26 December 2015

The Annie Sloan Family

For me, and for many of us, the holidays are all about family: spending time together, squabbles and all! So I wanted to talk a little about my ‘other’ families. My company, Annie Sloan Interiors, is a family business in every sense of the word. I’m thrilled each day to be working with my lovely son, Felix and his wonderful partner, Lizzy. And, of course, my husband David is the lynchpin holding us all together. But, it’s not just my actual family members that make HQ a family – it is all the fabulous people that work here.

And I’m lucky – I have more ‘families’ – nearly 1,500 Annie Sloan Stockists and, of course, you! Over the years, since I first started with my own small shop here in Oxford I’ve made some tremendous friends – people who’ve popped in for a browse, or with a question, and who are still popping in all these years later. In fact, some of them even work with me now, either here at HQ or as shop-owners themselves!

Every few weeks I run training sessions here for my Stockists, which gives me the chance to spend time with each of them in person – the world over. They come here to brush up on their techniques – and for lots of chatting, questions and laughter! I always start by stressing that I’m in exactly the same business as them – I run a small shop and it was my whole world. I want to get to know each and every Annie Sloan Stockist, to help and support them, and to encourage them to help and support each other – it’s so important, and we all need help at different times – I’m no exception!!

Each of my Stockists is fully trained in my techniques – I strip it right back to the basics: from how to hold a brush (near the head, with a firm grip) and apply paint (wide, irregular strokes of the brush using your whole arm, not just the wrist!) to some easy but impressive tricks (try applying heat from a hairdryer to make cracks on the surface of your – liberally applied – paint to add interest and age to a new piece). This means all Annie Sloan customers are getting the exact same level of expert advice from their local shops – despite our different design styles, we’re all the same. That’s what makes it all so fun, and always so exciting.

My own taste may lean towards a fusion of neo-classical (architectural, masculine forms and lots of symmetry) mixed up with Boho (seven years at Art School make this arty, slightly surreal clash of colours, patterns and cultures endlessly appealing to me) and a dash of Folk (Eastern European use of pattern and colour), but my paints can just as easily create light, classical Swedish interiors, distress haughtily glamourous Rococo boudoirs or to produce Modern Retro-style bold, flat blocks of colour.

So, embrace the differences, and whatever you’re doing over the Christmas break, and whether it’s with your ‘real’ family, or your chosen family, have a wonderful one!

Lots of love,

23 December 2015

The 12 Crafts of Christmas - No.12: The Garland

....and here it is, the 12th of my 12 Crafts of Christmas – a really cool garland for your fireplace (or wherever else you'd like to hang it) made from bay leaves!

My son Felix and his partner Lizzy made this garland last year and updated it this year with some fresh green leaves. They picked the leaves from the bay tree in their garden and, using my paint, Chalk Paint®, they painted the tips of some leaves and adorned others in polka dots. They chose a range of colours for variety, including Arles, Scandinavian Pink, Old Violet and Old White.

This is a decoration that can stay up all year round, and looks fantastic as the leaves dry out over time, and become paler in colour. I just love its simplicity!

I hope you've enjoyed following my 12 crafts, and have had fun joining in – don't forget to share your  own projects with me by tagging me on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, or in the comments below.

I'd like to wish you all a wonderful Christmas and a happy and healthy 2016!

Yours, Annie

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The 12 Crafts of Christmas - No.11: Napkin Name Tags

With the big day fast approaching, I'm sharing another quick and easy project for you to add some colour and personality to your Christmas table!

These name tags are made from air drying clay, which can be found at most craft shops. Simply roll out the clay to create your shapes, and then, using letter stamps (which I again picked up at a craft shop), stamp the names of your dinner guests in to the clay. The following day the clay was dry, and I could begin painting with my paint, Chalk Paint®! I played around with colours and techniques on the tags, but found that a palette of Duck Egg Blue, Aubusson BlueFlorence, and an accent of Emperor's Silk worked beautifully with my Swedish-look table. I finished the tags with my Clear Soft Wax to emphasise the colours and textures.

Keep your eyes peeled tomorrow, for the last of my #12CraftsofChristmas, and don't forget to share your own projects with me!

