Photo: Penny Millar
As an artist and design enthusiast I have dabbled in quite a number of different materials and paint over the years. I've tried countless brands and subsequent designs, however I have yet to find any paint that is capable not only of the range of projects that Chalk Paint® Decorative Paint by Annie Sloan can cover but also the durability and quality of the product. For those that don't know, Chalk Paint® was developed in 1990 by Annie Sloan, a woman now considered the leading expert in not only paint and color but also painting techniques for decorative and design projects. Her products are fantastic and are used by myself, my friends, my family and countless Designers, Artists and Crafters alike. Chalk Paint® is celebrating 25 years of decorative excellence this year, so what better time to explore its endless possibilities than now?
Chalk Paint® is a unique formula with astounding range and capabilities. It is not chalkboard paint, and it is not a paint that merely has elements of chalk added to its makeup. It is Annie Sloan's own design created after years as a painter and artist, observing what was needed but lacking in the field. Per the company's PRESS INFORMATION,
"Annie trained as a fine artist and turned to decorative work after university in the mid 1970’s, while painting murals in houses as commissions. By 1987 Annie had written the phenomenally successful book, 'The Complete Book of Decorative Paint Techniques,' considered to be the industry bible on the subject. Unable to find the style of paint she wanted to work with, Annie used her knowledge of color, paint, pigments and art history to invent Chalk Paint® in 1990."
Chalk Paint® has a zero-VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) formula custom-made by Annie and can be used on just about any surface without the need for priming. The paint has no ethylene-glycol or lead and because it is non-toxic projects can also be carried out indoors. The beautiful matte finish creates a wide range of looks with various combinations of the 32 colors and the paint can be watered-down for a wash or used in a thicker (impasto) consistency if left overnight without the lid. Its exceptional versatility makes it a favorite of both designers and novices and its natural derivatives make it friendly for both high-end boutiques and the family home. The possibilities of the aesthetic are very broad and the line also includes unique brushes and waxes to created a deeper, aged look as well as increasing durability. The paint brushes wash out very easily in water, and clean up is a breeze.
Taking all of this in consideration I knew the Chalk Paint® issue would need to involve not only the amazing woman behind this paint but also an understanding of how to use the product to its full capabilities. And so I'm thrilled to say that not only did the lovely Annie Sloan take time out of her busy schedule to talk to Design Spaces, but so did a wonderful carrier of the product, Paint Rust & Pixie Dust! Please read on as our burning Chalk Paint® questions are answered by the best possible sources!
ANNIE SLOAN: CREATOR AND FOUNDER OF Chalk Paint® Decorative Paint by Annie Sloan
Photo: Christopher Drake
DS: When you were starting out in the design field, what were you noticing around you in terms of style and paint that led you to think "I can make something more than this, and it will have X, Y and Z"? In other words, what was it you felt yourself and other designers and consumers needed that wasn't quite there yet? What was the catalyst?
AS: There were a number of catalysts, one was that the women I was working with – either designing the interior of their homes or teaching them in a paint class – knew a lot about colour but were struggling to find the right colours in paint. This was partly because there was too much choice and partly because you couldn’t mix colours terribly well. The options on the market lacked sophistication, which led me to think about developing something new.
DS: What were initial trials like while making the paint? It's incredibly versatile, and one would imagine that process of getting a formula right must have taken some time. Can you discuss how the goals of what you wanted out of the medium played a role in the process of creating that product?
AS: Because I was a painter it was very important that the paint would do all the things I wanted it to do. I was very keen to make sure it was water-based which gave the same qualities as artists’ watercolor paints. Being able to change the consistency of the paint was also essential. The whole process was very much a matter of playing and experimenting. The paint was originally made and developed in Belgium so there was a lot of back and forth; it took about 6 months in total. They were very understanding of what I wanted which made them so easy to work with.
"Because I was a painter, it was very important that the paint would do all the things I wanted it to do."
Photo: Harriet Matthews
DS: As a consumer and also a design enthusiast, it's a huge deal to me that you have created a product that is so multifaceted. Today it seems as if products are designed to intentionally stop working after a given time or to only cover so much ground because it forces a customer to buy more, or to buy a newer version. But your Chalk Paint® seems to me to harken back to a time when products were made to last. It seems to be the example that when you create a complete, quality product it sustains itself and establishes a kind of trust with the consumer and that trust keeps them coming back. Can you speak to the decision to make a product that would be a lot of things for a lot of materials, as opposed to making a line of different products that could each function in a different way? In other words, Chalk Paint® works on so many surfaces and it really lasts. Many products work for only a small amount of things and then konk out. Why was it so important to get a singular formula as opposed to several different ones for different materials?
