Posted in Blog, DÉCORATION, OUT & ABOUT, Wall Displays

Summer Exhibition & Craft Fair in Varen, South West France

Varen summer 2012 craft fair

The good ladies of Varen in the Tarn et Garonne, are very busy this week. The annual Varen Summer Exhibition and Craft Fair starts next Sunday afternoon, so all hands to the deck!

I delivered my hand painted mirrors that I was asked contribute last Tuesday, and decided to leave the hanging and display of the mirrors to them. They have impeccable taste, and will know exactly the right places for them on the old stone walls and tables dotted around the room.

Carmen tells me that the artisans that are exhibiting are all local, so I am looking forward to seeing their work. Lot’s of interesting interior decor items – hand made cushions, lamps, textiles as well as original drawings by a local artist. Some jewelry too I hear.

I will be there on Sunday afternoon at 3pm – 8th July 2012, for the opening and hope to take a few photos and talk to the other artists and crafts people. So more info next week to give you a little bit of an insight into a local crafts show in sunny South West France.

Here are a few pictures I took of the finished hand painted mirrors:

Taupe hand painted mirrors

White hand painted mirrors

I couldn’t resist adding the two little black and white 19 th. century lithographs that I framed in two tone hand painted white frames. I think they will go so well with the mirrors in a bedroom or living room decorated in neutral color tones.

2 19th century lithographs in hand painted white frames

There are a variety of sizes in the mirrors at the Varen Exhibition and the prices range from 20 euros to 95 euros – so great bargains. Yes everything there is for sale!

The exhibition/craft fair is open from Sunday, 8th July to Sunday, 16th September 2012 at ‘La Shoppe’ which is below the Mairie not far from the water fountain. The Varen ladies will be there to help you every afternoon during this period from 3pm to 7pm.

Varen is in the Tarn et Garonne – Post code 82170, France

Posted in Blog, DÉCORATION, Inspirations, Let's Be Creative!, MACKENZIE FRAMES, Wall Displays

Work In Progress – Hand Painted Frames For A Collection Of Mirrors

The summer season of craft shows is upon us, and although I don’t do many of them these days, whenever the ladies of Varen phone me  to participate in their annual summer craft show – I usually say yes.

hand painted mirror frames

Varen (zip code – 82330) is a very pleasant village near St. Antonin Noble Val, in the Tarn-et-Garonne about 15 minutes drive from where I live here in the Midi-Pyrenees region of South West France. The good ladies of Varen, take it upon themselves to manage ‘La Shoppe’ every summer in the hope of luring tourists and locals alike into their little stone clad den below the ‘mairie’ (the mayor’s office) which is full of hand made delights from local artisans.

hand painted mirror frames 1

The theme this year is ‘Reverie’ – a very subjective word  that summons different things to different people. Well, to my mind, in the realm of interior decor, this means ‘The House of my Dreams’ and as Marie-Claude (chief lady in charge) specifically asked me to provide some of my Hand Painted Framed Mirrors, this is what I had in mind.

Hand Painted Mirror Frames 03

I hope there are a few people passing through Varen this summer who have the same taste in colors and framed mirrors as I have!

Hand painted Mirror Frames 05

So I thought you would like to see the ‘Work In Progress’ of the hand painted frames at the moment. As you see, my color theme is very neutral – white, taupe and beige. A variety of sizes and styles from my ‘odd box’ of moldings that we seem to collect over the years in our Framing Workshop. Any one who has been following my blog here only has to to go to the DIY Tutorials to see that I love ‘Up-cycling’ old frames to make them into objects of desire once again!

Small White Mirror Frames 06

Well, Martin has just cut the individual pieces of mirror for each frame. He still needs to cut the backing boards and then I can finish the transformation of these frames into the mirrors of your dreams.

When they are ready, I’ll give you an update. And if you are on holiday here in our corner of South West France this summer, perhaps you can come and visit Varen and have a little peak into ‘La Shoppe’!

