28 February 2014

Scents & Sensibility

Scents make the invisible, visible. They evoke an extra dimension to your mood or personality, and echo and amplify your room surroundings just as strongly as colours and textures impact on your visual sense of space. 

So let me tell you straightaway that my new range of scented candles and reed diffusers smell delicious! The theme for my 6 different fragrances*  is, naturellement, la belle France!

The French have style, n’est-ce pas? I love their fabrics, their brocantes, their bars and their plats de jour. (Did you know in 2011 UNESCO granted world heritage status to French food?)

My new fragrance Collection* has been inspired by the places in France that evoke for me a special atmosphere of their own. And, very neatly, they also linked in with colours in the Chalk Paint® range. 

This well-rounded collection takes you from the floral and feminine to the robust and refreshing, and I’m delighted with the results.

I hope they conjure up for you, as they do for me, the essence of France: from the rural idyll of the rolling French countryside, to the terracotta rooftops and hazy heat of the Côte d’Azur; the rain splashing on ancient cobbled streets, and clear moonlit nights over neon-lit cafés and bistros. . .

Aroma + ambience in the home
An aroma can be a potent memory stirrer: it’s amazing how a particular scent can trigger some reminiscence long-forgotten and take one back to a place – and a time – as if it was just yesterday.

Below is my ‘taster’ of the ambience and atmosphere that influenced each of my French-themed fragrances. . . I’ve added some of images that I feel evoke the essence of my collection.
Antibes – At the end of a long, hot day, gentle, warm herb-scented breezes through the pine trees refresh the senses; a feeling of nostalgia is evoked by the scent of flora and freshly cut grass.

Aubusson – Lost in France where delicate tapesties are woven with traditional deep, cool blue colours… hints of rich leather, thyme, and cedar wood, with a faint vanilla note.


Burgundy – As deep and satisfying as a glass of full-bodied red wine, underscored with amber, vanilla and top notes of bergamot, mandarin and lemon.

Paris – neon lights reflected on grey, rain-washed cobbles – a gentle, sophisticated scent reminiscent of the city’s casual elegance. . . a full floral bouquet of Damask rose with hints of iris and geranium.

Provence – endless fields of soothing lavender with the added picante of geranium, ginger and amber undertones.

Versailles – the sophistication and elegance of La Notre’s formal gardens. Fresh floral scents of honeysuckle and jasmine released after rainfall give balm to the senses as dusk draws in. 

‘Toile de jouy’ designs with a twist
The fragrances come in their own specially designed packaging, which gives a nod to traditional French ‘toile de Jouy’ fabric. Typically depicting quaint pastoral scenes, I've even got a few 'toile de Jouy' fabrics in my own Fabric Collection. 

For my Fragrance Collection, we've taken this centuries-old textile tradition and given it a modern twist – I absolutely love it.

Do go out and sample the scents – and don’t forget, an elegant or flowery fragrance says as much about your home-making as the colours and finishes of your Chalk Paint® furniture and walls.

*The Annie Sloan Fragrance Collection is available via my stockists across Europe now and coming to North America in the Spring.

Yours, Annie

19 February 2014

Bookmarks (1)

For those of you who’ve just discovered my paint, Chalk Paint®, and think I might be new on the decorative painting scene (well, there might be some!), let me rekindle the book that really launched me all the way back in 1988.

It’s not the finish, it’s the start that counts
But first a bit of background. . . After studying for a degree and a Masters at art collegeI moved to a small village in Oxfordshire with a young family, getting commissions from clients to paint murals and other finishes, and running courses and workshops. I learnt on the job, got my hands dirty and experimented with all sorts of weird and wonderful decorative techniques then in vogue – blocking, sponging, ragging, stippling, colourwashing, dragging, combing, flogging, spattering, marbling, tortoiseshellling, woodgraining, gilding, stencilling, and sgrafitto, to name a few. . . 

I relied on my art training, my passion for colour, my unceasing enthusiasm to experiment with different pigments and finishes, and a lot of trial and error. Having extensively researched the history and application of decorative painting, I realised that for such a wide subject there were very few accessible books around. That changed, as did my fledgling career, when I sat down to write The Complete Book of Decorative Paint Techniques.

This is me being presented to my new readership for the first time inside The Complete Book of Decorative Paint Techniques. I was still learning my trade. 

No flash in the pan
This exhaustive (and exhausting) title was my first published book, back in 1988. I’m pleased to say the result were well worth it: The Complete Book of Decorative Paint Techniques sold in the hundreds and thousands, was translated into 13 languages, and it really launched 'Annie Sloan'. 

