20 May 2016

Annie Sloan and Friends at ArtsWeek!

Here in Oxford, during the month of May, a festival celebrating all things art takes place: Oxfordshire ArtWeeks. Local artists display their work all over the county in open studios and spaces, and often in their own homes. It is one of my very favourite times of the year, and I love spending an afternoon on the ‘trail’ visiting different people and seeing creativity in all its forms. It’s so well organised and just a lovely, affirming thing. I think it’s an idea that has been taken up by other places, but the Oxford ArtWeeks is special to me. Not least because my friend, radio-presenter Bill Heine, was one of its founders. His own experiment with art has become one of Oxford’s most famous landmarks – The Shark House in Headington. People come from far and wide to see this wacky sculpture, I love it! Oxford has been home to me since 1983, so I have seen this festival grow and grow with each passing year.

This year I really wanted to support ArtWeeks in my shop on the Cowley Road, and so we have had a mini-exhibition of all of the work created here, by me and the team at HQ. There was a huge amount to display as I am lucky enough to be working with some very brilliant and creative people. I want to support any and all creativity and encourage my team to develop their own skills, be it screen printing, painting, jewellery making or textiles! Some people have created work all their lives and I loved showcasing their pieces. Holly who works in my studio with me creates fabulous screen prints, using imagery from endangered species native to the UK, including lots of birds and bees. Rudi in our Fabric Team is a very talented jewellery designer, using found objects that she forages for around Oxford and creates bespoke pieces, inspired by nature. Joanna, who works in Design, kindly showed her gorgeous green painting, I love that even though she is creative at work, she still loves painting as a relaxing pastime. Ann, one of my creative assistants, hand crafts these gorgeous pyjama sets for little ones out of vintage bed linen, just look at those candy stripes!

Each Tuesday we have a life-drawing class in my studio at HQ, everyone is welcome, regardless of ability or skill. What I love about our life drawing class is that you have people who haven't drawn since high school, people who draw regularly right down to some who have never drawn before! I love the variety and I think you will agree there is some serious talent on display.

The great thing about Art Weeks is it is really inclusive, so it’s not simply drawing and painting but a celebration of all creative activity - photography, textiles, sculpture, glass, jewellery, digital art and much more. Such a brilliant idea! A lot of my team create their pieces outside work so it was just fabulous to be able to put it all together in one place along with some of my own pieces from over the years, from painted pieces to sgraffito work and even a study of cows which somehow I’ve kept for all this time! If you are in the area please do pop down and see the work, if you are further afield as always, follow me on Facebook and Instagram as I share more from ArtsWeek.

Yours, Annie

13 May 2016

Celebrating the past in the USA!

Last week I was back in the States to attend Iowa’s annual Junk Jubilee in the city of Des Moines. There’s quite a buzz around Des Moines, and I really didn’t know what to expect when I arrived. It was my first time in the Mid-West, so I was excited to visit a different America than what I was used to. It was so cool – lovely people and a great emerging arts scene. I’ve heard people say the vibe in Des Moines is similar to Brooklyn, New York, and I really saw what they meant. There are great cafes, an amazing sculpture park and I owe a big thank you to the lovely John Whaley from Junk Jubilee who squired us around, making sure we got to all the cool places – he even gave us tickets to see Graham Nash at a beautiful old theatre  – what a bonus!

I got to the city a couple of days before Junk Jubilee so that I could do some promotion and actually held a version of my Stockist workshops for a group of around 25 journalists – Meredith Corporation who publish some of America’s most popular magazines is based in the city - and I also did some television and radio appearances.  

Junk Jubilee itself was fabulous! It was Americana to the extreme. It’s interesting, in the UK these sorts of events are often a mixed bag – a little Victoriana, perhaps a stall with nothing but glassware, some mid-century modern pieces, and in France I’ve been to many vide greniers which literally translates as empty attic! Junk Jubilee was much more curated, with lots of really cool agricultural artefacts, which I suppose speaks of Iowa as a farming state: flags, plates, and metalware – chippy paintwork and sumptuous patina! There was a real sense of nostalgia but in many cases it wasn’t so much that the pieces were terribly old, but they were certainly treasured. Many things had been cleverly repurposed. In fact, I met this really sweet young man, called Zane Hehnke, who had a great stall selling repurposed pieces – he’d been doing this since he was 13 (and is only 17 now!). Very creative. I also loved, loved, loved the many cool examples of packaging and typography.