AS: It definitely stems from my background, I went to art school and trained to become a painter not a paint manufacturer, scientist or a businessperson – this didn’t mean I didn’t have an eye for business but I feel we shouldn’t be categorized. Originally I made the paint for me as there was a gap in the market, but I felt very strongly that paint should be for everyone and for all sorts of things.
Photo: Penny Millar
DS: The company has a wonderful contest going on right now that encourages creativity with Chalk Paint®. What I think is great again about the product that enables that kind of creativity is that it can be used with just about anything. If you can, could you tell me what your favorite (or a few favorite) project is that you've made with Chalk Paint®? Or to this day one that stands out as a really great use of the medium that was just really unique?
AS: I do often think about a very nice carpet I made, unfortunately one of my boys was carrying some paint and tripped up spilling paint all over it. It couldn’t be cleaned and therefore ended up in the bin. I painted it Aubusson and used a stencil on it- it features in one of my early books. No one seemed to love it as much as me, maybe that’s what made it unique. I also had a small candlestick that was in my shop I had overprinted small circles from ring folders in Barcelona Orange and Napoleonic Blue. I really liked it, but one day a friend of mine was helping me in my shop and she accidently sold it. I have painted so many things over the years but that is something I still miss.
"I felt very strongly that paint should be for everyone and for all sorts of things."
DS: What advice do you have for creatives starting out in the field who think they would like to pursue a product or line they believe in, but aren’t sure the best venue to take with it?
AS: People always say things like “never give up” and “follow your dream”. Yes, this is true but you have to balance the present with the future. My husband taught me this, at the end of the day it has to be financially viable which can sometimes make it difficult.
Now that we've gotten an opportunity to speak with Annie Sloan about the need for this paint and how it came to be, where exactly can you as customer find it? That fact is also quite interesting.
Currently there are 1200 unique stores in the UK, United States, Ireland, Canada, Europe, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Japan, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates carrying Chalk Paint®. The United States and Canada have over 500 stores on the list, all of which are independent and selected by Annie Sloan for their special look at style. This is done to maintain the personal and individual level of service that is part of the Chalk Paint® experience. It's imperative that you leave the store knowing all the capabilities of your new paint. In fact, Annie has refused all offers from larger chains to carry her product for this precise reason.
In addition to knowing who is carrying the paint and how, Annie and her teach train every Chalk Paint® "Stockist," making sure they know how to use the paint for not only themselves but how then to teach those techniques to customers. These Stockists then are able to hold workshops, usually within the stores themselves, to teach those new to Chalk Paint® the ins and outs as well as wonderful painting techniques. These include distressing, gilding, crackle glazing, decoupage, stencilling and working with fabrics. One such Stockist is the wonderful Paint Rust & Pixie Dust.
PAINT RUST & PIXIE DUST
Photo: Paint Rust & Pixie Dust
Paint Rust & Pixie Dust is a beautiful store located in North Easton, Massachusetts that carries a variety of items to fill the home or "Fluff the Nest" (as mentioned on the store's WEBSITE) and specializes in "Distinctive Vintage Nostalgia". Inside one will find a wide range of decorative items as well as furniture, hand-painted in what falls under the "FRENCH COUNTRY FARMHOUSE AND COZY COTTAGE DECOR" style.
In addition Paint Rust & Pixie Dust also carries a large line of Annie Sloan's Chalk Paint® products and does custom paint projects for customers as well. The store hosts wonderful WORKSHOPS available to the novice or the painter looking perhaps for a fresh approach to a project. We had the opportunity to talk with the store's owner and certified Chalk Paint® instructor Michelle Bramwell about what exactly is so special about being a carrier of this paint, and what that means for you as a design enthusiast and consumer!
DS: Please tell us a little bit about your great store! There seemed to be a lot of different items and options for workshop classes. Can you speak to the store's evolution and its identity and goals for customers?
MB: We feature hand-painted furniture, home decor & design, up-cycled & recycled unique finds, one of a kind artisans, handmade treasures, and dazzling gifts. I want to have a place where people can get creative, and have fun "fluffing their nests". It's also very important to me to have a place where one can find "the perfect gift". Having a mix of old, very old, and new makes it easier to choose. This isn't stuff you'll find at the mall. We travel all over, looking for vintage and antique accents. One of my favorite finds has been a pink baby scale- it's beautiful! Oh, and this absolutely gorgeous tall lingerie chest of drawers. It had all the original hardware: copper-colored curvy pulls; I really wanted to keep it for myself. That's the hard part of letting go of all these great finds- I always try to justify why I NEED it. But seriously, it makes me so happy when a customer falls in love with something and can't wait to take it home. I get photos all the time from customers with their new treasure in its new home.