Yours, Annie

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22 December 2015

The 12 Crafts of Christmas - No.10: Logs on the Fire

For the tenth of my 12 Crafts of Christmas I'm sharing another really quick and easy project for your homes this festive season. My son Felix used my paint, Chalk Paint® to inject colour and fun in to his fireplace, by painting the ends of firewood logs. He chose this palette of blues and greens, with an accent of Arles, as it works beautifully against the Aubusson Blue walls.

Yours, Annie

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21 December 2015

The 12 Crafts of Christmas - No.9: The Gift Wrap

For the ninth of my 12 Crafts of Christmas, I'm providing you with inspiration for your gift wrapping. This is such a quick and easy way to personalise a present, and it's something the whole family can do. Simply choose your favourite stencil from my Stencil Collection, and one or two colours from the Chalk Paint® palette. Holly who works with me at Annie Sloan HQ created one design using Old White and my Tallulah Stencil on brown Kraft paper, and another with Emperor's Silk and my Bell Flowers stencil.

For that extra special touch dye some cotton tape with Chalk Paint® and add a pattern using a complementary colour. I love using my Circles, Sand Dollar and Valeska Stencils to create borders!

Yours, Annie

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19 December 2015

The 12 Crafts of Christmas - No.8: The Wreath

As time for making this years Christmas crafts is running out, I'm sharing a quick project for my eighth Craft of Christmas! This pinecone wreath is really easy to make – simply paint the edges of the cones in your favourite colours from the Chalk Paint® palette. I've used bright, contemporary colours, but any will work. Another brilliant thing about this project is that you only need the tiniest amount of paint – so one of my small project pots is more than enough!

Are you using my paint this weekend? Remember to share your projects with me.

Yours, Annie

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18 December 2015

The 12 Crafts of Christmas - No.7: Papier-mâché Lettering

For the seventh of my 12 Crafts of Christmas, I'm sharing these letters that have been made from papier-mâché and finished with my paint, Chalk Paint®, Copper Leaf and Dark Wax. These were made by Amy who works with me at Annie Sloan HQ. Amy studied Fine Art and used a lot of typography in her work, so this was the perfect project for her!

Amy started by printing her letters off, and then cut 2 of each letter out of cardboard. She then rolled up strips of cardboard, about an inch wide, to create spacers to sit between each letter cut-out, and attached them using masking tape. (See picture below.)

Using strips of newspaper, Amy covered the letters in newspaper, gluing the paper down with my Decoupage Glue and Varnish. This worked brilliantly as the glue really hardens the newspaper and makes a good surface to work on later. It also dries very quickly, which means you can begin painting the same day!

Using Florence from the Chalk Paint® palette, Amy painted the letters using one of my Pure Bristle Brushes to create lots of texture. Once dry, she painted the top surface with Gold Size, allowed the size to dry for 10-15mins and then applied Copper Leaf which she has crumpled in her hands. She finished by applying Clear Wax to the letters, and then worked Dark Wax in to bring out the texture and create an aged look.

Have you been using any of my paint or products this Christmas? I'd love to see your projects!

Yours, Annie

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17 December 2015

The Annie Sloan Fragrance Collection

I am unrepentant about the festive focus this blog has taken in the past few weeks! I love, love, love this season, and all its associated indulgence and frippery. My 12 Crafts of Christmas Campaign is – I hope! – inspiring you to make and create some wonderful adornments for your home, or even some really personal Christmas gifts.

And, on the subject of gifts, I thought this would be a good week - with 8 days to go until The Big Day - to talk about my Home Fragrance Collection: six delicious scents for your home, inspired by some of my very favourite places in France. Do forgive the plug, but they make such beautiful gifts for anyone, whether they are familiar with my products or not. Or use them to fill your own homes with fragrance - from the subtle aroma gently dispensed by my Reed Diffusers, to gorgeous scented candlelight flickering as guests arrive - always so welcoming!