I stayed on an extra day after Junk Jubilee to run a stockists workshop at the very hip Des Moines Social Club. I think you know by now how much I adore seeing my stockists, and we had around 40 from all over the States. Don Short who runs the inspirational West End Salvage – four stories of architectural salvage in an incredible old warehouse– treated us all to lunch, so I also owe him a huge and heartfelt thank you!

From Des Moines I travelled on to New York to meet our new PR team and do more magazine interviews, including some one-on-one workshops with various editors. Whilst I was there, Country Living asked me to do a Q&A on Facebook at my stockist in the East Village, Verdigreen, run by the amazingly named Azie Shelhorse! I thought it would be a great time to demonstrate my new Black and White Chalk Paint Waxes and was thrilled to see the views whizzing up past 80,000 in the half hour that we were live. Just amazing.

To cap it off, that evening I went with my friend Mary Anne to an event at New York University. Mary Anne was in a band with me called The Moodies, back in the ‘70s and had made friends with a young man called Andrew Carpetta who is writing a PhD on the connections between the music scene and art schools in the 70s and 80s which I wrote about last time I visited New York. I mentioned then how much I wanted to see a film featuring The Moodies which Andrew had unearthed and my wish came true! The screening was part of a series called The Colloquium of Unpopular Culture (I love it!) and I hadn’t seen this film for 20 years. Afterwards he’d organised a Q&A afterwards – there were three of us from the band, me, Mary Anne and also Rod Melvin, joining Andrew on stage. Somehow the idea of the past being celebrated in a whole new way sums up the whole trip! 

5 May 2016

Announcing two new Chalk Paint® Waxes - Black and White!

My Chalk Paint® is celebrating its 25-year anniversary and over those years, waxes have played an integral part and they are critical to achieving some of my most distinctive effects. Now, I am delighted to announce the launch of another duo of products to add to my range of Chalk Paint® Waxes – now in Black and in White!

I’ve spoken before about using Chalk Paint® and the different finishes in my collection to let pieces tell a story – thicken the paint to add texture, use contrasting colours sanded back to make different elements of a piece stand out. My Clear Soft Wax is the starting point for many of these tricks, and also adds a layer of protection to painted pieces. I use my Dark Soft Wax to add a little age to a piece, to give an antiqued effect or mimic a patina developed over time.

As versatile as they are, I found myself wanting to create slightly different effects. Now, with my White Wax and my Black Wax I can tell new stories with my pieces!

My White Wax will emphasise grain and texture in the same way that the Dark Soft Wax will, but it also – how can I put it? - not quite lighten the colour, but almost soften it. It can be used directly on unpainted wood with great effect, but what I really love is the effect it gives to painted pieces. It adds some age, certainly, but the effect is that of a piece which has been gracefully, subtly faded by sunlight – think of a piece left in a sunny spot, a terrace in Tuscany – it is that beautiful, natural washing of colour which my new White Soft Wax will give to a piece. It’s a look that immediately lends itself to Traditional Swedish and Coastal, but also Farmhouse – gentle, lovely. Or, use it to knock back some of the more vibrant colours in the range – faded Bohemian springs to mind!

The Black Wax can also be used for a Farmhouse look, although this one is different again. As I said before, if my Dark Soft Wax ‘antiques’ my pieces then my Black Soft Wax toughens them up! (Perhaps more ‘Barn’ than ‘Farmhouse’ – there’s definitely something industrial going on). I love using it to create pieces that have a roughened look, something which works particularly well with the Warehouse trend (I write about all of these looks in my book Room Recipes for Style and Colour).

