Monday, May 31, 2010

Distressing Goodwill Wooden Frames

If there's one thing Goodwill and the Salvation Army have a lot of it's photo frames.  Anything from a small wallet sized frame all the way up to poster size, they've normally got it.  I'm in our local Goodwill about once a week and I am always looking for unique or unusual, or vintage photo frames.  I never have a whole lot of luck.  Normally you just wind up with the cheap wooden versions you can buy at Wal-Mart or Dollar General for just a dollar or so over what Goodwill prices them at.

A few days ago however I got the idea to distress these new, cheap frames to give them some age and character.  Using some metal type setting blocks that we picked up at the Flea Market a year or so ago I just pounded some repeating letters and numbers into the edges of the frames.  Of course I removed the backing, image, and glass first.  Then using a small hammer I just used the printer blocks to create some great details.  The repeating of a single letter or number all the way around the face of the frame sets the tone.  A sharp, swift, but not too heavy pop of the hammer will leave a good image of the printer's block letter on your wooden frame.  Make sure they are wood.

After repeating the letter pattern all the way around the faces I went back and added letters to the sides of some of the wooden frames.  Once that was complete I used a clear furniture wax to cover the fresh black paint I had put on the frames,  you can skip the painting step by selecting frames that are already the color you want.  After letting the wax haze over I buffed it for a great, semi-shiny, vintage look.  The imagery I am using in the frames are from a vintage dry goods catalog circa 1920 or so from France.  I have several pages from the same catalog on sale as digital downloads in my Etsy shop.

Have a look and let me know what you think, also let me know if you decide to try this project.  I am here to answer any questions you may have about the process.  I might add some of these to my etsy shop, or even some of the metal letters for you to make your very own. 

I'm currently assisting Mrs. Hughes in setting up her first market booth.  She will be carrying several items upcycled by yours truly, including some awesome mini-journals covered in vintage Victorian calling cards.  Check out her blog for photos from her market booth coming at the end of this week.

More Soon, The Upcyler

Thursday, May 6, 2010

And this week's obsession is?

Wardian Cases, Curiosity Cabinets, Kunstkammer, Wunderkammer, Cabinets of Wonder, whatever you call them I'm into them.  So much so that I've set aside all of my other pet projects, and Mrs. Hughes will tell you there are several, to focus on this one.  Mrs. Hughes pointed me to an odd etsy posting a few months back that was offering a Victorian curiosity cabinet.  I hadn't really heard of them so I looked them up: very cool, if somewhat macbre.  I thought it would be fun to try to make one of my own.  While searching for items to place into my Cabinet of Wonders I noticed that there aren't that many people doing them, and almost none for sale online that cost under $300 or so.  So, since I went to all that trouble finding all of the sources from feathers, to emu eggs, to odd sea shells and the like I decided to just order some additional items and create some cabinets for resale.

So I've got stuff coming in, and I've figured out how to fit upcycling into the whole thing.  While staring off into spaces and trying to think up a cheaper alternative to shadow boxes or plastic cases I got the idea that a cigar box might work as a base and a lid for a case.  I didn't have one in the house but I did have a little curio or jewelry box that is made the same was as the nicer wooden cigar boxes.  The lid fits over the bottom of the box.

After learning how to cut glass online I cobbled together my first cabinet.  A fairly simple undertaking really, besides cutting the glass which is a real pain in the butt.

 If you look close you can see the keyhole and clasp from the jewelry box.  The blue stuff is painter's tape.
I used that to hold the glass in place while adhering everything.  It's been a learning process but I think these will turn out great.  I've got some unusual items coming in as well as some cigar boxes to create several of these.  I will do another post as soon as I have a couple created.  I will be selling them on Ebay, Etsy, and off of a website I am working on.

Here are a few images I found online.  My cabinets are going to be less dark, no skulls or mummified things.  And if I use bugs and the like the will be casts, you have to have a special license to resell dried insect specimens I've discovered, so I would rather avoid that.  I hope to re-create some critters though by upcycling some items, we will see how that works out.