My Fragrance collection was launched back in 2014 and I see it very much as a complement to my other products – accessories, even! I’ve spoken before about the inspiration behind each scent in the range: the lush green grassy notes in Antibes; timeless, leather-bound, woody Aubusson; rich, dry, slightly citrusy yet vanilla-sweet Burgundy; Provence – synonymous with sun-soaked lavender fields and balanced here with the spicy tones of amber and ginger; elegant Versailles with its soft, sophisticated heart of honeysuckle and jasmine; and, of course, Paris itself – translated by me into a luscious Damask rose-heavy bouquet, tempered with soft, powdery iris and a hint of sharp geranium. Each transports me to a different mood, a time, a place. Of course, each can be matched to a colour in the Chalk Paint® range but when you use them in your home, you’ll see they’re so much more than that – scent is so evocative, it is the silent scene setter and the finishing touch to any home!

I also want to say that it was really, really important to me when I created the range that the ingredients used should be organic - that was a no-brainer. The whole range was produced in England, and all materials used traceable to source. I make no claims to being a parfumeur – a venerable profession – but I really have worked on every aspect of this Collection – even down to my own personal take on toile de jouy, the print used to decorate the boxes.

Yours, Annie

16 December 2015

Tim Gould's "WOW" Side table

The third project from my fantastic Painter in Residence, Tim Gould, is this mid-century side table, painted with my paint, Chalk Paint® to create a geometric pattern that spells out the word "wow".

Tim started by painting the side table in Pure – a cool clean white from the Chalk Paint® palette – that creates a crisp contrast with bright colours. As the paint dried, Tim worked on his amazingly fun stencilled detail. The pattern for the piece was created in Adobe Illustrator, and is made up of individual stencils which piece together to create an overall image.

Using his stencils, Tim began to paint the triangle shapes in. He started at the right end of the sideboard, using my colours Henrietta and Florence to work from right to left, along the front of the sideboard. He added a little Pure to each colour as he worked to create a gradient – going from dark to light, right to left.

Tim sealed his masterpiece with my Clear Soft Wax, and then, to give the paintwork character and texture, he lightly sanded the painted triangles back to reveal a little of the Pure below. One last coat of wax to seal et voila!

Yours, Annie

Follow Tim on InstagramFacebook, and his website: http://www.objectables.co.uk/

And remember to follow #PaintersInResidence on Instagram and Facebook, as well as my Painters in Residence board on Pinterest.

15 December 2015

The 12 Crafts of Christmas - No.6: The Homemade Gift

For the sixth of my 12 Crafts of Christmas I used my paint, Chalk Paint®, to dye wool which I then used to knit a scarf! I've been longing to try dyeing wool for some time – after a lot of experimentation with dyeing all types of fabric with Chalk Paint®.

I found a gorgeous super chunky yarn made from a blend of merino wool and baby alpaca, which took the dye mix wonderfully. I knew that the exact colour that I was looking for could be achieved by mixing Florence with a little Aubusson Blue, so I poured the colour mix into an old tub, and added water – using a ratio of roughly 1 part paint to 15 parts water. (This is a fairly strong solution, as I was looking for an intense colour).

Next I unwound the skein of wool, submerging it into the dye mix as I went along. It's important to keep the strands separate at this stage, to avoid them becoming knotted and tangled up. Once the whole skein had soaked I left the wool to dry on a clotheshorse next to a radiator.

The following day, I sat down with my knitting needles and got stuck in to knitting my scarf. I love the result, and think I may just have to keep this one for myself!

What do you think? Please keep sharing photographs of your Annie Sloan-inspired Christmas painting projects with me.

Yours, Annie

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14 December 2015

The 12 Crafts of Christmas - No.5: The Stocking

Today, for the fifth of my 12 Crafts of Christmas, I'm sharing this super easy sewing project with you! Rudi who works in the fabric department at Annie Sloan HQ made these adorable Christmas stockings to hang along the fireplace.

Using fabrics from the Annie Sloan Fabric Collection and a simple template (see below, and please note the 1cm seam allowance), Rudi cut out 2 pieces of fabric that would make the front and back of the Stocking and sewed along the top straight edge to create a neat hemmed edge. She then laid both pieces on top of one another –so that the right sides were facing – and pinned them together.

Earlier in the day, we had dyed some cotton web tape, using my paint Chalk Paint® as a dye (take a look at my earlier blog post to find out how to dye fabric with Chalk Paint®). Rudi cut the tape to 12cm lengths and pinned these in to the top inside seam, to create a loop. She then wizzed the sewing machine along the side and bottom edges, leaving the top open and turned the fabric inside out, so the right-sides faced out – and there you have it!