Posted in Blog, Color Shape Space, Inspirations, Let's Be Creative!

The Color White Series – Snow White

The Color White Snow White

The Color White Series

What comes to mind when you think of the color white – Crisp Clean Fresh Snow or Yummy Creamy Vanilla Ice Cream perhaps?

No? How about these wonderful names to describe the color SNOW WHITE:

The breast of the Black Headed Gull.

Snow Drop.

Calc Sinter.

Carara Marble.

This is the description given to the ‘Snow White’ color in Werner’s ‘NOMENCLATURE OF COLOURS’ published 1821 in Edinburgh, Scotland. Such a fascinating book from the 19th century that was brought to life again by the Canadian artist and photographer ARNAUD MAGGS whose work was introduced to me by some friends who live near us here in France . I believe that Arnaud Maggs spends quite some time in this area of South West France – hey they know him!

You can find out more about Arnaud maggs and his work here: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/arnaud-maggs-wins-scotiabank-photography-award/article4105732/

I have to admit, Werner’s work is a little bit whimsical by today’s standards of scientific thought and process, but It is a very good example ( and great excuse) to show you that there are a multitude of white shades. So let’s start having a look at a few of them with the help of Mr. Werner and a few very talented photographers that I have found on the world wide web!

I just couldn’t resist this beautiful photograph of a Black Headed Gull. Not sure I could keep my nerve if I saw this coming towards me – but well done Chistopher Hoyle for doing just that when out on a photographic walk in the Lake District, England. Have a look at his Flickr photo stream for more of his fabulous photos:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/christopherhoyle/with/4604053682/#photo_4604053682

Many thanks for the other inspirational photos I have used in the photo montage above to demonstrate the multiple shades of white.

Ther Carara Marble Statue can be seen here:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/52219527@N00/3588841240/

The Mineral – Calc Sinter:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/nakayoshi/5778173102/

The lovely photo of the delicate Snow Drop:
http://www.coldclimategardening.com/2008/03/16/snowdrops-when-does-a-bud-become-a-bloom/

Werner Shades of White

Goodness me – Werner has listed 8 names for the COLOR WHITE! This is going to be fun finding the relevant photos – for instance – Number 7 is ‘SKIMMED MILK WHITE’ – I have to find the White of the Human Eyeballs.

So if anyone out there has taken or found any photos that you think will fit Werner’s descriptions of the color white – DO GET IN TOUCH and we can carry on with our interpretation of his collection!

Posted in Blog, Framed Images, Inspirations, Let's Be Creative!, Wall Displays

Shabby White Frames and Vintage Lithographs – the Perfect Combination

Well creative people – what did you do with your shabby chic up-cycled frames that I hope you made after following my three part blog post last year? My frames were hanging about the workshop for months waitng patiently for me to find the right images. AT LAST – I found the perfect solution!

The images are from a 19th century book of  lithographs. The book was too damaged to keep as a whole, and I bought it with wall art in mind – the book may be damaged, but the images were hiding there ready to see the light of day.

My plan is to a grouping of these shabby white frames and their lithographs ready for a wall hanging. What a difference to see these bits of Victoriana in nice light pale frames, such a difference to the thin black narrow frames that you normally see these black and white images in. Up-cycling is the name of the game in today’s modern interior decor.

Here are a few more of my Shabby Chic DIY Frames that have received the same treatment. Now, Which wall to use?

Posted in DÉCORATION, Inspirations, Wall Displays

Inspirational Decorative Wall Displays

I’m always on the lookout for inspiring wall displays – not hard to imagine why as I make so many frames! Here are a few ideas I have found on Pinterest – so be inspired!

Stairs of Distinction
A Wall of Monochrome
A Country Look
A Bit Over the Top – But What an Impact!
Posted in Color Shape Space, Let's Be Creative!

The Colors I Used For My Red Frames

For true feelings of depth and quality in any form of art from painting a masterpiece to a picture frame, it is essential to create layers of color. You may not see them all in the finished work – BUT – they are there and it does make the difference to the feel and quality of the piece.