More soon!
The Upcycler

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Go play inthe yard!

First off, thanks to everyone for their kind words over my feature in Country Living in March, what a hoot! It was a lot of fun getting to hear from you guys. Now then. Spring is on the way, pay no attention to the crazy temperature swings going on around here, from 80 one day to 45 the next, and just remember, soon enough it will be too damn hot to even think about sitting out on the back porch!

Last year Mrs. Hughes and I pulled off some pretty HUGE projects in the backyard. We built a 16 foot by 20 foot deck, that's big, with a pergola. We had a fence installed, we dug a 30 foot long flower bed, I put in a tiny little vegetable garden plot, built some custom planters, built an upcycled potting bench and planted 11 trees and about 20 bushes and then some. And, we did all of that in the middle of June. Here are a couple of pics of some upcycled items that we put back there, this may be a re-hash of an older post, but they are worth mentioning again.

I built two of these planters from left over wood from our deck project. These are big, about 4 feet tall and two feet square. We found giant begonias to plant in them last year, this year they are home to Kimberly ferns, if the 38 degree low tonight doesn't murder them. There is a little bit of upcycling going on here, the feet are old clawfoot bathtub lion feet. They were no fun to attach, I had to use a metal piercing drill bit and 4 screws each. We found the lion's head door knockers online for about $6 each. These were inspired by some planters Mrs. Hughes found in a magazine that were $1500 each. My version ran about $85 for the pair.

I'm really proud of how this one turned out. This is Mrs. Hughes' potting bench and it's made up of about 80% upcycled materials. The back of it is an old fireplace mantle I scored off of craigslist. The table surface is a piece of marble I believe, another craigslist find. And it just happened to fit right into the opening for the mantle. The front legs are porch posts that we picked up at Gaslamp Antiques in Nashville. The rest of the frame was cobbled together from left over wood from the deck build. This project was a little pricey, about $275, but well worth it.

These don't look like much now but you should see the transformation happening with them in the back yard! I spent last week digging a trench to lay down some pvc pipe to house an extension cord to run out to the corner of the yard, where this antique sink will become a fountain. The shield is off of a rowhouse in California that was being demolished. I built a wooden frame to hang the sink on, it looks like a wooden sign kind of, then I put it in the ground with cement. I added an antique faucet from France that I found in an antique store for $15 and retro fitted a pond water pump to it to turn it into a fountain. The water flows out of the faucet like it's always running. I will post another blog about this one and show some pictures of the finished project ASAP, if the weather holds out I will have this project completed this weekend.

Another craigslist find, have I mentioned I LOVE craigslist? I've even bought a car off of there. Anyway we wanted something other than your standard pavers found at the big box stores and these fit the bill. When I originally bought them at about 80 cents each I thought it was a bit high. We wound up getting about 500 over them total. I didn't realize then how far they would go. To date I have built a 10x4 landing off the front of our deck, a small 3x3 landing off of the side exit to the deck, and have edged all of the flower beds in our backyard, about 100 or so feet worth. And, I've STILL got 65 bricks left over. If I can figure out a way to make it safe, like a fence or something, I may use the left overs to create a small fire pit close to the fountain I am constructing. We are working on a whole little sitting area in the backyard. Love these bricks! Oh, forgot to say, these are about 100 years old and came from a street in Nashville. They were pulled up and pavement was put down, how dumb.

Well like I said this is a re-hash of an old post, but it's spring again! And this is a great lead in to my next post where you will get to see the continuation of our backyard projects including my tiny vegetable garden, the completed upcycled fountain, Mrs. Hughes' Peony "bed" and more! Just don't make fun of our "grass" or weeds rather. We are waiting until we have all of the projects done before getting some sod laid. After I am through back there there may only be a hundred square feet to put grass down on.