"Everyone that sells Annie's paint uses her paint- something you would never get from a big box store. It makes the customer's experience more personal."
Paint Rust & Pixie Dust
The different color variations of Chalk Paint® are visible via these adorable salt and pepper shakers seated near the paint display.
DS: It seems that being a carrier of Chalk Paint is a very distinct right as a store, and there are certain rules and qualifications to have that brand present and maintained. Can you speak to the decision to carry Ms. Sloan's products in Paint Rust & Pixie Dust and a bit about what that process entailed?
MB: I started painting with Chalk Paint® Decorative Paint by Annie Sloan about five years ago. My sister from California sent me a can of Annie's paint, and a tin of her clear wax. My first project was an antique bookcase that was my Nana's. It was scratched and the wood was just so dark, it just didn't fit with my decor. I began painting and I was immediately hooked. I didn't have to strip, sand, or prime the bookcase prior to painting. I dipped my brush into the creamy paint and it just glided on. At the same time, my sister had a store in Northern California. They were selling the paint, painting furniture with the paint, and teaching classes on how to paint with the paint. I was working a job that I did not like- trapped in a cubicle-when my sister suggested I come out to stay with her for awhile. The shop was getting busier and busier everyday and they really needed the help, plus, maybe I might find a new career.
I packed up my things and headed west. I learned everything Chalk Paint® and Annie Sloan. I learned to paint like Annie, and then find my own little special touches and techniques (which she INSISTS we all do). After a year of working, training, and learning, I decided I wanted to move back to Massachusetts and open my own store.
It was very important to me to continue painting with "The Best Paint in the World" (that phrase is painted on Annie's little shop in England). I filled out all the forms, sent in photos of pieces that I had painted, and met with the owner of the paint distributor in New Orleans. They all loved the name I picked for the store, its location, and my style. Annie Sloan insists that only small businesses sell her paint, wax, and supplies. She wants customers to have personal, one-on-one service when they are buying her paint. Everyone that sells Annie's paint uses her paint- something you would never get from a big box store. It makes the customer's experience more personal, I have customers send me before and after photos all the time. They are so proud they could do their project on their own.
DS: I know that there are a lot of people that are trying to make knock offs of Chalk Paint®, and failing. But a lot of consumers don't always know the difference and how important the ingredients in Chalk Paint® are to ensuring that it does all of the things it's supposed to do- ie being able to be applied on different materials, being able to be thinned out or thickened for different projects, being able to be layered and bleed through upper coats etc. Can you let us know as purchasers of the product, when we walk into a store what should we specifically look for or know to ask a retailer to make sure that someone telling us they're selling Chalk Paint® is the real deal?
MB: Unfortunately, the misconception about Chalk Paint® Decorative Paint by Annie Sloan is that it's just regular paint with chalk or plaster of Paris added to it. That couldn't be farther from the truth. Chalk Paint® by Annie Sloan is a water based paint, with no plastic or latex in it at all. It adheres to most surfaces without any special prepping. Annie uses natural pigments and minerals to color her paint, it has little or no VOC's (volatile organic compounds), and no smell. We paint indoors almost exclusively because there are no paint fumes like you would have with latex or acrylic paints. Annie named her paint "Chalk Paint®" because when it dries, the paint has a velvety, chalky feel to it. Her name is on every can, and to identify a true, certified, trained, Chalk Paint® Stockist, just look for this symbol:
DS: Could you tell us a bit about your workshops? What do they help a customer learn, and what are some of your favorite techniques/ideas to tell people who are new to the medium?
MB: In my workshops I teach Annie's philosophy on painting with her paint. I then demonstrate four different painting techniques, plus wax application to seal the paint. I provide all the supplies needed, and customers can take home their sample boards that they work on. We hold the workshops right here at the shop, and during the break I walk the class around the shop pointing out the different pieces that were done by me or one of the other gals in the shop. I would have to say that teaching students the "Smooth" technique is my favorite. Annie's paint is a very thick, textured paint, but a lot of times my customers and I want a smoother finish. It's so easy to do, and when I show them how to do it they are amazed at how versatile and effortless Chalk Paint® by Annie Sloan can be. The students also love that I share my tricks and shortcuts I've learned over the years- I love to share my "secrets"!
In addition to Annie's paint, Paint Rust & Pixie Dust also carries The Annie Sloan Fragrance Collection as well as The Annie Sloan Stencil Collection, which just launched in April of this past year.
The fragrance Collection consists of 6 different and unique scents that come in a candle or reed diffuser. The scents are each designed to harmonize with the Chalk Paint® palette, inspired by historic French locations, and manufactured in England.
