Monday, March 25, 2013

Women's Post- Women of the Week

Karen and I have been selected to be represented in the Women's Post "Women of the Week" feature for the week of March 25th. We are really thrilled and excited.
To find out more, click here.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Home Made Beeswax Furniture Polish

For the past couple of years, or ever since I started painting furniture as a career, I have been using Minwax furniture finishing wax to seal painted surfaces. It has worked well and it never failed providing a smooth and shiny finish. However, I have been doing some research and decided to try and make a home made finishing wax using beeswax as a main ingredient. I wanted to find a recipe that doesn't call for many ingredients and that is as environmentally friendly as possible. And I found one, it calls for natural beeswax and another solvent.
We have recently come across a Toronto based beeswax candle producer on Etsy (Gammy's Beeswax Candles) and have decided to sell some through our store as well. In one of our email exchanges I we learned that they also sell raw beeswax and I decided to get a block for the purpose of making my own furniture polish. What worked well is that their studio is very close to where I live so I can swing by and pick up the order myself.
So here is how the process went:
The beeswax came in a 1/2 lb block. In order to be able to melt it easily, I grated the block and mixed the shavings with the non-toxic natural oil made for treatment of butcher's blocks, wooden salad bowls, cutting boards etc. The ratio I used is 1:4 in favour of the oil. I could also have used olive oil, but was afraid that it may turn rancid at some point, and that would not be a good thing.

I mixed all the ingredients together and put them in a glass jar that I placed in the steamer  to avoid any water from getting into the mixture.

Once all the wax shavings have melted and the liquid had turned clear yellow colour I took the jar out and let it cool, mixing it occasionally. When it cooled down the mixture acquired consistency of vaseline. If I had used less oil, it would probably have turned out harder which would have been fine too.

I decided to try it first on  my kitchen table that was definitely in need of some love and tender care.

table top before

 And here is what happened after I had applied the mixture, let it sit for about 10 minutes and buffed out with a soft cotton cloth.

table top after

I was so impressed with the results that I decided to use it on a piece of painted furniture that I had just completed and that is now available for purchase at Freedom.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

DIY Wall Art - Make your space warm and comfy

There is nothing more intimidating than a big, blank white wall. The limitless opportunity is exciting, but can also be overwhelming. After moving into my current apartment, I was faced with this dilemma. It is beautiful with wall to wall windows, except for one big empty white wall running along one side. For months, it stayed blank, in stark contrast to the quickly filled up and comfortable rest of the apartment.

the hideous "empty wall" we are trying to make more inviting

Then the wall was seen by Karen and things changed quickly. After her initial horror at the unused space, she quickly sprang into action with ideas. Obviously, art was a perfect choice. Why not make our own? That is how I found myself at Toronto’s High Park on a beautiful summer Sunday. We started with a blank canvas and went from there. Since I am not an artist like Karen, I didn't want her to do all the work so we tried to come up with an idea that we could both work on. We were thinking maybe something abstract. The summer day inspired an idea so we grabbed the canvas and pencils and headed to the park where we were inspired by the sun and the lovely shadows it was creating under the many trees.
using pencil crayons in High Park trying to quickly capture the ephemeral tree shadows 
Walking around with a large blank canvas was starting to attract some attention from the families and bicyclists enjoying the park, so we quickly found the perfect corner where enough shadows cascaded onto the floor to create an interesting pattern. Not wanting to lose the moment, we laid the canvas down and I received my marching orders to start ‘outlining’ the shadows on my side of the canvas with pencil. Not completely knowing what I was doing, I was a little anxious and set about tracing shapes as quick as possible while Karen’s expert hands and artistic touch worked comfortably.

Then, adding to my anxiety, seemingly out of the blue two children appeared and started silently watching us work. Their dad appeared and, also interested in our guerilla art project, he asked what our inspiration was. Worried about ensuring I captured the shadows and without a ready-made answer, I simply said to “fill a wall.”

*note* when using light coloured paints like whites, pastels or yellows, make sure to make pencil marks with equally light colours otherwise you will need several coats of paint to cover up graphite or dark pencil caryon marks.
filling in the pencil crayon lines with brilliant bright yellow, the fair trade dark chocolate helps keep the lines straight.
Back home, we surveyed our work and decided there was some potential so we set about filling in the shadows with some yellow paint since we were inspired by the sun. Over time, an interesting abstract pattern began to emerge on the wood grain. At times, it looked like a map and at other times we started noticing animals in the shapes. Maybe we were painting for too long! We definitely agreed that it was going to look fantastic up on the wall.

collaging and decoupaging the edges of the panel

There seemed, however, to be something missing. The blank outer edges of a canvas are always a challenge. Should we paint them all yellow? Keep them as they were? Then we got our second inspiration.

I knew I wanted to add a book case to the wall so we initially thought about adding old newspapers or maps on the side. Then, I remembered a memento of my father’s that I had kept for years. My father learned to speak English in the 1970s in Europe. He had these red hard cover British textbooks that inside had the most interesting black and white photos and text. Instead of gathering dust, we decided that the text and pictures from these books would look amazing on the sides, top and bottom of the new painting.
y - voilĂ 
Suddenly, we had a finished original piece of art. It seemed too easy yet there it was. It just goes to show that sometimes creativity and taking that little extra step can go a long way. The painting now looks great on my wall next to my new bookcase and a whole lot of plants (another Karen inspiration). The wall is both beautiful, but also warm and inviting.
all the way from Argentina an up-cycled cookie tin becomes a statement piece plant holder
texture love!

further up-cycled pieces include this wonderful Freedom Reconstructed Chalkboard for a perfect entrance greeting.
up-cycled frames and the left over book pages make these two art pieces pop!