I’ve written briefly about how my sister and I use only salvaged wood to make our art pieces. It all started because we were being cheap and the quality unfinished wood at Lowe’s and Home Depot is a lot more expensive than one might think. Add that to the fact everyone and their mother were pinning projects made from reclaimed palettes all over Pinterest, we thought…we’re artistic. Why aren’t we doing this?
Plus—bonus—now we get to say we use recycled wood because we’re trying to save the environment, yadda, yadda, Go Green! It’s a win-win, really.
At first, leading up to Cooper Young Festival, we would simply drive around our neighborhood, tires screeching against the pavement for every random pile of scrap wood or discarded palette that caught our eye. Similar to how we happened upon our vintage doors, most of it had to do with luck. As is the custom with luck…it eventually runs out. That’s when we realized we needed to develop a smarter approach to our wood collecting venture.
Solution? We started stalking contractors.
Okay, stalking is a strong word. We’ll go with lightly following.
We have a friend whose boyfriend does some construction/contracting on the side that we have taken to calling weekly to see if one of his side jobs happens to be throwing out any wood anytime soon. The first time we called, he was building a deck for someone out of beautiful cedar wood and didn’t need any scrap pieces that ended up being cut down to under 6 ft. Uh…can you say, jackpot?
The art I’m about to show is salvaged from his latest project (a front porch, maybe?). I still can’t believe people throw this quality of wood out on the street to be picked up with the weekly garbage.
If you’d like an insight into how exactly I make this art, keep reading. Otherwise, just skip the next four paragraphs and enjoy the pictures (as always, click on images to enlarge).
After having my dad cut the wood down to manageable art pieces, I start off by sanding the unfinished wood as smooth as I can get it. I then stain the back and sides/edges in a red oak finish, while painting the front either white or a color, depending on the graphic I plan on transferring to it. I print the graphics and/or images in reverse from a laser printer (FedEx Office uses laser printers and is relatively cheap if you’re like us and don’t own one—inkjet printers won’t work because the ink is water soluble) on standard copy paper (thinner, the better). Once all the paint and stain has dried, I apply a generous coat of gel medium to the front and flatten the image (facedown) onto the wood.
After letting the image sit overnight, I take a wet rag to the wood to gently rub off the paper fibers. The gel medium works to absorb the ink from the image, which is what you’re left with on the wood after all the paper fibers are rubbed off.
Once all the paper is rubbed off, I distress the wood by hand with sanding blocks to give it that vintage, shabby chic look. Finally, I top off each piece with a final protective coating of polyurethane and I’m done!
The whole process is tedious and can sometimes be rather time-consuming. On numerous occasions, my sister and I have come extremely close to hiring someone to pre-sand our salvaged wood, because depending on how large of a collection we gather from our friend, it can take hours upon hours to get all the pieces smooth. Also, sometimes the paper acts like a clingy boyfriend and refuses to let go easily. I’ve scraped my fingers raw multiple times in my attempts to get the paper fibers completely off the wood. Though, overall, I still believe the finished products make the process worth it. Every time.
First up today, my Memphis City Typography on wood. The dark stain really brings out the detail in the wood, as you can see in the image of the back.
Here’s a full front view and a close-up. This piece has already sold, but I plan on making some more over the next week or two.
Next up are two larger but thinner pieces on which I applied Dr. Seuss and Oscar Wilde quotes.
Why fit in when you were born to stand out? -Dr. Suess
Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken. -Oscar Wilde
And because I’m obsessed with books, I had to add in one using my favorite quote about reading, by Frank Zappa.
So many books, so little time. -Frank Zappa
I think the Harry Potter books as props add a nice touch to these images (who hasn’t read and fallen in love with Harry Potter?). This piece is available in my Etsy Shop here (books not included).
I love the back of this piece. Some may see it as damaged, but I think it adds character and makes the piece more interesting.
I saved my favorite for last. A typewriter vector graphic paired with everyone’s favorite Hemingway quote about writing.
Write drunk; edit sober. -Ernest Hemingway
Such great advice, Hemingway. This piece is available in my Etsy Shop here.
That’s it for today. Check back soon for some of my paintings transferred to wood. Then, next week I’m planning on catching up on my Project365 posts. Stay tuned.
– lindsey archer