You can also add a sweet detail by adding a heel in an alternative fabric. Rudi dyed Pure Linen with the same Chalk Paint® dye that she had used on the cotton tape and added this to some of the Stockings that were made from some of the simpler patterned fabrics (such as Pinstripe Mattress Ticking or Gentleman). See the templates above for this.

I hope you're playing along with my #12CraftsOfChristmas and having fun! Don't forgot to share pictures of your projects with me!

Yours, Annie

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10 December 2015

The 12 Crafts of Christmas - No.4: The tree decorations

Earlier this week I wrote about the beautiful linen table runner and napkins I created using my paint and my Stencils at Kirstie Allsop's Handmade Christmas Fair and this week I’m going to share another project I worked on at the Fair – Christmas decorations!

The kind team at Art Cuts (a wonderful family-run UK business who make a great range of craft shapes from wood) supplied their beautiful Turtle Dove cut-outs for me to use, and I transformed them using my paint, Chalk Paint®. This is something that it is lovely to do with children if you have crafty kids in your life – although the attention to detail on your design may need to be modified slightly! In fact, this is a really nice thing for the whole family to do together – including all those naysayers who insist that ‘they can’t draw’. All you need is the shapes, Chalk Paint®, a few matchsticks and cotton wool buds!

The technique I use to create the pattern is called 'sgraffito'. The word means ‘to scratch’ in Italian, and that’s exactly how it works – the pattern is ‘scratched’ into wet paint. It’s a technique which is often thought of in relation to ceramics (I’ve written before about how much I love the way in which Grayson Perry uses it), but I’ve been playing around with it for a long time – since I used it to create my logo! – and I love using it with Chalk Paint®.

For the decorations, I started by applying an all-over base colour of Old White, using a wet rag which creates a stain. I chose this technique as I only had 1 hour to complete the whole project, so I needed to make sure the paint would dry quickly! Once dry, I painted the doves in Emperor's Silk – do one of these at a time, rather than thinking of doing each stage by turn, as the paint needs to be wet for the effect to work. Using a matchstick, firmly ‘scratch’ in designs to reveal the white stain underneath (or, of course, whatever colour you have chosen for this). I then used a cotton bud to dot Old White over the surface for a bit of contrast and that folk/boho effect which I was after, but you can make any pattern that works well with your home. Simple often works really well, but please don’t let me stop you creating something as intricate as you like!

For another really cool decoration idea, here's something else I tried out at the Fair!

I invited visitors to my stand to paint a piece of dolls' house furniture which was then hanged on our gorgeous birch Christmas tree. A tremendous way to inject a whole range of colours into Christmas, and isn’t it effective?

Please keep uploading your pictures on Facebook and Instagram – I just love seeing them and follow #12CraftsofChristmas for more Craft ideas in my 12 Crafts of Christmas series.

Yours, Annie

9 December 2015

The 12 Crafts of Christmas – No. 3: Origami Star Decorations

For the third of my 12 Crafts of Christmas, I'm sharing this fantastic origami star project with you. I learned this craft when visiting my Stockist Masashi Ogawa at Decoraeight in Japan earlier this year! I found the whole thing so fascinating that I invited Mr Masashi to run a workshop at the Open Day I held for my Stockists in Oxford in the Summer.

I love how Stockists from all over the world have taken this skill home with them, to share, develop and continue making the shapes and painting them in beautiful and interesting ways – I've seen so many different takes on the project! The image above is from Carte Blanche Upcycled Furniture – Stockists in New Brunswick, Canada. They used Chalk Paint® to create beautiful colour and textures, and once waxed they look just like they've been made from tin – it's really quite incredible!

My Stockists have provided a few ways of displaying and using the stars around the home. Try hanging them from the ceiling (like Cherrybeans), or hang them in the window (like Auberge des Rêves , maybe pop one star on the top of your Christmas tree (like 't Bakhuus, binnen- en buitendecoaratie) or you could even plant a succulent in to the centre, and use the star as a planter (see Farbe Verzaubert's project).


