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Using stain to refresh FURNITURE pieces in to an ART pieces

*** WARNING*** This is a very long post with LOADS of pictures! :)

Stain has become my medium of choice lately! I do not really know what to call this technique i do... stain "painting", stain blending, stain art, etc, but I use stain (predominantly Minwax Ebony) to create artistic design onto wood (and slate tiles, and luggage, ... I guess I just like to use it on anything ;)

I'll give you some examples, and then I will try to explain the process.

Vintage steamer trunk turned French motif coffee table

Rose stained accent table

Rose stained art on repurposed cabinet door

Let me give you a little history... I started using stain as a shading medium for my artwork. For example, when I would do a custom sign, I would use stain to do the shading of each letter. Prior to using stain, I had used this other medium that was very difficult to work with and control.

One day, I decided to try to use the stain as the main medium of a piece of art, and this is what came of that...

Butterfly/ flower on slate tile using stain

I was pretty please with how I was able to manipulate the stain and the finished piece.

My next piece I tried it on was my French Postcard Table - I used it for the Eiffel tower and the stamp

And then, I went on to the French Clock table... this was almost all stain (except for the border of little fleur de lis around the edge)

French Clock table using chalk paint and stain

As with the luggage coffee table, I used stain again for my distressing.

I also started using stain to do my X ray art, which you can read about here .

I started to wonder if other people were using stain as their medium, so I did a little research and found Beth from Reality Daydreams (previously known as Sawdust & Embryos). I watched her videos and thought I would give it a try. Well, I tried it on my cabinet door (the white one pictured above with the rose) and it just wasn't clicking with me - I ended up sanding it down and putting it aside. So then I went to my small accent table

I thought I would try it on this - it had a sun stain on it, so I figured this was a good piece to experiment. Again, I couldn't get Beth's technique into my brain - it was "backwards" to me.. So, I just went with how I could make it work. This was my inspiration image:

And this is the finished piece:

Rose stained accent table

Then I went back to my cabinet door that I had sanded down from my "oops" and used chalk paint on it .

I had an image that I liked, but I wanted it to be almost a "double exposure", so I enlarged the image and then dropped the original image into the enlarged image (all via I wanted the outer (enlarged) petals to be lighter then the main rose. So this was my inspiration image:

And this was the final outcome: (you can read more about this here)

Rose stained art on repurposed cabinet door

And finallly... my latest piece. Now I will share the detailed process, so if you aren't bored yet and want the specifics... keep on reading :)

This was my table to start with. A very nice side table that matched my accent table. My original plan was to have it match the little accent table (it didn't turn out that way , but that's ok!)

With my small accent table, I think I just barely sanded it, so I tried to do the same with this piece, but even though they are the same wood/ brand, the stain wasn't working. So, I tried to sand it down using too fine of grit a (I wasn't aware of the correct procedure) and got these ugly swirly marks :

I asked for advice on a couple of pages I am a subscriber to and some fellow artisans helped me out. I thought I had gotten it to the point that I could work with it. I got almost a third of the way and I just wasn't happy with how the stain was reacting.

So, I did what I was dreading and stripped, sanded and started allllllll over.... (I want to mention that I was advised to use prestain wood conditioner, which I did, to open up the pores and allow the stain to penetrate more evenly).

Let's go back to the image part before I go any further... I google images of whatever it is I like. This is my inspiration image:

Once I have my image, I decide what size I need/ want it to be and I go to There I can enlarge it to fit my size. I print it out and piece it all together.

I then take carbon paper and lay down on the top of the table and put my pieced together poster on top of that and use a stylus type thingy (you could use a pencil) to draw the outline of the petals. You can see the outlines on the picture below. So then I take a fine brush and dip in the stain and wipe it off on a rag, and just use it to outline the petals. The first layer is a little tricky, as you want to blend quickly since the wood is so dry. You dont' want the lines to be too defined. So I take a blending brush and start rubbing at the line to draw the stain out away from it in the direction that the shadow is going. This process is a matter of blending and layers of blending. Looking back at the picture to see where you are and where the shadow is. The darker areas, the stain can sit longer so that it will absorb more. and then blending, blending, blending... what I call drawing the stain out.

YOu can see above the one corner where I let the stain sit a bit and then I went back in to draw it out. And see those little dark areas where the petal curls at the edge? That is a layering of stain. YOu have to let it absorb and then go back and add more.

So, at this point the whole table is done. But it's not really... this is where you go back and do all of the fine tuning. The second layer and third is easier becaue there is already stain there, so the blending is easier. But now, you are looking back at your picture and finding what you need to add more definition to. What I find works for me is to take a picture and put it on my computer and look at it compared to the inspiration picture ... then I can see where I need more work. Sometimes, you just have to step back from it for a while , and this is a step that helps me.

Are you able to see the progression of definition/ detail by adding layers of stain?

Here, you can see that the two tables don't match. But again, that's ok. The reason is that I actually stripped the larger piece after my sanding mishap at the beginning, so I lost the original veneer.

Now, I start working on the outside. This part is difficult because it is hard not to get streaks. Another artisan ( Simone, from just [d'zign]'n) who does this same technique told me that she looks at the piece as ONE piece of art, so she is working on the outside AS she is doing the flower. I think I will try that at a later time. For this particular piece, I'm glad that the outside is darker to make the flower pop AND to add to the iron of the legs.

I used a different brush to do the outside layer... a good bristled brush and just work with it as best you can to get the streaks out. The first layer I put on and wiped off with a rag to get it all in the pores, then did another layer until dry . I think I did 3 layers. Once the stain is dry, time to seal.

I did 3 layers of Varathan Crystal Clear Polyurethane, then I sanded lightly with a fine grit. Another layer of the poly. Then I used brown paper to buff it. I used the brown packing paper, but I think brown paper sacks would be the same. This made the top so velvetty. LOVE IT!!

WHEW... that was one LONG post!!! I hope I was able to explain the process enough.

Some people have asked about a video blog, which I am working on. I will post when I get it done. It's hard to explain how to do the blending without seeing me do it, so I think the video will help!

Thanks for your interest in M&M Embellishments! And if you have any questions, feel free to email me!

Good Luck and Enjoy and SHARE your finished pieces ~~ I would LOVE to see them!

If you have some time and want more inspiration, please take a look at Simone's page at just [d'zign]'n on Facebook! Her work is quite impressive!!!

A special thanks to Beth H. from makemeprettyagain ~ a friend on Hometalk who helped me the stripped/ sanding advice and to David Fryman ~ a new friend from HGTV Fixer Upper Facebook page who was a tremendous help with knowledge of wood!


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