great weekend connection. Both Melissa in Saint John at Suite Serendipity and Melanie in the Moncton area at Carte Blanche are super knowledgeable and have a full stock of goodies to get you going… oh and classes too.

I found other shops during this time, but not the passion I was looking for. Sometimes I could walk in, and out again without a shopkeeper even coming away from the counter to see what I might be looking for.

With other paint companies popping up everywhere, I connected next with Kim Munn, another helpful stockist with the Fusion paint line in Oromocto at the Galleria. Her store is a virtual treasure trove of painted projects, a great connection for the Fredericton crowd.

I am in Moncton regularly to care for my parents and met another Fusion stockist; Lisa and Tom and their fun staff from Front Porch Mercantile. Their excitement for painting and creating was contagious. I have had such fun with them!

When I was in New Orleans, I went looking for Annie Sloan stockists which were within access of where we were staying in downtown. Because Annie Sloan’s North American operation is there, I figured the stockists there would be amazing. Unfortunately my experience was less than stellar. I found a tiny interior design shop, with a small selection of paints. The owner was out, and the staff member was both unknowledgeable and disinterested in a curious tourist wanting to know about paint. She will never see me again right? I was so disappointed. If that had been my only experience, and the only shop accessible to me, that is not the paint line I would have chosen. I was looking at a hobby that I wanted to deep dive into, and I wanted to do it with knowledgeable and helpful people.

You can always start the way I did and use diy products. If, like me you enjoy that enough that you want more, take a look at the independent stockists and see what they have to offer. There are a couple of ways to go after that.

- Find a shop that offers introductory paint classes and take a class. First of all it is both fun and empowering. Take a friend; community and learning are both good for you, and you end up with something pretty you did yourself at the end of it all. Keep exploring, until you find the products you are most comfortable with.

-Join an online community. Find a webpage, or community on Facebook where people are sharing their work and ideas and join in. Don’t get to hung up on what the paint line is, creativity is creativity. You are there to be inspired.

Third Lesson Learned

Don’t mistake Patriotism for Passion.

If I may be so bold, I would advise that the worst reason ever to chose a product is only because it is made in “your” country. I can’t tell you how many times I heard that from small shops with a particular brand of paint (and there are many now). Take your patriotism to the polls and your passion to the paint store.

When someone assures me their paint of choice is best because it is made in the US (Americans) or made in Canada (Canadians) you are buying propaganda, not paint. (Don’t hate me, that’s just my opinion) But here is why:

I love the the United States. (Can you you say cross border shopping) The US has a massive population and as a result the creativity to go with it and the mass market to test ideas on. Enthusiastic purchasing often results in some great products making their way to the Canadian market. Unfolded in New Orleans brings Annie Sloan Chalk Paint our way. Canada answered with Homestead House’s Fusion Paint and Miss Mustard Seed and the audacious but effective Fat Paint from British Columbia. One I haven’t tried, but also seems a worthy contender for crafters is Country Chic, created by another Canadian. There is wonderful online tutorial support for that one. Back to the state side, I swear every state we went to, had a local chalky paint that they swore by, mostly because it was “American”. For me can I just respectfully say that is neither a deal maker, or breaker. That’s just interesting and another example of the widespread interest in this type of a finish in our society. There are a huge number of small paint companies selling chalky finish paints across the world. Wow. So, what do you pick?

Fourth Lesson Learned

There is more than one way to skin a cat

Learn from everyone you come across. Learn what the paint you are interested in, does best. Try it. Try something else. Find out what does the job at the price point you have to work with, and above all else enjoy the journey.

I use a lot of different products, and they certainly don’t all come from the same company. But everything I use is because it does something better than any other product I have access to, and it usually connects to something I am already using.

I was hanging out with a friend of mine in her studio one day, as she finished up a painting for her next art show. As a well established artist with a great artistic pedigree, I was curious as to what paint she used for her work and why. With all of the awards she was winning, I figured that must play some kind of role.

When I asked the question, she hesitated and then laughing uproariously, she said, “The free paint”.

When you are that good, you get to chose what paint company sponsors you! Cool! The point is, it wasn’t the paint that got her to that point, it was the skill, imagination and the talent she developed along the way. So don’t take the paint to seriously, figure out what you need it to do and get after it. And if you get good enough that you get offered free paint… bonus!

#chalkpaint #anniesloan #paintedfurniture #Upcycle #signs #newbrunswick

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