More soon, CJ
The Upcycler

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Upcyler in Country Living's April 2010 Issue

Back in November '09 the craft editor over at Country Living magazine happened upon my blog post about a terrarium I had constructed out of old photo frames. She passed it on to the managing editor and they liked it so much they decided to feature it in the magazine. It's been a great experience working with them. I built two of these at various stages of completion and shipped them to New York for them to photograph and assemble. We worked back and forth to simplify my two full pages of instructions on how to get it just right, there is only so much room in a magazine.

I haven't seen the spread yet but from what I understand it's going to take up two pages in the April issue, so be sure and pick up a copy if you aren't a subscriber. Be sure and let me know if you decide to make one of these, I would love to see photos!

UPDATE: Mrs. Hughes just sent me the link to the Cottage Living DIY project, it popped up on their website today:

The magazine should hit stands this week.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Vintage Bird Cage Wind Chimes

Mrs. Hughes and I have a thing for rust, rusty things that is. And chippy things, and flaking things. Normally we like are furniture and household decor to be vintage and worn. So it was a no-brainer to snatch up this rusty old bird cage at the Nashville Fair Grounds Flea last summer. We paid $8 for it having no clue what we would use it for. Since then we've seen them used in magazines as lampshades. They fit right in with the whole naked lamp shade craze going on right now.

I had to clean the garage recently due to a visit from a home appraiser, we are re-financing not moving, when I noticed the birdcage sitting up on the top of a high pile of stuff. I was sweeping at the time and my dust pile contained several skeleton keys that had made their way to the floor after a failed attempt to turn them into wind chimes a few months prior. I couldn't get it to come together just right.

I got the idea to use the birdcage as the skeleton for the chimes. I used some 16 gauge wire to make a few more cross bars along the top of the cage to bring the keys closer together. The keys are hung in place with fishing line. Just about any size of line will do. I made sure to hang some of the keys horizontal and some vertical, and I placed them as close together as I could without getting them so close they would tangle. I think it turned out pretty well, and it sounds awesome!

Here is a link to a short video with the chimes in action.

If you decide to make one of these and need some help with the steps feel free to email me!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Brass Light Fixture Terrarium

After finishing my picture frame terrarium I was still on a terrarium kick and began to wonder what other items could be turned into little glass houses for plants and whatnots. I was rummaging through the shelves at the local Goodwill, one of my weekly past times, when I came across a fugly, outdoor brass light fixture. It was shiny brass, very 1980s, but I really liked the shape of the bell on it, it also had a little handle at the top. I instantly thought it would make a great terrarium. I paid $6 for it and carted it home.

It took about 20 minutes to cut all the wires off of it and remove the backplate that would have held it to the side of the house. Light fixtures can be a little tricky to take apart. It helps to have those short, fat screwdrivers, when working from inside the bell. Basically though if you cut all the wires and pull them through, and then remove the screws and bolts that hold on the parts you don't want to remain, what you end up with is the shape above.

As I said this was originally brass so I painted it very roughly with some white acrylic paint. I didn't bother to tape off the glass, I like to leave the paint rough. When it dried I took a razor blade and scraped most of the paint off of the glass, leaving some to add texture. I also didn't wipe it down after scraping, which leaves little flecks of paint in the corners, almost as if they have chipped off over time.

Another trick to get these to look older than the 1980's is to fog up the glass some. I like to use foaming soap for this. If you have one of those anti-bacterial soap foamers in the bathroom you are all set, but you could just lather up a bar of Ivory as well. If you are using the foaming soap just take some in your hand and smear it on the outside of the glass, you are trying to create a film. Let it dry and it will haze up. Then you can take a rag and remove as much or as little as you want. To give it a spotted up look use a spray bottle with some water in it and spray where you soaped. I know what you are thinking, this will just rub off when I dust, but it actually takes a little scrubbing to get it off, like soap scum.

Well there you have it, an easy alternative to my picture frame terrarium. No cutting, screwing, etc... Below are some examples that I pulled off of Ebay of light fixtures that would make good terrariums, some of these were expensive, most were under $30 though. Visit your local Salvation Army, Goodwill, or Habitat for Humanity home store to find your own!