Thursday, August 22, 2013

Trivets and Coasters

            I remember when we had these stainless steel trivets at home….come to think of it every utensil or decorative item was stainless steel, aluminum, or iron in the kitchen. I think it was because of the affordability, rough use proof, and ease of care; glassware was such a luxury. Anyway, I remember these round concentric ringed raised stainless steel trivets that we used to set hot containers on, in the kitchen and at the dining table.

            Trivets and coasters have come a long way and because of our fascination with them, the vast variety of them available in the market is mind boggling. It is no longer just a thing to hold hot pots, it is a decorative statement in the house. Every imaginable style is available; cow, pig, rooster, or animal themed to fruits and leaves, Christmas and Halloween style to ultra-modern sleek looking ones. And made from wood, plastic, metal, tile, and many other creative materials.

             I think you can probably guess my choice and taste in this too. I love the global market stuff you find at the world import stores but they seem ridiculously expensive. Besides every time I look at them, I think, “I can make those”! I have some beautiful ones that I bought from India but need a few larger ones too. Plus rotating some decor and design elements keeps the room fresh and interesting.

             And so for the longest time I have been wanting to make some stenciled coasters and trivets for use on the coffee table and the dining table. And I have a gazillion other ideas for coasters, hope to make some of them to give as gifts. So this particular set that I made recently are not necessarily to hold very hot stuff but as a surface to set your glasses, plates, or warm dishes.


  • I chose dense good quality plywood for this project. I bought a sheet of plank and sawed it into six 6X6 squares. I sanded the edges with coarse grit sandpaper to gently smooth and round them out. 

  •  I painted the squares with acrylic paint in vivid jewel toned colors and let dry completely.

  • You will need the following supplies for the next step: metallic acrylic paint in brilliant gold, bronze, antique gold, etc. spouncers, and variety of stencils. (spouncer is just a funny word for a basic pouncing brush). 

  • Tape the stencil to the square making sure the stencil lies flat. You can also use a very light spray of temporary spray glue on the back of the stencil to hold in place. A tip to remember is that when storing or safekeeping stencils make sure to lay them between sheets of cardstock kindof paper or a hanging file folder so that the stencil plastic doesn't get bent or warped.

  • Dip the pouncing brush in paint and dab the excess off on a paper towel. You don't want a loaded brush as you will not get clean lines of paint and the paint could also get under the stencil.

  • Using a straight up and down motion, pounce (for lack of a better word) the brush onto the open spaces in the stencil. The paint will be faint and a bit uneven but you can go over those spaces again after a minute or two of drying, again with an almost dry brush. I liked the uneven look as it shows age and gives an antique look. If you like clean lines and even coverage you can use a paintbrush instead of a pouncing brush but again make sure the brush is almost dry.

  • Peel the stencil after the paint is dry. One last step is to attach a square piece of felt to the underside of the coasters. I used hot glue to attach them.  You can also use round rubber discs to serve as grippers. 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Functional Wall Art

              It is well known that according to its strongest supporters, Art is generally for the purpose of providing aesthetic experiences only, while according to the opposite school of followers of architecture and industrial design, Art can be aesthetically functional. As space is becoming premium, people are looking to functionally beautiful pieces rather than just one or the other. This very reasonable way of thinking has gained momentum, and I in my own little way try to achieve a blend of function and form, and aesthetics and practical usability. Of course, I am taking great liberties in using the term ‘Functional Art’ to describe this project.

              As you all have noticed, I have tried to incorporate art into my daily environment in a way beyond traditional paintings and sculpture. But I seem to have limited such functional art to the adult spaces in my home. With this project, I wanted to try something for my daughter’s room, something very simple and child friendly, a functional wall art piece (besides I learnt my lesson in allowing the kids to pin, glue, and tape things they liked over any and all surfaces in their room). With these thoughts in mind I decided to re-do a plain cork pin up board...a place where she could put up her art work, pictures, medals, school stuff, etc.