Thinking about trying this project at home? Remember to share your pictures with me!

Yours, Annie

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7 December 2015

The 12 Crafts of Christmas – No. 2: The table linen

For the second of my 12 Crafts of Christmas, I'm sharing a super simple and effective way of creating festive linen for your Christmas table! To make a runner like the one above, all you need is some masking tape, Blu-tak, and of course, some of my paint, Chalk Paint® and fabric. I used my Pure Linen fabric and chose a palette of Burgundy, Scandinavian Pink and Old White – a colour combination inspired by Carl Larsson's very traditional Swedish paintings

I made another table runner with Kirstie Allsopp at the Handmade Christmas Fair in Manchester, UK, a couple of weeks ago. We used Olive-dyed Pure Linen (see this post to find out how to dye fabric with Chalk Paint) and my Antheia stencil (applied using my new Sponge Rollers). This is a no-sew table runner, so really couldn't be simpler. I let the fabric edges of the runner fray a little – I love the rustic effect!

Another really fun and simple project that you could try is painting a napkin for your Christmas table.
For this you can use one of my stencils to create patterns and images on the linen. I particularly like the way that sections of my Bell Flowers stencil can be used and overlapped to create a poinsettia-like image. Experiment with different designs in my range – I think Petrushka or Tallulah could be very festive, too. I edged my napkins using fabric tape which I stencilled in the obligatory red and green (or Olive and Emperor’s Silk!) using my Circles and Bell Flowers stencils. Simply fold the tape over the napkin edge and a basic running stitch using embroidery thread, or even wool will secure it in place. Of course, you could use any pretty fabric scraps you may have to hand for your own finishing touch.

If you already follow me on social media you may know I was in Poland last week. Such a beautiful place, and I just adore the way they use colour. I have to include this example of stencilling on Pure Linen from a workshop I did with Polish bloggers. No, it’s not a traditional Christmas design but wouldn’t it make a lovely present?

Thinking of trying this project out at home? Remember to share your projects with me!

Yours, Annie

4 December 2015

The 12 Crafts of Christmas – No 1: The tree

After my recent weekend at Kirstie Allsopp's Handmade Christmas Fair in Manchester, I am well and truly in the festive spirit! My gift to you comes a little early this year – over the next few weeks I'll be sharing 12 Christmas crafts to inspire you to pick up a paint brush and get crafting over the holidays. When I say 'crafting', I mean 'making' – generally speaking I like crafts to be gutsy and bold!

Today, I'm sharing the first of my 12 crafts of Christmas, and where better to start than the tree?

This tree is really very simple to make and is a perfect option if you don't have much space in your house. You can decorate this tree in just the same way that you would decorate a traditional Christmas tree too – adorn it with fairy lights – like I have, hang decorations from the branches, or wrap the branches in garlands!

And all you need to make one like this is a bunch of dry branches or twigs, rope and your favourite colours from the Chalk Paint® palette!

I began by laying my branches out on the floor to create the shape that I was looking for, once this was decided I cut the branches and rope to size. (When cutting the rope remember to leave an allowance for the knots.)

Using Florence that had been watered down in to a wash I painted the rope and left it to dry by a heater. And then I started to paint the branches using my two colour distress technique, painting each branch in a different base colour; Provence, Versailles, Greek Blue, Old Violet, Duck Egg Blue, Emile and Olive.  Then, once this coat was completely dry, I painted over each branch with Old White.

After an hour or two, once the branches were dry, I applied a coat of my Clear Soft Wax and distressed the paint using a fine grit sandpaper, this reveals area of colour and highlights the gorgeous texture and pattern from the bark of the branches. This worked particularly well for me as I has used branches from a birch tree, which have a beautiful texture.

Using a double figure of 8 knot, I created a loop in the middle of the rope and hung this from a nail in the wall. Working down the rope, I used a clove hitch to secure each branch in place, leaving an even space between the branches. On the last branch I added a form of stopper knot and loosened the strands to create a tassel – where I has applied the paint to the surface of the rope with a brush, the remainder of the rope was left un-dyed, which created a pretty candy-stripe effect.

What do you think of my painted tree?

Yours, Annie