Making New Old

When I closed my small business a couple of years ago, I thought that it was likely the end of my decorative-painting career. I had started Turtle Hill Originals as an opportunity to market and sell the small, home decor items I had been painting, and up until then, selling thru local craft shows. A business brought with it business cards, brochures, a website, an Etsy storefront, Facebook page, and access to wholesale pricing on materials. But after three years and minimal sales, we decided that enough was enough.

I was about twelve years old, as I recall, when I first became interested in refinishing furniture. I had found a small footstool set out for trash pickup one day and decided to bring it home. The cushion would need to be replaced, the wooden legs and frame sanded smooth, stained and varnished. But I was confident that I could make something old look new again.

The next project I tackled was a rocking chair and after that it was a stream of small pieces that found a new life, refreshed and useful again. The smell of sawdust, walnut stain, and varnish at that time competed with my desire to be a fine artist. And looking back now, both shared similar skills but with differing goals.

I don’t know when, but sometime over the intervening years I lost interest in bringing old pieces back to life. It could have been the many years I spent in the museum and trade show industry helping to create graphics for many of our Smithsonian museums. The casework we created was gorgeous, beautifully finished pieces I would love to have had in my home. Their pristine surfaces were lacquered and glowed in the soft museum lighting. But I was being drawn towards the textured, roughly painted surfaces of scenic reproductions.

Starting with new materials, the scenic and props department turned New into Old. Whether it was a rusted time-worn metal finish, or desert-bleached wood, the trompe l’oeil effects of the paintbrush were magical and I loved it. Learning to use brushes, sponges, and spatter techniques served me well when I was called on to help create props and stage sets for our local church’s dramatic Easter productions.

Once I retired, I found I had the time to continue my decorative painting. I haven’t felt the self-imposed pressure to create pieces for sale that I had been under when I was struggling to promote a business. Contrary to popular belief, I had found that there isn’t always a market for what you love to do.

But after we downsized and moved to a smaller home, small projects keep popping up. Another side table for my recliner, a whimsical plant stand painted in a harlequin pattern, even a refresh of the painted pumpkins I had made several years ago are all projects I’ve enjoyed doing recently. Below are some of the pieces that I’ve worked on this past month. I might not be making old new again, but I am enjoying aging along with the process of making new things appear old. “Gracefully aged,” I should say!

4 thoughts on “Making New Old

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