January 28, 2011

Benjamin Moore Knows How to Party!

Not too long ago I professed my love for the 128 year old paint retailer Benjamin Moore.  Well after last night's Contractor Expo I think we might have a problem, I've fallen head over heels in love!  *swoon*

Last night's event, held at the Peabody Marriott, was my first ever Expo and what a grand way to enter into the world of Contractor networking, I won the grand prize raffle!  But that comes later, first let me back up and give a little more of my overall take on the good times we all shared.

I flew solo on this one and considering its just me running and working for my company that was just fine.  There were plenty of others who brought associates, friends or maybe even clients so they would have someone to talk to but I've always been comfortable enough in my own skin that I don't need a wingman for this type of stuff.  Well not when it comes to business anyway!

At first it was looking like I would be the only girl in the place but in short order a few more women filtered in.  Most were with other women so I didn't expect they would sit at my table, that was cool, I was really there for the information not to make life long friends.  Although the networking was great!  Within five minutes I learned that we got dinner and an opportunity to see the latest and greatest, not to mention a brief history on the company as well as another brief seminar on building our business for profit.

A few people came to sit up front with this shorty, and I spent most of the night talking to a couple north shore contractors and one from a little further west of the city.  All great people, and all kind of slow in their business presently.  I'm in the same boat but it is winter, traditionally a tough time for painters to source new business.  It was just comforting to know I wasn't alone.  The presentations were fantastic and we were given a booklet with specs on every type of paint or covering/coating the company offers.  THIS will come in very handy (not to mention the pen we got with it and the coupons for free product woo hoo!).

I was excited to learn so many of the paints they offer make use of the Benjamin Moore GENNEX® technology now.  As a brief on what this is -- they have patented a formula that allows their paint and tints to claim no or low VOC based on this waterborne colorant.  From their newest paint offering, Advance® (a waterborne alkyd -- no that isn't an oxymoron, I'll talk more on this another time) to their Greenest option Natura® (a virtually odorless, zero VOC paint), many of their cans fit the bill of low/no VOC and I could not be more excited!

As a finisher it is really important that the base paint be a high quality but also something that allows for proper adhesion and flow of my glazes, etc.  I have never been let down.

When we first got there we all got red tickets for the raffle and owners (like me!) got yellow tickets.  The grand prize of the night was a Graco® Airless Electric Paint Sprayer (linked below if you want to check out the specs and value) and holy crow, I WON!!  I don't know what I'll do with it but it sure opens up worlds of opportunities for different & new business that I didn't have before.

I was already loving Benny before last night but now that I'm armed with an arsenal of information to offer all kinds of different options to my clients I'm even more enamored.  Not to mention they gave us a free tee shirt, baseball cap, paint brush and access to their new painter/contractor referral program online.

Thanks for what proved to be a wonderful evening and a wealth of useful information; watch out Benjamin, I might be forced to stalk you now!

January 24, 2011

Faux for Real

Lately this has been a very difficult thing for me to come to grips with -- my lack of direction and/or focus in one true area.  There are days when I feel like I should be sewing items for my shop while others I just want to abandon the sewing machine altogether in favor of paint, plaster, stencils and the cabinets full of faux tools I own.

But then I start to wonder, how the heck does the decorative treatment I apply to a whole room translate into not only something small enough to put in my shop but also environmentally responsible enough that my teammates in EcoEtsy won't chase me down the street like an angry mob carrying torches?  With LED lights attached, not burning materials of course.

The Real and the Faux

The type of products I use in my paint treatments are all, let me repeat that, all, water based.  I have actually turned down work because they desired an oil based finish and although the paycheck would have been nice it would have been hard to justify sleeping at night after releasing that much VOC into the atmosphere.

In case you're not up to speed on what VOC's are feel free to check out this article I wrote up a little less than a week ago:
What the Heck Is With A VOC Anyway?

For the smaller more accesible items I do tend to source materials from stuff I already have on hand and my inspiration comes from just about everywhere!  Just the other night my husband and I were doing our evening workout and all of a sudden I noticed the "metal" panels behind the participants in the video. 

I had seen them a million times before but it suddenly hit me that they were rusted.  Yet the impression was that they were steel.  Steel doesn't really rust so I knew it was a finish and all at once I was doing my moves by rote while I tried to envision what paints I already had on hand to mix up a batch and try to recreate the effect.

That's the other thing, if I can help it I don't buy new products when there are perfectly good paints in multiple colors, and low VOC tints, in my back hall cabinets that I can use to mix up whatever shade I need.  Not to mention with a house full of random bits and pieces, sometimes its fun to freshen them up with a new and fun finish.