Posted in Let's Be Creative!

DIY Shabby Chic White Frame For Wall Display Part 3



Adding a Little Extra How did you get on with renovating your frame? Love to know, do leave a comment if you have time! Anyway, at the end of PART TWO I mentioned that I wanted to do a little more work on the other frame I was ‘shabby chicing’, so here we go if you want to follow along.

Next coat of paint – White I think – I’ve used a basic Liquitex artists acrylic that I first sponged lightly on the frame, and then applied a little more with a small (1/4 inch) flat brush to give a stippling effect which adds more texture on the flatter sections of the frame. This soon dries and is ready to have it’s ‘splatter’ spots.  Mix a little of the first color that we used in Part Two, and with a dry hard brush, start splattering the paint onto the frame with your finger (practice a bit first on some paper). All you need to do now is add a little bees wax and buff to a soft sheen, or apply an acrylic mat varnish to give your finish some protection.  And there you have it – another shabby chic frame to add to your collection of empty frames to display on the wall!

Hope you have fun with your DIY Projects. If you REALLY haven’t the time to DIY, but would still like to collect some Shabby Chic Frames, then I am selling these pieces in my new ARTFIRE STORE, so go have a look!


Posted in Inspirations

Romantic Style – My Lovely Prize Book!

I just had to take a little time here and tell you about a wonderful interior design book that I was lucky enough to win in the prize giveaway run by Mandy at her lovely blog à-la-parisienne  and also Debbie from powder-blue who donated the book.

What Luck!

It’s called ‘Romantic Style’ and if like me, you love the ‘Shabby Chic’ look in all its forms, then put your hand in your purse and get out the plastic! This book is going to give you lots of ideas and inspiration for decorating your home.

Selina Lake and Sara Norman together with their photographer, Debi Treloar, have produced a well laid out book that illustrates the different aspects of romantic style decor, and I’ll have to say that Debi Treloar’s photos of the homes they have chosen, are truly inspiring.

I particularly like the mix of vintage finds with decoration which doesn’t cost an arm and a leg that we can easily do ourselves. All you need are a few ideas of color matching, start hunting through garage or car boot sales for bits ‘n bobs that the sellers might not want, but you can find just the right spot for, and it probably only needs a bit of a clean or perhaps a paint job to give it a new lease of life.

Well, this is just my slant on Romantic Style. I know for sure, as soon as you start leafing through you own copy, you will find lots of other ideas and inspirations that you can particularly relate to your own home decoration.

If you would like to buy the book, you can go to the publisher’s website:

The price is: £19.99 or $29.95

Title: Romantic Style

Authors: Selina Lake & Sara Norrman

Photographer: Debi Treloar

ISBN No: 978-1-84975-040-0

Posted in Let's Be Creative!

DIY Shabby Chic White Frame For Wall Display Part 2

Are You Ready For Part 2 of our tutorial? Part 1 is here if you missed it


First of all, give your frame a good dust down and lightly sand the surface. Now is a good time to get the vacume cleaner out and give the frame and your work surface a big clean-up so that when you start painting, everything is dust free.



Undercoat – Start with an undercoat – I am using a white one for wood. When it is dry, apply the first color coat :

First Color

I prefer an Acrylic (water based) Mat Emulsion that is used for decorating, it is easy to find a huge range of colors in your local DIY Store. The two colors I am using, are left over from decorating my bathroom last month, I had them mixed at the store after choosing from the extensive number of shade cards there. Just be sure that you buy a MAT emulsion – NOT satin or gloss. Using water based paints also has the added advantage of being quick drying and less smelly!

Put  a few spoonfuls of the first color on your plate, dip your brush in the water and stir the paint around – perhaps do this twice – in other words, we are diluting the paint a LITTLE, but not too much.