The Black Wax also picks up on the texture and the grain and this can be emphasised by the way in which I apply the paint, using my own Pure Bristle Brushes. I apply paint in all directions when I want a really textured piece – back and forth in smallish strokes, and I use a fair amount of paint on my brush. A couple of layers really helps to build up texture and, also, I never sit down when I paint, I use my whole arm not just my wrist – give it a try!

Oh, and in the same way as you need to use the Clear Wax when adding Dark Wax (applying it first to help you control how the Dark Wax works into the piece), you will get the best results by using it with my new Black Wax too. The White Wax can be used alone and I can’t wait to see what how you use them both!

26 April 2016

It's your final chance to nominate your local community space!

Have you nominated your local community space for my #25Project? If you haven’t heard about it, it’s my way of celebrating 25 years of Chalk Paint® and championing local communities. Anyone can enter, from anywhere in the world, but there are only 4 days left until the closing date! This project is so, so close to my heart and I cannot tell you how much pleasure it has given me, to see all the entries that have been pouring in.

It is tremendously exciting to think that 25 spaces - across the whole world (!!) - will be transformed by their communities, with the help of my expert stockists and, of course, buckets of my paint.

Once the deadline has passed, I will spend time in May going through each and every entry, reading the nominations and looking at all the pictures. I must admit, much as I’m looking forward to this, I know there are going to be some really tough choices to make – from those that I’ve peeked at already there’s a hugely diverse range of spaces to be transformed, and an equally varied range of locations! I’m so lucky to have truly expert stockists selling my paint the world over. Once I’ve chosen the winning entries it will be over to them to work with the community on these transformations.

All of my stockists are trained by me and fully understand how to use my paint. It will be they who take the lead on the actual make-overs. They’ll consult with the local community – including the winning nominator, of course – and come up with an inspirational design that will work in the space. My stockists will be there every step of the way, helping out the team of local volunteers to create something fabulous.

We launched the #25Project here in Oxford, where my shop proudly sits on the Cowley Road, and we kicked the whole thing off with the transformation of *my* local community space, The East Oxford Community Centre. The centre is used for a variety of activities such as yoga, toddler sessions, music groups and everything in between.

We (the team at HQ and I) spent a week with a whole host of regulars from the Centre, turning the much-loved space into something which really reflected how fantastic it really is. We got stuck in and had great fun working on all aspects of the job – from sewing curtains to some easy re-upholstering, not to mention a lot of painting! We had a blast. Everyone had a chance, not only to try out my paint for themselves, but also to share ideas and techniques – I think we all learnt something along the way.

So, if you haven’t got your entry in yet, what’s keeping you? Go to our dedicated site, and tell me all about your space and why it’s worthy of an Annie Sloan transformation. www.anniesloan.com/25project

21 April 2016

Nursery Style, Now!

Back in the late 1980s I wrote a book on Nursery Style with my friend Felicity Bryan, at the time I had three very different little boys (my sons Hugo, Henry and Felix) each wanting their own distinctive space in our family home. It was a joy to write, and between us we created some beautiful rooms that reflected all that was brilliant about the styles of that time.

Fast forward almost thirty years and I am absolutely smitten with being a grandmother – twice over, following the birth of the much-adored Rudy, a brother to Willow! Having young children in the family is magical, and it has made me think again about ‘Nursery style’. Proud daddy Felix (whom many of you will know from his work with me here at HQ and the co-author of my book, Room Recipes for Style and Colour) has been transforming Rudy's crib with Chalk Paint®. (Photograph coming soon!) The crib was a gorgeous gift from Elsa, my Stockist at Wood Picker in Athens - On her website she encourages us to consider that “with creativity and goodwill we can renew our home”. I love that, and it is so true of creating things for our next generation.

Nurseries take on a particular and a rather special importance, don’t they? They are a space created with so much love and so much expectation. Debates over the relative merits of pink or blue – or that old failsafe, yellow, rage on. You may have seen my paint in the news last year when it was rumoured that Kensington Palace had purchased three of the ‘pinkier’ colours from the Chalk Paint® palette (Henrietta, Antoinette and Emile) prior to the birth of Princess Charlotte, and that in itself was a pretty big clue as to the gender of the new addition to the Royal Family!

