Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Change the world ... Where was I ?

If you read further down below you'll notice I started this post earlier on this morning. We were in the process of chatting about one of the things I love doing best: thrifting then upcycling 'stuff' into what I like to call 'Functional Art!'
Possums it's more than just decoration... 
Better than an addiction...
It's a lifestyle!

(vignette of my garage after a 'tidy up:' from 4 year's of 'thrifting')

For me, it all started when I was still living in Paris and Libellule was soon to be born. One more baby meant lots more storage space. The size of a baby being of course inversely proportional to the quantity of STUFF you need! I knew exactly what cupboards I wanted, but I just couldn't find them. When I did find exactly what I wanted - it was sooo far out of my budget that I decided I would just have to make it myself! Isn't that just the way? 

Necessity is definitely the mother of invention!

So I enlisted the help of my best friend Cécile (who I'm hoping will start a blog soon) who initiated me into the delights of thrifting and patine. Many a midnight hour we would meet up 'incognito' to comb the streets of Paris looking for any 'interesting' piece we could find that was 'dans son jus.' We would bribe the menfolk with golf and wine so we could spend every Sunday morning for 6 months getting up at 5am to be amongst the first at the Paris fleamarkets and vide greniers. We were even known to scavenge off the local streets in broad daylight: while I stood guard over our finds; she would race off quick smart to get her mini. You can only imagine the adventures we had trying to fit oversized wrought iron beds, armoires, enormous shutters from manor windows, chandeliers etc etc into her mini - or lug them kilometres home at midnight. Yet shove and lug we did. Every single one of those pieces has its own past life, a soul and a story to tell... right up to its rebirth into a different object like the ones below...   

It's become a way of life for me, creating and designing my own lighting, furniture and storage. It was initially a way of being able to work, contribute to the finances of the household (if only by saving money on pieces of furniture we had to replace after the fire), and still be at home to look after the kids when they were little so they didn't have to do those looooooong French school days of 9-5 without being able to come home for lunch, or having to stay at afterschool care till 6.30pm. 2hr lunchbreaks sure do cut your day in half but it always seemed better than having them coming home shattered after the equivalent of an adult working day... But I digress :)

I've gone off the traditional and beautifully feminine patine a little recently, opting for the more 'industrial' look. All those years of painting pearl grey, anthracite, cream and white have invested me with a need for colour and streamlined! Hence the blue and orange lamps that were once linen and cream ...

(old school benches bought for 1Euro each painted in l'Ile d'Yeu colours, 
wonky old deck chair picked up off the footpath and brightened up with some new fabric
... and lots of snow on Monday after spending Sunday eating lunch outside in the sun...)

Seeing it's Change the World Wednesday, I have a challenge for you. Before you make your next purchase, be it lighting, storage or furniture, ask yourself again if you couldn't make it out of a couple of things you already have, or take a trip to your local thrift shop, flea market, or antique store to rummage around for some cheap bits and bobs that, with a bit of love and care, could become your own masterpieces. If you're not a DIY expert (like the resident Beaker for example), maybe you have a next door neighbour or friend who is. Offer to exchange your excellent baking skills for a couple of lamp bases. It's worked for me a couple of times ;-)

Or, if you have a bit of spare time, try and find a course that can teach you the basics of wiring or patine. All chandeliers/candlesticks/cast iron or brass beds etc can be painted with acrylic paint then 'distressed' and waxed to give you that great finish we all love so well. Alternatively, you can boost them with a bit of colour - still acrylic. In fact, you'd be surprised what you can't paint with a water based acrylic paint. I'll be giving some Patine courses with Leeann from Fabulously French this April at her gorgeous little village in the Dordogne if any of you are dropping by this way. 
(light made by Cécile from 'thingy' found in junk pile)

And seeing it's Wishcasting Wednesday also, where Jamie Ridler asks us the question, "What do you wish to say no to?" 

I have another tiny thing to ask of you. 
'What?' you may ask...'Why how can I be of service?'
I knew you'd all help ;-)
Spring is nearly upon us - the time for private home sales across France. A time when many of my old clients ask, "Are you sure you couldn't just paint my bookcase for me?"
"Couldn't you do just one more 'decoration' sale?"
"Théophile needs a new commode..."