Yeah, But Is It Attractive?

The really great thing about faux, decorative treatments, standard paint is that the beauty is in the eye of the homeowner!  I have done some stuff that would never (and I mean never) grace my own home yet I still enjoyed completing the finish because the satisfaction of the client was the single most important thing at the end of the day.

Want an example?  Well I thought you'd never ask!

I had a straight up paint job last summer where I worked as a Sub-Contractor for a General Contractor who was renovating a home to rent.  He wanted a good solid return on his investment and didn't want to put in more effort or money than the area called for.  A reasonable business practice and one that worked out in his favor.  Yet I (internally of course) shook my head at him when he asked me to paint the somewhat beat up hardwood floors throughout the house in brown.

Bottom line was I really didn't think it added much to the look and feel of the space but I wasn't living with it!  In the end he wasn't either but, since he was the one who hired me, I simply made sure it was a water based paint, grabbed a roller and a tray then got to work.

For Sale: Your Old For Sale Sign

With all of my soul searching I decided on (or, probably more appropriately accepted as truths) a few things:
  • I really enjoy painting and conceiving of interesting finishes.
  • Faux kind of comes naturally to me; even if I've never done it before I can probably figure it out.
  • I am far more apt to get frustrated while sewing than while fauxing items I plan to sell.
  • The very nature of faux means I never screw up, its just becomes a different finish.
  • Materials can come from anywhere and they don't need to cost a million dollars.
That last point is really important because I've made some things out of items that people would have never believed.  A good example is my small sample boards.

Most finishers use a product called Mighty Boards to work up a sample.  They are a heavy weight plastic based material that are waterproof and pretty much indestructable but can be cut to any size or shape with a regular old pair of good weight household scissors.  With the correct primer, a finish will stick to them forever without chipping or peeling off.

The real issue is they are expensive as all get out for those of us who only do a few big jobs a year so I started looking for alternatives.  Enter the For Sale sign.  Made of a similar material (albeit much lighter weight) these signs come in a couple different sizes and I can pick them up at my local hardware store.  Which means no cost to ship.  And the cost to purchase is reasonable.  The smaller signs run me about $0.49.  They are great for working up samples that I plan to either cover over or may need to rework to meet a client's needs.

Plus I can find them for free or cheap on sites like craigslist or Freecycle if I spend a little time researching.

The Big Idea

So the other night when I was putting the second coat of primer on a couple of these boards I had a brainstorm.  It came to me as a result of having recently started a decorative wall hanging that I intend to put in my shop for sale a little later this week when I get the kinks worked out on how I want to finish the edges.

The wall hanging is a khaki sage green color wash with raised roses that I accented in pearl paint.  It is shaping up really nicely and those of you who follow me on Facebook have already seen the sneak peek but for those who haven't:

The roses are made from dragging joint compound through a stencil and it hit me that I could do just about anything in this manner.  Some of the items I've considered might be words (like LOVE, CHOCOLATE or PRINCESS).  Or perhaps just a few more of these pretty roses or other fun shapes.  I have a folder full of stencils and buckets full of joint compound so I might as well put them to good use right?!

In the next few weeks I'll be cutting up my For Sale signs, painting them, finishing them and then scrounging around the basement for some leftover wood shims that I can glue together to act as frames.

Stay tuned for pictures and info on these new items as I complete them.  And who knows, maybe some of them will even have a rusted steel background...

January 20, 2011

No Before, but Here's the After!

I have this little superstition in me that comes from creating things for a while.  It is that every time I decide to take before photos so I can share the transformation of something, I mess up the whole project and don't end up with an after.  It has been the case more times than I can count so with this particular project I decided to leave well enough alone and just finish it so I could share the after photos with you.

But there's no harm in telling you what I did...

My husband recently got rid of a lot of old pants that were either completely worn at the ankle, too big, too small or simply no longer his style.  Because we both have close to the same waist dimensions I had this great idea that I could make use of all these little treasures and create myself a bunch of pocketed skirts for this upcoming summer!  (The one that I pray every day is right around the corner!)

This first little number used to be a pair of shorts.  The material is kind of a heavy seersucker type cotton and it fits me great now! 

The waist may be a teeny bit too big but I can take that in as the warmer months get closer.  What do you think?  In life the fabric is baby blue & navy and I already have the perfect white hoodie to create a preppy little sailor outfit.

Now if only it would stop snowing around here!

I hope everyone gets a chance to swing by Harvest Moon By Hand to check out the Mid Week Motivation posts, some fantastic artisans over there!  Now I need to think of what next week's motivation will be!

January 16, 2011

What the Heck Is With A VOC Anyway?