The Annie Sloan Stencil Collection is comprised of 21 stencils, including elements from nature, strong abstract designs. The stencils can be used on walls and floors as well as furniture and are available in two sizes. The stencils reflect a wide range of styles including Coastal, Rustic Country, French Elegance, Warehouse, Neoclassical, Bohemian, Traditional Swedish, Vintage Floral and Modern Retro. Information courtesy of WWW.ANNIESLOAN.COM
Featured in the wide range of Annie Sloan products Paint Rust & Pixie Dust carry are many of her best selling books. Per the ANNIE SLOAN WEBSITE Annie has written more than 20 best-selling books with over two millions sold world-wide and printed in eleven languages. Recent titles published by Cico Books include: Annie Sloan’s Room Recipes for Style and Color (2014), Color Recipes for Painted Furniture and More (2013), Quick & Easy Paint Transformations (2010), and Creating the French Look (2008). Design Spaces is also super excited to let you know about the very special release of Annie's 25th book, coinciding perfectly with the 25th anniversary of her paint! In very exciting news, launching on October 15th is Annie Sloan's Chalk Paint® Work Book: A Practical Guide to Mixing Paint and Making Style Choices! The book is designed to be a wonderful creative journal for any and all design inspirations. Soon to be carried by Annie Sloan Stockists to support the customer's creative endeavors, take a look at some of the great features, courtesy of Annie Sloan and Cico Books!
*Six themed chapters- Bohemian and Vintage, Rustic Country, French Elegance, Traditional Swedish, Modern Retro and Warehouse, and Coastal.
*Annie gives you her own personal decorating hints and tips about the colors and elements that make up these key decorating styles.
*Six pocketed card dividers where you can store magazine cuttings, paint charts and more.
*Pages on which you can write notes, stick in images, draw shapes, paint color samples, and experiment with your style.
*A record of your creativity as well as a chance to reflect upon your various projects.
In addition to carrying really wonderful supplementary products and the paint itself, what's fabulous about Paint Rust & Pixie Dust is the way the store is beautifully decorated with furniture featuring different colors and variations of Chalk Paint®. One need only look around to get a host of inspiration, which is always a sign that you're in the right place!
DS (cont'd): Annie Sloan's Chalk Paint® is one of the most versatile products out there for designers and seems to also function not just for crafting but also for serious design projects. Therefore, in many ways it seems to transcend any notions of "elite" separation in the field and runs a spectrum of purposes. It's not just a one-trick pony and is seen in countless spaces. In that regard, do you see a lot of clientele come in with different goals? I can imagine the product reaching a great range of people with different crafting and design ideas, which I'd imagine is wonderful as a store.
MB: One of the biggest trends that has started with Chalk Paint® is that customers and contractors are using Annie's paint to redo their kitchen cabinets. What an amazing difference! And the savings! Can you imagine how excited you would be to repaint your cabinets for about $200, in a matter of days, as opposed to paying $1,000-5,000 to refinish the cabinets, or $10,000-50,000 for an entire cabinet remake?! Not to mention how long the other changes would take. And, because the paint is water based, it "breathes" and is perfect for kitchens and bathrooms. We also use Chalk Paint® on walls, floors, doors, outdoor furniture, fireplace mantles and bricks; you can even dye fabric with Chalk Paint®! This product has a huge range of uses. Plus, because Chalk Paint® has been around for 25 years, the product is tried, true, and tested. We know it stands up to time, use, weather, and so much more. You are correct, it is definitely not just for crafting!
DS: If there was one thing you'd like to let people know about Chalk Paint, misconceptions or otherwise, what would that be?
MB: How amazing this paint is. To not have to strip, sand, or prime your piece-that's a huge time saver. Plus, you can work indoors. I can't even begin to count how many projects I did on my dining room table! One can of Chalk Paint®, one quart, covers about 150 sq feet, or three pieces of furniture. I just get so excited when I think about how much Chalk Paint has changed my life. The ease of use, the gorgeous colors, the fun I have teaching the classes-so great. Oh, and the store has a very open floor plan-no more cubicles for me!
Well, there you have it, folks! For further inspiration please take a look at Annie Sloan's YOUTUBE PAGE and her BLOG! I'm so happy we had the opportunity over here to bring you a closer look into not only what went into the beginnings of Chalk Paint® and its creator, Annie Sloan, but also how it can be used to wonderful effect thanks to the wonderful Michelle Bramwell and everyone at Paint Rust & Pixie Dust. I hope you all enjoyed this post, and Design Spaces would like to send an additional huge thank you to Annie Sloan, Michelle Bramwell, Melissa Riche, Nicole Hart, and Stephan Mock and Sarah Lustberg of UNFOLDED for their wonderful help and information with this issue!
Happy designing until next time!