I just finished the Apothecary Cabinet pictured above. I’ve made a number of these 25 drawer chests, each one different from the next whether it’s the paint I use, the paper, the type of drawer pulls (or lack thereof) or any number of other variations.
In general, I prefer a Vintage patina in my work which is the direction I was taking with this chest.
“make a test sample”, words to live by. However, I’ve always just barreled along on my projects with, admittedly, a failure or two. For the most part, I don’t really see it as a failure when a product doesn’t perform as expected and sometimes it’s a step through a doorway of discovery that I didn’t even know was there.
Like this project. I had already glued the Vintage wallpaper squares to the front of all 25 drawers and taking the next step, I applied Tim Holtz Distress Collage Medium – Crazing (a new crackling product that I had not previously tried) to the paper and then walked away to let it cure.
Surprise! Half to two-thirds of the papers reacted ‘poorly’ to the medium. Crap.
But here’s that opportunity I spoke of, and, it will be easier if I present a step by step to show you the ‘failure’ and the results. Here we go…
For my test, I’m using a piece of heavy chipboard. This closely resembles the product used for making the drawers in the apothecary chest. NOTE: The chest’s framework is made of wood (MDF), however.
I used the same satin house paint I used on the chest.
I also used two Vintage wallpaper squares (of the same pattern) which was also used on the apothecary. I glued them to the painted surfaces using slightly diluted ModPodge Matte medium. This is where the learning begins. The wallpaper square on the right is going to receive the exact same procedure that I used on my apothecary cabinet. The square on the left is my test dummy to see if I can stabilize the Vintage wallpaper from reacting to the crackle medium but still get the crackle effects.
Using straight (undiluted) ModPodge Matte, I painted the surface of the left wallpaper piece, but not the right.
I always seal my finished cabinets with ModPodge and the first time I did it I had a bit of a shock when the paper darkened and lost some of it’s detail. This is normal, and as soon as it drys, the paper goes back to it’s original appearance with maybe just a touch of darkening still remaining.
I let the ModPodge dry completely. As you can see, the left is a bit darker. Now I’m going to apply the Distress Crazing. It’s a thick gel you simply brush on in quick criss-crossing strokes.
I applied this to both samples. The good news about Tim’s crackling medium in opposed to others is all the others you have to let air dry or they won’t crackle properly. With Tim’s you can actually speed things along with a heat gun and it still gives you the crackle!
The crazing is dry now and the square on the right did exactly what happened with my apothecary drawers – it pulled up the paint in small pieces of crackle. Let’s look up close.
The newer wallpapers would not/do not react this way. The Vintage papers however, consistently to a greater or lesser degree, all peel like this. Why? My guess is the type of paint they used on wallpaper at the time.
But there’s hope. This is the paper on the left. By putting a sealer on prior to the crackle medium the old paint is protected but the crackle medium is still able to create it’s crackle effect on top of the sealer. It’s hard to see here, but if you look close, you can. It will become more visible in a while once I’ve added a color wash after a few more steps.
But first, what if I still wanted to use the paper on the right? I just gently rubbed off the flakes until all the ones that were ‘loose’ came off.
This is what remained. Much of the detail is gone now but still, I like the effect as it represents a truly age-degraded look. Now that’s a Vintage patina!
What the heck? Well, I took a break to let things dry and set and when I went into my living room this was my treat. Bella (the dog) and Smokey (the cat) were hard at it, too.
Bella cracks me up when she sits this way on “her” couch. Butt spread, legs dangling and chin propped just right so she can slit her eyes open to monitor the neighborhood activity should it be required.
Whereas the cat doesn’t want to be bothered at all, thank you very much. What a pair! Okay, back to work.
But when using a crackle medium – any brand – you need to use some form of ‘colorant’ that will get into those cracks and make them visible. There are a variety of things you can use but for my project, I chose an acrylic paint in a brown color. Adding a two to one ratio of water to paint, I made a wash. I brushed this over my squares (doing one square at a time) and immediately after applying the wash I blotted it back up with paper towel. You can alter the darkness of the wash by lessening the water in your ratio and/or blotting less off.
Now you can see the cracks. My test of pre-sealing the Vintage paper definitely worked. I’m glad, too, because I like using the Distress product line and this gives me one more way to utilize this medium.
And as for the unsealed square? This is how it took the wash. Again, I like this, too. There’s a real sense of age and hard times here, and while I may not want this look on all my Vintage patinas, it’s one more trick in my bag of creating techniques that I’m sure I’ll pull out again.
As usual, I always finish my wallpaper apothecary projects with a final coat of ModPodge. These apothecaries are frequently purchased for jewelry or storage boxes and so they get a lot use and handling. I want my customers to be able to wipe them down with a damp cloth when necessary and this final seal coat allows for that.
This seal coat really made the ‘degraded’ paper pop! It also completely stabilized the flaking. This piece is so cool and I’m very glad that, as usual, I did not “make a test sample” or I would have missed out on this chance to learn something new.
As to the apothecary cabinet that started this whole adventure? Well, some of the papers reacted like the one above, others even more so, and some less, with some not reacting at all. I think, if I was able to date the wallpapers I used, that I would find a timeline of older to newer papers in relation to the amount of degradation that occurred. All in all, it made for a really fun piece that displays a truly lovely “Vintage Patina”. What do you think?
I also used the Crazing medium on the painted surface of the wood structure. Remember, that paint was pure white. Using the brown acrylic paint wash toned that right down and then after it completely dried, I added 3-4 layers of a light sponging with the same wash, letting it completely dry between applications, until I got what I liked. Again, I sealed all this with ModPodge Matte.
This Apothecary Cabinet is now listed in my Etsy shop Old Raven.
Hope you had fun and learned from my mistake (just like I did). Never be afraid to fail.
Now, craft on.