"NO!" I must say, "NO!" 

Give me the strength to say NO and stick to my calligraphy. I have set out on my new path and You can all help me here. Because I am both terrible at saying NO, and still lured by the attraction of lost and forlorn objects. Go and buy those poor, lost things from the fleamarkets that were so part of my past life, and fix them up yourselves for your homes!! I still get pangs when I see old chairs/tables/armoires/buffets/drawers etc that need nothing more than a bit of a tender, loving spruce up to take on new life! It doesn't have to be me...
You can be that life giver!! It's fun! Rewarding! And keeps you away from the television!! 

Phew ... now after that marathon effort, it's nearly time for homework and dinner. You won't hear from me for a couple of days. It's time to catch up on my painting so I can finally update my Etsy shop!
Bisous till then...


  1. I was going to begin by saying that I adore this post, but I adore all your posts, so that would be redundant. Heck, I don't care, I adore it! I loved reading about your flea marketing adventures and street finds. I have dragged home more busted beds and trunks and torn-but-lovely pillowcases than I can count over the years. I grew up in a family of thrifters, junkers, and general lovers of old things. My mum is an antiques dealer, her parents were dealers, and my brother is an auctioneer & antiques dealers. It's definitely in the blood, and we always joke that antiques dealers were the original recyclers.

    I love seeing the amazing treasures you've made out of the lovely things you've found. Your creative gifts abound, my friend!! Thanks for all the inspiration and beauty. xo Gigi

  2. I love this. I feel as if I'm there (and I'd love to be there; I'm a huge Francophile). I send you extra fortitude to help you keep the boundaries you've set yourself, and to stay on your new path!

    As Ange wishes for herself, so I wish for her also.

  3. I love your inspiring ideas for reusing someone else's junk to create beautiful and useful items for the home.

    As Ange wishes for herself, so di I wish for her.

  4. As Ange wishes for herself, so I wish for her also.
    What a wonderful..delightful post! May you stay strong and on your path..may you be brave and say no when you need to! Namaste, Sarah

  5. As Ange wishes for herself so I wish for her. I think saying no gets easier every time you do it.

  6. As Ange wishes for herself, so I wish for her also.

  7. Oh Ange,
    I loved hearing of your adventures in Paris. I can just see you and Cecile, trying to force massive pieces of furniture into a mini !!
    Being LOADS older than you, we have been there. I have been seen digging about in skips at the dead of night !! Asking if I can have a Victorian fireplace that is being taken out of an old house. Buying stuff from charity shops for small amounts of money. Things have changed a lot over here and people now want a lot of money for these things and we now have reclamation yards but, I think that France is some years behind.
    I look forward to seeing some more of your creations. Have fun creating tomorrow, Ange. XXXX

  8. As Ange wishes for herself, so do I wish for her as well.

  9. I spy ONE coffee cup! Was the other one totally buried?

    I have really enjoyed reading about your history with furniture. I do the 'touring the streets' thing, mainly on my bike, which adds interest, but it would be a wonderful thing to do in Paris. Most unlike you, I am a reluctant painter, so many of my finds are changed with fabric rather than with paint. I do have two sets of shelves that I just HAVE to paint before I use them, so I hope that looking at your pictures will inspire me. Thanks, Ange!

  10. I love that lampshade! Could you nevermind! As Ange wishes for herself, so I wish for her as well.

  11. Ange, if I am ever in your neighborhood, I am stopping by! Consider yourself forewarned of my intentions. I love your house already, and mostly just from your descriptions of it.

  12. Wonderful post Ange...yes, there are a few things I could probably do a bit of this and that to rather than purchase something new. I have one idea which I can't get out of my mind. Julie @ Being Ruby mentioned a painted cream coloured bicycle she once had. That sounds so wondeful to me. I have a rusty old black thing that we picked up second hand that I think has lots of potential...even more so after reading your post!
    Thanks for that and happy creating!!
    Jeanne :)

  13. As Ange wishes for herself, I wish for her also...

  14. well if that didn't make me want to jump in the car and go junking, i don't know what would!

    and dear Ange.....if i lived in paris, you'd have no more of that "problem" for I'd be there at thos paris flea markets every day.....but only for you my friend.....and since you insist......