I posted on Facebook recently, looking for inspiration for my new grandson’s nursery; curious to see what others had created for their own children, grand-children, nieces, nephews… You know I adore seeing all your pictures, from entire rooms to single pieces. In my post I included pictures of the very funky travel-inspired nursery by Ashley Kaisk, which included a simple, classic chest of drawers in Duck Egg Blue and I simply couldn’t resist the sweet prettiness of baby Rosa’s cot (painted by Isabel in Scandinavian Pink).

I should probably reiterate here that both Chalk Paint® and my Waxes are completely Toy Safe and – importantly – won’t leave a lingering odour, which means you can use them freely to create wonderful, distinctive pieces to reflect all those wonderful, distinctive children in your life. As ever, please share your pictures with me – I’m still trying to decide on what I will create for Rudy!

Yours, Annie

15 April 2016

Fabulous Floors

Photo courtesy of Kate Dougherty Designs
Did you know that Chalk Paint® can transform old concrete and wooden floors, even if they’re varnished? Just like painting smaller (and bigger!) pieces of furniture and other pieces around your home, Chalk Paint® is just fabulous for painting floors.  The great thing is that you can create any number of looks and styles with this one pot of paint – add a little water to create a beautiful, soft wash of colour, or leave the lid off the tin for a few hours to create thick texture.

The clean appearance of simple white painted boards has long been a go-to look which works well with many different styles, but particularly with Coastal or Traditional Swedish. Swap Old White for Florence and you have instant Bohemian vibrancy; on old concrete floors try Graphite or Burgundy for that rougher Warehouse look, or contrast Provence with English Yellow for a graphic Modern Retro pattern (see my book Room Recipes for more explanation of these different themes).

When I know what look I want to achieve, I start by painting and lacquering a small test area, mainly because whilst you can use Chalk Paint® on any surface, I am always mindful that certain types of varnishes commonly used on flooring can sometimes be drawn through, and this can affect the finished colour (particularly with the lighter colours in the range). If a stain does come through on the area that I have tested I use my Lacquer to seal the whole floor. This will usually stop any bleed-through, and then I paint on top.  If all I’m after is a single colour, I usually do two or three coats in Chalk Paint®, before doing a single coat with my Lacquer last.  A little of this can go a long way and it dries with just a hint of sheen.  I really recommend you use it, especially for areas which will be walked over again and again.  I like to apply the paint with the larger of my brushes, but tend to use one of the rollers for the lacquer – this way it covers quickly and dries evenly.

A single colour is simple but effective. I have also experimented with a checkerboard design on my kitchen floor in the past. Here, I used a square sponge as a stencil, with Cream, Paris Grey and Old White. You can also be a little clever by creating a trompe l’ceil to mimic a different effect altogether.  My very clever stockists, La Restauroteca created the most wonderful illusion of a rug on the floor of their shop in Valencia.  This was actually painted directly onto a laminate floor, and then sealed with Lacquer.  They’ve used my Talullah stencil (a fabulous encaustic or even Moroccan tile effect) to make the pattern at the ‘centre’ of the rug and Valeska (a wonderfully versatile repeating pattern) to create a border.   Doesn’t it look great?  I particularly like their choice of colours, Old White and Burgundy lifted by Provence.

And, if you're feeling bold, take inspiration from my Stockists, Fig and Frolic, in Iowa, USA who  added colour to their living room with this fabulously vibrant floor.  Using bright colours from the Chalk Paint palette, they've randomly painted floor boards in clashing and complementary colours.

And take a lot at how Janice Issitt, one of my Painters in Residence, used Chalk Paint in Provence, Napoleonic Blue, Old White and Arles on the tiled floor of a bedroom to create a beautiful bright and bold, mediterranean look.

As always I love seeing your projects, make sure you tag me @anniesloanhome or use #anniesloan on Instagram, and share your projects with me on my Facebook page too.