Chalk Painting Wooden Furniture @Against The Grain, Reading

I love crafts – if you’ve spent any time on my website you will know this by now! But I also really love making a difference to other people’s lives. Volunteering is a great way to give something back to my local community, and it’s something I’ve done since I was a young teenager. I’ve done a whole heap of different types of volunteering, including: getting involved with local news and broadcasters; creating community newsletters; helping out with hospital and student radio; assisting local filmmakers; and supporting local social activism.

Most recently, I’ve been involved with Against The Grain – a local Reading-based charity that trains vulnerable and underprivileged kids in upholstery and upcycling skills so they can transform unwanted furniture and donated supplies into fabulous new pieces to sell in a shop in Broad Street Mall. As well as creative skills, the young people involved also learn business skills like marketing, sales, handling money and interacting with members of the public, often going on to study for apprenticeships or gain employment within the craft industry. Against The Grain aim to get all their young people into formal employment or training by the end of an 18-month programme, so it can make an incredible difference to a young person’s life.

Sarah, who heads up Against The Grain, was delighted to have me on board to help out both with the upcycling of furniture (and motivating the young people!) and also with the shop and marketing activities.

Earlier in November, I was pleased to have the opportunity to help out with some chalk painting of donated furniture, led by a local enthusiast. We used Annie Sloan chalk paints and wax. The chalk paints come in a range of really vibrant colours, and I was thrilled to be giving a new lease of life to previously tired-looking children’s chairs!

The children’s chair – ready to be painted! / Photo: JELOUdesigns

The chalk paints are super easy to use – as you don’t need to prepare the furniture before applying, there’s no messy sanding or elbow grease required! After giving the paint a good stir, and thinning slightly with water if needed, you can simply daub on using a regular paintbrush. Annie Sloan chalk paints are water soluble so any accidental drips can easily be cleaned up and washed out of clothing.

Painting in progress… / Photo: JELOUdesigns

I chose a vivid teal-blue for my first children’s chair as it was such a beautiful shade that would look great in any little girl’s or boy’s room. My top tip is to start with the bottom and legs first! Once finished, this means you can then flip the chair over to paint the top parts without having to touch it again. It sounds obvious when you say it, but when you have a brush in one hand and a tin of paint in the other it’s very tempting just to start painting without really thinking about what you’re doing!

I would recommend at least two coats of paint for the paler colours like pastel yellow and orange as they don’t have as strong a coverage as the darker shades. With larger paintbrushes you also do find a few brushstrokes visible, but I find that this adds to the effect and makes it obvious they are hand-painted!

When completely dry (this can take a couple of hours), it’s time to wax! Clear wax is best to really bring out the colour of the paints, however other types are also available if you want a different finish. It’s simply a case of painting wax all over the furniture and then buffing with a piece of scrap cloth to get a lovely shine.

I painted two chairs – one in blue and one orange. You can also see some of the beautiful lab stools previously painted and waxed ready for sale! / Photo: JELOUdesigns

I can’t wait to paint with these chalk paints again, so I’ve got my thinking cap on for some home DIYs I can do – I’m thinking festive plant pots or clothes peg holders!

Have you used chalk paints before? I’d love to hear about your projects!

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