            Very simply paint the frame and use ribbon and tack pins to hold in place the fabric of choice! And this simple super easy functional and decorative wall art piece is ready.

Some suggestions:

  1. Since this is for my daughter’s room, I like this fabric which is not too childish and has words like play, believe, dance, imagine, and create printed on it. Here’s where you can customize this….some geometric patterned fabric, a sophisticated damask, toile, or the trendy Moroccan tile patterned fabric would be great for an adult’s home office or work space. Choose a matching or contrasting ribbon that goes with the fabric. With about a half inch or an inch seam tucked in all around the sides spread out the fabric smoothly ensuring no creases or bunching. Place the ribbon over the fabric starting at any corner and hold in place using thumb tacks or simple push pins.
  2. I chose a teal color ribbon to tie this wall art in with the colors in my daughter’s room. But the thumb tacks bought at the office store came as a box of bright mixed colors and I wanted the tacks to not stand out on the ribbon. So I simply used teal colored spray paint to change their color to teal!
  3. I also wanted a little bit more pop for a child’s room. So I sewed these cute little birds and an owl using colored felt and following the patterns from and
So cute!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013


            I am so excited to share this project with you all. I think this project has major dramatic impact in the room and turned out really well (even if I say so myselfJ). Let me get to it right away….

           Remember the old dated sliding closet doors in my daughter’s room that I redid completely with painted birds on a tree branch? Well, my son’s room also had one exactly like that. I decided to tackle them as the first project in the room. My son wanted a bright room with warm fire colors (I think since my daughter got first dibs on the blues, he just went the opposite on the color wheel). Anyway, I think this palette was a good fit for him. My son and I chose a warm summer squash orangish yellow for the walls and two coats ensured complete flawless coverage. Oddly enough this color varies a lot depending on the light and time of day. Without writing too much about the walls' painting process and such, let me just get to the phoenix project….

So without further ado, here is again a reminder of the before

And here’s the magnificent Phoenix!

I would like to share a how-to of this project and you will see how easy it was.

     1.     I began with a thorough cleaning and sanding of the door. I took them off the hinges and brackets and worked on it in my garage workspace. My kids had used these doors as a display board of sorts and had used pins, tape, and glue to put things up. Cleaning up all that and sanding the doors was very important to ensure that the paint job after would not look patchy.

     2.     We chose a complimentary poppy orange for the doors. I opted for a semi-gloss on this just because it makes clean up easier. These doors too took what felt like many many coats to get an even finish (Or maybe I was just impatient to get to the painting of the Phoenix). I let the final coat dry for almost 36 hours. As impatient as I was, it was very important to let the paint dry and cure completely. I then took the doors back in the room and hung them up on their original brackets.

     3.     My son and I had previously brainstormed ideas for the door. For the sake of variety I was hesitant to repeat a painting project for the doors and wanted to try something different. But my son was set on a large tribal art piece in the room. Then it came down to what tribal picture…and finally we settled on a Phoenix. This image we took from the internet, and using a photo editing software we tweaked the image to suit the width of the doors and made the left wing span larger and extending higher to suggest flight.

     4.     It was important to get the sizing of the Phoenix absolutely right and so I chose not to free draw this. I rented an overhead projector for a day and that made this project go so much easier and faster. I had the phoenix image transferred onto a transparency at my local kinko’s and used that on the projector. I outlined the reflection with a pencil making sure I could see the lines even when the projector was turned off.

     5.     Using brushes of several thickness, I painted the Phoenix using black permanent craft acrylic paint. I have to say this process required a steady hand especially as the doors are upright. Since this Phoenix is such a precise image with sharp clean lines, a steady hand was a good thing to have. Especially, closer to the floor the tail of the Phoenix had to be painted lying down. It did require two coats to get that deep dark black color. In certain spots I had to go over with the orange color to get those sharp lines, smooth out some lines where my hand shook while painting, and to clean out smudges. The eye of the phoenix was to have been red but in the end I decided it looks better this way. The final step was a clear satin polyurethane coat.

Isn’t it a rising of the Phoenix from the ashes!