This morning while perusing one of my favorite blogs, EcoEtsy, I read the most recent posted article by Moonbeads titled “What Is Low Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) Paint”. Of course, as a professional Faux Finisher / Decorative Treatment Installer this subject hit very close to home and I started writing up my comment back.

Suddenly I realized my comment had taken on a life of its own as it grew and grew in length and depth and it became clear that my own blog post was definitely in order!

To fully comprehend what I’m saying below it is important to first read the post over on the EcoEtsy team blog. Its okay, I can wait. I have a good book here. Ooh, or maybe I’ll peruse some of your Facebook pages while I wait…

Okay, now that you’re back, let’s continue that conversation.

I think it’s really important to point out the info in both the No-VOC and Low-VOC bullet points because a very common misconception is that No/Low VOC paint will also not smell bad. This is not always true! Sometimes an odor is still emitted while painting. The VOC itself only comes into play after the drying process has been completed -- it is not the "new paint smell", those are individually different items.

The compounds are released as paint cures. Some paints take up to 90 days to fully cure, some NEVER fully cure and will release the compounds into the air forever (some alkyd paints are this way). The bullet mentions Benjamin Moore Aura as an example of Low-VOC. I use this paint almost exclusively now for that very reason but it does still smell "painty" when rolled on.

Natura is a somewhat more recent addition to the line of environmentally responsible paints that the company offers. I haven’t had a chance to try it yet but am fully intrigued by its properties! Based on the website Natura:

♥ Is washable
♥ Fade resistant
♥ Dries to the touch in 30 minutes, can be recoated in 1 hour
♥ Is virtually odorless
♥ The top coat paints are mildew resistant (flat, eggshell, semi-gloss)
♥ And has zero VOC

Now here’s something very important to remember when it comes to paint -- just because you bought a zero VOC paint doesn’t mean it will be that way when you take it home.


That’s right. You may grab that can of paint that reads zero VOC on the label and feel great about your purchase but unless you know for absolute certainty that the tint used, to turn it that lovely shade of forest green you desire, is also zero VOC, everything you just did to better your environment with the paint itself is undone in a flash.

This is where Benjamin Moore (and other boutique paint shops like Sherwin Williams, etc. -- check with your local retailers to find out for sure!) win because when tinting Natura, Aura or any of their Low/No VOC paint options the tint is also a Low/No VOC option.

This is a little known fact and something crucial to your health because the pigments and binding agents in latex based tints are excessively stronger than those found in a tube of acrylic craft paint for example. Remember, that teeny little squirt they put into the can of bright white paint has to turn it as dark as the forest green on the paint chip you brought them to match right?

It is always a good idea to ask the person behind the counter who is mixing your paint any questions like this. If they can’t answer or are not sure then chances are there will be VOC in the tinted can of paint you take home with you.

January 15, 2011

Upcycled, Salvaged, Earth Happy Eye Mask

Straight from my Etsy shop:

I'm promoting this adorable eye mask today.  Aren't the stripes so trendy?  It is a sweet little way to pamper yourself or someone you love! 

Use my coupon code FRESH50 at checkout and this adorable mask is only $6...wait what was that?  Did I say only six dollars?  You bet I did! 

The whole shop is in need of a turnover right now and everything is 50% off when you use the coupon code above.  So shop for you, shop for someone else, just get shopping!  Click the photo to be taken directly to the listing or use the link at the bottom of the listing info.

Need some extra shut eye in a bright world? This cute eye mask will help you sleep easy because all the materials are either salvaged, upcycled or repurposed!

From upcycled old projects to bed sheets to poly fill left over from another project, you'll be stylish and a planet lover with this baby on your face at night!

The pattern is my own design.

Mask measures approximately 6" wide x 3" high, elastic will stretch to fit just about any size head.

Feel free to write with questions.

Sweet Dreams!
To purchase this item please visit the Etsy listing page here.  Don't forget coupon code FRESH50 at checkout to receive 50% off anything in the shop!

January 14, 2011

Who Doesn't Love A Good Update?

I'm baaaaaack...

Well to be fair I never really went anywhere at all, this blog just hasn't been updated in ages, almost four months now!  That was because I decided to break off from my company blog and start a new online journal for my writing & rambling called Random Lunacy.

Things are going well over there, feel free to come on over and join the party!

Otherwise I updated my company website yesterday and have been actively getting back into my shop again so it kind of hit me that perhaps revisiting this here blog wouldn't be such a bad idea.  I've jazzed it up and added quite a bit of material, links and info that relates solely to my company.

Welcome to the new Chucka Stone Designs blog!

Poke around and scroll all the way to the bottom to follow.  I'll be updating more regularly than every four months now I promise!