Brush the paint onto your prepared frame with light strokes and cover all the surface, pushing the paint into all the little nooks and crannies if your frame is very ornate. Don’t worry if it looks a bit streaky, remember that this is the first coat.

Well, we are waiting for the paint to dry now! What are you going to do for the next couple of hours? Go shopping? Off to a Football Match? Work Out at the Gym (I prefer Yoga myself), or perhaps start preparing lunch or dinner – lots of food ideas in our ‘DELICIOUS’ section!


Second Color


OK – It’s 2 hours later! Let’s apply the second color – put some of your paint on the (clean) plate, diluted as before, by dipping your  (clean) brush in water a couple of times. Now, with your damp sponge (I buy a washing-up sponge and then cut it into 4 pieces), dip it into the diluted paint and very lightly tap the sponge onto your frame, highlighting the relief and the sides. Feel free here – don’t be afraid, let your spontinaeity show through – we are doing the ‘arty’ bit now!

What next? Your efforts probably look a little ‘thin’ and transparent, mine needs more depth, so with a small paint brush, start to paint over some of the highlights to give more emphasis to the relief. Respond to your work, does it need a bit more sponging now? Mine does, so that is what I’m going to do, but every piece of work is different – JUST RELAX & ENJOY THE EXPERIENCE. If you make a mistake don’t worry about it – you can always paint over and start again – but is it a mistake? Perhaps not, perhaps the ‘mistake’ is adding a new dimension to your work, so don’t be in too much of a hurry to paint things out – think about it for a while!

Now, I I’m going to finish there with this frame, it is so ornate I don’t think it needs anything else added paint wise and I love the ‘stone’ look that has evolved. SO – ‘LET THE PAINT DRY’!

Hope you had a nice lunch, did you football team win? Had a good workout? I hope you left that computer alone!




Just to finish off – you need to put some protection on your work of art! There are two ways of doing this, either with a final coat of Transparent Mat Polyurethane Varnish, or a nice Bees Wax Polish gives a lovely soft sheen and feel that is well worth the effort of all the elbow grease that is needed in all the polishing.

On the other frame I am doing at the same time, I’m going to add a little extra before the varnish or polish, but I’ll leave that for Part 3, so see you soon!

Posted in Let's Be Creative!

DIY Shabby Chic White Frame For Wall Display Part 1

I hate waste and I love a ‘Shabby Chic’ look, so I thought, let’s put the two together and make something SPECIAL!

As you might know, Martin and I make picture and photo frames in our little studio here in SW France and over the years we seem to have accumulated a stockpile of redundant moulding, some of which is quite startlingly elaborate. Surely I can do something with this, so I hauled out a few pieces that were lurking in the back of the garage, gave them a good dust down and gathered a few materials together to give a new lease of life to these long forgotten beauties.*

Would you like to follow along and have a go yourself at the same time? Obviously we have an advantage here of lots of old moulding hanging around, but if you take a stroll down to your local car boot/garage sales (called ‘brocante‘ here in France) this weekend, I am sure you will find a selection of old frames that are pleading with you to buy them and give them a makeover.

Are you up for it? OK, this is what you need:

1. Old frame
2. Vacume cleaner with little brush attachment.
3. Fine sandpaper (No.2)
4. Undercoat Paint. You will have to decide which type to use for the surface you are working on. I used one for wood.
5. Acrylic Mat Paint – I used the remains of the two colors I used for the bathroom I’ve just painted which as you will see are an ‘Off White’ and ‘Stone’ (color swatch below).
6. I did use a touch of Acrylic Artists Color (White) at the end for added enhancement, but this is not strickly necessary.
7. Bees Wax or Acrylic Mat Varnish.
8. Brushes + Old Plate + Water Jars + Old Knife + Wooden Blocks to put the frame on whilst working.
9. A packet of dish washing sponges.

*Yes, I know what you are thinking – The old stuff looks beautiful and I agree! We still make frames with this lovely moulding – contact me if you are interested – but be warned – they are our one of our most expensive styles!

See you later for part 2.