I believe we can all learn from our mistakes, as much as they are hard to deal with sometimes great things can come from lessons learned the hard way. I am going to show you the first thing I ever painted with Milk Paint, this was before the blog, before my furniture business, before I knew anything! Then I am going to show you what this piece of furniture looks like now…….and we are all going to sigh together about lessons learned. As you may be quite aware, if you have read my blog for any period of time, I love Milk Paint and I find it very difficult to paint furniture with anything else now. I do have a long winded explanation as to why I prefer it to all other paint but that is a story for another time. For now lets go back to a little over a year ago to when I first heard about Milk Paint…..I had been painting with Chalk Paint for a while and had given up painting furniture with house paint (which is where I started and that makes me cringe now but I know that time taught me a lot so it was not wasted). I was trawling Pinterest as I do most nights…..for fun, not for work…..I was admiring gorgeous furniture makeovers and clicking through and reading blog posts about what they did and drooling over the before and afters when I saw the words Milk Paint mentioned. I had never heard of Milk Paint before, so I typed the words “Milk Paint” into the Pinterest search bar and all these beautiful images popped up and guess who’s blog I ended up on?……yes, Miss Mustard Seed’s. Little did I know then what a world I was opening myself up to and how that one click would change my path so drastically. So let’s look at the piece………
I don’t have a before to show you but it was painted white. I got this for free off someone who sold me something else, she wanted to get rid if it and I liked the legs. It wasn’t an expensive antique or special vintage item, I could tell it was a cheap import that is a dime a dozen here in Oz.
I had a sample bag of MMSMP in Mustard Seed Yellow and it was JUST enough to do one coat on it, which covered it perfectly. I added NO bonding agent….I actually did not know about bonding agent when I did this…would it have changed what happened? I don’t know! I hand painted flowers on the top with some white acrylic paint and lightly distressed and waxed. I loved how it looked, so delicate and cute and while the colour wasn’t as strong as I was expecting I loved it on this.
Then I put it away to store it until I decided what I was going to do with it. I had sold a few pieces at this stage, but I wasn’t serious about it and I tended to get really attached to my pieces back then. I wanted and TRIED to keep everything I did, as I very much pour out part of me into everything I do, I treat each piece as a work of art and letting them go seemed so hard. While I still treat everything I do like a work of art, I always go into it knowing that it is to be sold and I CANNOT keep it. Having done this for a while now it is a lot easier to let go, it is all part of the process. Back then….not so easy.
Fortunately I did put it away….all I can say is if that I had sold it I would have received a whole world of hate!
I still own it, it sits in my shed as a reminder that not everything will work out, that mistakes are inevitable and as much as I would like to “pretend” that I have it all together, the reality is very different. It only took a few weeks for this cute little side table to turn from a beautiful after to a TERRIBLE before! I am not sure exactly what went wrong, I have my suspicions but I cannot not tell for certain. I don’t know what paint was on it when I painted the piece, but as time went on all the Milk Paint and the original paint starting coming off. It started chipping but not just the Milk Paint…..all of it, in large areas, in a ugly way! I knew I couldn’t sell it and I really didn’t like it anymore so there was no way it would go into my home.
I actually almost gave up on Milk Paint then and there! But, I don’t think it was all the paints fault, I actually think it all comes down to the a combination of the original finish and Milk Paints tendency to chip. I just wish I knew why it took off the original layer of paint also. I think if it had left the original white paint showing underneath it would look okay, but instead you see that grey wood….whatever it is, it looks ugly!
You can paint over finished pieces with Milk Paint but I think in this case because I didn’t use bonding agent I should have either sanded it back or stripped it completely. I assumed it would be okay because I was painting over a matte finish, but I was wrong…..lesson learnt.
What I learnt:
1. That I hate chipping. I like control in all things I do, it is a flaw in my personality, but I know this about myself and chipping is something I cannot control so bonding agent is a must. I am not saying this is true for everyone, just me! There are lots of beautiful chippy pieces I fall in love with online…..Marian does chipping exceptionally and I admire her ability to just let the paint do what it does.
2. That it is better to work with an unpainted piece of furniture. Like I said you can paint over paint (and I have, quite successfully) but I have learnt the easiest furniture to work with are those that no one else has touched with paint….or at least a piece someone has stripped for you first!
3. Don’t work with cheaply made furniture! I only paint solid wood furniture that is unpainted and has wood I can hopefully restore. I don’t buy mass produced furniture (which this one was, I am guessing it came from Indonesia) and I stay clear of anything with chipboard. I don’t paint antiques but I know how to spot well made furniture now and I know what questions to ask sellers.
4. Milk Paint will challenge you, it is temperamental and has a life of it’s own. Over time I have realised it is the most rewarding paint to work with and it does wonderful things to the furniture I work on.
5. Don’t let mistakes stop you. Like I said I almost stopped using Milk Paint then, because of one bad experience. Instead I tried again and the results were vastly different and it was while I painted the second piece that I came to love the distinctive feel and look that Milk Paint brings to furniture.
6. Find your own style. While I didn’t learn this lesson from what happened to this piece I did learn it during the process of painting it. Trying to copy someone else’s style was not my cup of tea, neither will it make you feel good about yourself. I am sure you can guess who I was emulating when I hand painted the top, when I discovered her blog I wanted to do everything she was doing. I came to realise that there are no rewards in trying to be someone else, or trying to ride on their coattails, people will see right through you. I find much more joy in doing my own thing and having my own style, it may be eclectic and make no sense to anyone but me, but I love every furniture project I do and it is because the ideas are mine. This is by far the greatest lesson I have learnt and one I live by.
So this wasn’t a true furniture reveal, I suppose I could have pretended that everything worked out wonderfully and just shown the after photos, but I felt there was something much better that could come from this piece of furniture. This project started me down a path I never saw myself going, but is vastly more rewarding than the one I was on. It brought me here, to this place and I could not be more grateful. At the end of everyday I am physically exhausted, at times emotionally spent and always disturbingly dirty, but even with all that, in myself I feel creatively energised and fulfilled. Who knew what one little side table could do with one life?