Looking back on it now, I am still amazed at how comprehensive it was. I especially like the colour inspirations with the strong blues (see page extract below), reds, and greens etc.. These show how my background in colour – and hence part of this blog’s title – goes back such a long way. I also loved putting the objects and materials together to be shot – creating these montages for inspiration – long before the days of Photoshop!

My co-author, Kate Gwynn, had a design and print background and went to the London College of Printing. She understood how you put a book together – not just the visuals but the presentation of written material and information with images. At the time, it was very new to me. This is Kate (below) in the book.
Kate and I lived in the same Oxfordshire village and her husband Stanley Smith was a painter at the Royal College of Art. He knew that Mobius – a newly set up book packager (production company) at the RCA – were looking to produce a new title. So that’s how the whole thing started (you can see Mobius’s input on the imprint page below).

Many of the interiors shown in the book were mine, such as this kitchen scene (below). We begged and borrowed all the other house settings. 

In pages like these and below I can see both my apprenticeship on show, but also something of the direction I was to take – and a bit of my personality starting to come through.

We did the book using oil paint, because that’s traditionally the paint everybody used. Back then I thought it was the only way I could get that translucency. It may look a bit dated now  and fashions change  but I’m still tremendously proud of it. 
The ‘Blocking’ section (below), for example, is really ‘me’ and very jolly and done with artists' water based paint acrylic paints. 

As is this tree print project (below) for the kids’ playroom, and yes I did use real pears and swedes.

Colour all the way
One innovative feature we added to this book was the use of colourways at the edge of every right hand page in the ‘Basic Finishes’ section. Here’s an example using Dragging. . . 
This helped us get over people’s common objections to a particular technique based on colour i.e. “I don’t like that because it’s in yellow”. By showing a finish in other colours we could overcome those barriers. 

My back pages
Researching and writing The Complete Book of Decorative Paint Techniques and its success meant a sequel was needed (which I’ll post about soon). It also spurred me on to develop my own paints as I became more and more absorbed by what paint is and how it works. 

So looking back over a quarter of a century of apprenticeship, application and experimentation (when many of my stockists hadn’t even been born!) you can see that Annie Sloan and Chalk Paint® come with a history, a heritage.

Chalk Paint® can applied to so many techniques – its versatility is the name of the game – and it’s as versatile as my approach to painting. With Chalk Paint® you'll find my whole history of mixing and colour mixing . . . in a pot. 

Yours, Annie

2 February 2014

The eye-catchy colours and lines of Paul Klee (2)

As promised here is another piece inspired by that clever colourist whose Tate Modern, London, retrospective ‘Making Visible’ I visited last year (it runs till 9th March 2014).

I love Paul Klee’s explorative understanding of colour and on seeing Greeting and Separation in the Evening (above) I just thought “wouldn’t these translate into a lovely chest of drawers?” 

Greetings from Berlin
These quite tiny watercolour studies (both done in 1922 and for his students) explore how complementary colours work together (Klee was a great teacher at the Bauhaus).

I was really struck by Greeting (above) in which Klee paints shutter-like bands of gradated colour across a page while differently coloured arrows flow up and down to meet (and greet?). As an exercise in using complementary colours, what I found interesting was the way in which he starts with orange at the bottom and ends with gluey-grey at the top. In between there is no colour, just white. 

I tried the same approach in my studio using Barcelona Orange and Greek Blue from the Chalk Paint® range. I mixed the two complementary colours together, creating a similar effect to Klee's painting but with a dark greyish colour in the centre drawer. I was fortunate to find a chest which has no gaps in the drawers, which really helped create the effect of stripes of colour.

Get it on your Chest
1. I started on the bottom drawer with Chalk Paint® in Greek Blue, and then I mixed some Barcelona Orange until I thought “that’s a nice colour” and painted it on.
2. On the next shelf up I added a little bit more Barcelona Orange, mixed it in again until I thought “yes, that’s another nice colour’.
3. I continued upwards, drawer by drawer, each time adding a bit more Barcelona Orange to make quite gradual colour gradations (on drawers 1-4).
4. I then made a big jump to drawers 5 and 6 as I wanted to end up with pure Barcelona Orange.

I really like the overall effect, even if the gradations are a bit “jumpy” at the top. Actually that might be its charm because it is not so studied or predictably “colour coded”. (Otherwise, I would have needed a massively tall piece of furniture!). And all I needed was just two pots of paint!

The modernist furniture piece was a great canvas to work on too: I painted a graphite line around it and the little brass handles are a lovely touch – a bit like a 1950’s military coat (think Sgt. Pepper's). The overall effect is very pleasing and you see the magic of complementary colours at work!

Hope you think so too.

Yours, Annie