  15. As Ange wishes for herself, I wish for her as well. I could close my eyes and picture you and your friend finding wonderful things. Great post.

  16. As Ange wishes for herself, so I wish for her also. May you stick to your wishes to take only on what you would like to.

  17. Oh what a vivid image I have in my mind now about your weekly scavenges with your friend. What a great way to live, and in Paris no less!! Loved this post...and Ange, as we say in the U. S. -- Just say NO!!! And throw yourself into your calligraphy, the other stuff will be there when you need it again. ~Lili

  18. As you wish for yourself, I wish for you as well.

  19. How is it that the size of your baby IS inversely proportional to the amount of stuff they need? :) we're on the lookout for more interesting old storage solutions now that mess monster #2 is on the way...and believe it or not it's for my husband's mess! I wish we had the "old" stuff here like you do in France, but I'll take a 100 year old armoire if I can find one!

  20. Greetings dear Ange,

    I too am in love with old treasures that just need TLC, but I feel that were I live things are picked clean or just over priced. Not like it was even fifteen years ago.

    Back in the seventies things were different and I found many wonderful things and I even remember seeing things I wish I had purchased.

    Even ephemeral material is difficult to come by, especially older material.

    I have a few treasure for which I am very grateful.

    Take care,

  21. Dear Ange
    Ever inspirational.. Another great post.. You know I have some french commodes just waiting for me to get my proverbial act together.. [sorry they are new but been waiting 3 years for me to paint them... does that count?? haha]... Well I used to save and collect everything.. and some years ago I gave it all away.. I just didn't have the space for it.. and now am sadly missing those bits and pieces... especially some old lamps which I am certain had another life makeover in them!!! I've been thinking about those lamps for days,.. so maybe i'd better go to some second hand shops and see if I can find similar!!

    Now I just read Jeanne's comment and am once again lamenting the loss of my bicycle .. boo hoo.. never loan out what you want to keep!!! have fun this week.. and do get stuck into your calligraphy... I'm not very good with NO either... xxx Julie

  22. Just say no, Ange! Just say no!

    Love your treasures!

  23. hi ange

    i love the mini story. my 2 sons are 6 feet 4 and 6 feet tall, big, muscly, boys. one has a mini. it looks pretty funny when these 2 boys pile out of it.
    unfortunately, im the trouble maker. im the one that will whisper in your ear...just one more little... tiny... project.
    i love getting distracted . its so fun

    and, i love old stuff too. i have my share of undone projects. i will get on them....

    have a great week

  24. Wow, it must be incredible living in Paris!! I hope to at least visit there one day. :) You had me chuckling at guarding your "treasures" on the street while one went to find the mini...let alone walking and tugging at midnight!! haha. But alas, what wonderful finds! I love them. Especially the yellow and blue tea cups!!!

  25. Ange, what a fabulous account of your flea marketing days in a mini! And tell Cecile her light is very cool. I feel inspired to revamp something...I'll have to go under the house and see what I can find! xx

  26. But Ange, I would feel so denied if I came your way, and didn't have your gentle guidance in the ways of french flea-marketing. You wouldn't have to partake...just come along for the ride. Oh how I wish I could just drop in to the course you and Leeann are running. What fun that would be. How are my airpoints looking...
    Now you get back to that beautiful calligraphy!Fill that shop.

  27. sounded like such fun you had at the flea markets with a mini - this is definitely my kind of adventure: I so would have been there too!

    Those adventures after the ones involved making history by being subversive of course! ;)


  28. Are you going to be anywhere near St Jean or St Pierre de Cole in June? we could have coffee and talk about flea markets....


Can't think of a famous quote that says 'communication makes the world go round' so you 'll just have to get my clumsy way of putting it instead ;-) Your comments are precious. Thanks for dropping by!