I have this obsession with little stools. I can’t resist buying them. Fortunately, I get them at garage sales, flea markets or thrift stores and I only have to pay a dollar or two for most of them, maybe $5 for one with a hinged storage compartment, like this one I updated last year.
A few months ago I acquired a very small oval-shaped wood stool with a neat little ruffled upholstered cushion on the top. The fabric was dark green with horses on it. Good quality, but dated and not my style. The wood had never been painted so I tore off the fabric to paint it before I recovered it with something more appropriate to this century.
I gave it a base coat of white, because it was handy, and then it just sat there. I had no inspiration complete the job. In all the piles and shelves and boxes of fabric I have in my house I couldn’t find a single small swatch that needed to be on the top. The fabric voices—which are always jabbering in my head—were silent.
One night while I was sleeping, the inspiration from this French Postcard Table, by Red Hen Home, and this bead board sign on Elizabeth & Co came together to create another voice. And that voice was painted embellishment!
As in type embellishments. As in a fleur-de-lis.
While I can free hand some patterns, like this zebra print student chair, I knew I couldn’t free hand a specific symbol like a fleur-de-lis. But I knew where I could find one. So I went to the font file on my computer. I love fonts, and have a couple hundred at my fingertips, even one named appropriately Fleur de Lis. It’s a small selection, with a dozen or less different versions, but I picked a simple design for this first project.
I started by enlarging the symbol to fill the page. I reduced the side margins to 1/2″ to get all of this 600 point symbol on the page. When I printed, to save toner, I printed it at low resolution, but after I printed it I realize I could have changed the font style to outline which would have saved even more toner.
I measured the stool both directions to find the approximate center and tore off the excess so I could tape the design in position. Actually I started tearing, and then realized I might rip my pattern so I found the paper scissors to trim it. I had a heavy marking art pencil, a stylus, and a small (not sharp) pocket knife I would use to trace the edges of the design.
I started by outlining it with the heavy pencil to get the feel of the design, then traced it with the stylus which put a little groove in the wood. Note that if you want to transfer a busier pattern or a lot of text the technique shown on the bead board sign might work better for some projects.
Then I filled in the groove with a light pencil line.
And I decided to burn the edges of the design into the wood with this wood burning pen I got from a flea market. It worked great, but I found the perfect place to hold it, that white ceramic section, is very hot and the original cork insulator is missing. It was a little harder to handle further up the barrel but I made it work.
Next I filled it in with paint. A friend passed along the leftovers of a sample size of Olympia’s Wet Concrete and that’s what I used for this project.
If you’re not familiar with this kind of painting, you probably wouldn’t pick a straight edge brush for this project, but I’m here to tell you it’s the one to use. When you’re filling in and making a straight edge it’s much easier to control and you can keep a straight line straighter than you can with more flexible bristles.
Then because the edges weren’t sharp enough to leave alone, I filled in the crease made by the wood pen with a fine line of gold paint. There were some goofs, but I kept going knowing it could paint it over and start at the beginning if I really messed it up. But before I gave I up, I sanded away at the mistakes.
I added the bottom of the design to the legs of the stool, mostly to get more practice, and then I added a little free hand doo dad to the edge of the stool. That didn’t turn out so well, so it got sanded a lot. I also added a little gold line to the top edge.
Because I used gold trim on the design, and the base wood is light, I finished it all off with a neutral glaze and a little dab of raw umber craft paint.
I used the same technique, without the wood burning, on this little footstool.
I painted and stenciled this to go in the nursery when my son was born. I propped my feet on it when I rocked him in the bentwood rocker.
Here is how it looks now.
I covered the red with a couple of layers of pink and used this lily-looking ornament. It came from the Bodoni Ornament font file. The center section looked like a pulled tooth with a very long root when it was enlarged to 500 points, so I covered it up with a sprig of leaves. I used a darker shade of green along the edge of the leaves, and I used the light pink of the flower to add a border around the groove at the edge.
You could use this same technique with any letter or symbol you can find on the computer. You could add a little flourish in the middle of a drawer, on a drawer pull, on a bench or anything else that needs a little something extra.
If you’re just using the fonts that came with your computer and have no idea what I’m talking about, there are several websites that offer free fonts, and they’re very easy to download and use. Search for “Free Fonts” and you’ll get a bunch of them to check out. When you get to a font website look for dingbats, ornaments or embellishments and see what you like. I’ve used Fontspace, and 1001 Free Fonts. Most of the fonts are free for personal use, but if you’re going to use a font with a licensed character on an item you plan to sell, it’s probably not OK.
I just saw a really cute font called Mario and Luigi. Personal use would be to put it on your kids chest or headboard, or use it as a pattern for a their birthday cake. But if you’re going to paint a bedroom set to sell, or you’re selling decorated cakes and you use it, that’s a violation of copyright unless you buy the font and pay for commercial use of it.
What do you think? Any particular design, or use of this technique you can’t wait to try? Or is there an easier way to transfer the design to your project? I’d love to see some of the things you’ve worked on.