Photo by Penny Millar
Annie Sloan, purveyor of Chalk Paint, waxes and finishes, textiles and design savvy, is one of the Junk Bonanza's gold partners! Representatives and stockists from the company's U.S. and Canadian arm, Annie Sloan Unfolded, will be in full force at the Bonanza, where you'll be able to ask questions, sample and purchase the paints and watch demonstrations.
But Annie, alas, will not be attending. So we wanted to share a Q and A with this accomplished entrepreneur, who is by turns creative and cozy, well-spoken and witty (and a fan of junk!)
Here are excerpts from our wide-ranging conversation during a recent Skype session (where her accent, rich and satisfying as an English trifle, held me spellbound!):
Where are you right now?
Normandy, France. In the north. It's very much like the English countryside. I'm in the sun, in the garden!
Does your garden reflect your design sensibilities?
I'm afraid I haven't really gardened in the last two years, since things have gone really, really crazy! But what I last did as a planting scheme was black-leaved plants and black or very deep purple flowers, Queen of the Night tulips are one of them, along with oranges, and blues.
What are you working on now?
A book to come out in April. I've written 23, 24, 25. I've lost count! I like to say my business is a 20-year "overnight" success. I've been working at this a long time and all of a sudden it's just taken off.
What do you think caused it to reach critical mass?
Social media! Facebook, Twitter, blogs, blogs with email with Facebook with Twitter! And of course, Pinterest. I love the social media world. And the other thing that was important was the worldwide recession. People were faced with entertaining themselves. By going junking and being on the internet!
Ah, junking! Why did you opt to partner with the Junk Bonanza?What I think is most exciting about this business is it has ground-level roots. This is not a big company, it is a lot of individual people getting together and working, individual stockists running their businesses. I'm for anything like that, and it's very exciting how your event works. Individuals who make things coming together. I think the junk thing in America is incredible.
Are you a junker?
Absolutely, I love it! My father was very much into junk shops and as a very young child would go to junk shops and auctions and antique shows. At auctions they would group together a lot of individual bits where nothing is particularly worth anything, bits of jewelry and sundry items and I always remembered as a child wondering "what's a sundry?" My father would let me make a purchase, "Lot 452, sundry items." It would be buttons and broken jewelry and bits of ribbon and I would be so excited to get home and go over it.
In England we have all sorts of junk fairs and we have car boot sales, where you put stuff into your car boot and take it to a big field and sell it. In France we have something called "Vide-Greniers" and every village has one. You go and it's all of Grandma's pieces, children's toys, a nice mirror that's grand. It means "empty attics"!
Do you have a favorite flea market or shop?
It changes over time, depending on what I am looking for at the moment. You get a lot of linen at one spot and then you say "I've got enough of that" and then you move on to furniture and then something else.
What kind of strategy do you use when junking?
I sort of close my eyes and think about the shape of something and don't look at the fact that it is horrible orange pine. The other thing I try to do, I'm not brilliant at it, but I try to imagine if that is something that I can use in a different way. If a piece of furniture is broken perhaps you can break it up more and do something with the pieces.
What is your favorite all-time find?
One of my favorites is actually on my Pinterest board My House. It is a beautiful old door with some hydrangeas in front in a bucket. I bought two old French doors in France and I sold one and got my money back on the doors, and used the other one as a panel, on the wall. I put big scaffolding pieces around it and I just love it. I painted French Linen around the sides of it and bit of wash on it and it's very beautiful. It's in my home.
What are the styles or influences in your homes?
There are two periods in history that I really, really love. The beginning of the 20th century. It's Paris, it's Picasso, between the '50s and the '60s. I suppose it's my period in a way; I went to art school in the '60s and all my influences were people who knew about Paris and about America, abstract expressionism and abstract modern art. The other is the 18th century, French decorative arts.
Your old door sounds lovely. Do you have a philosophy about re-use?I suppose, don't get rigid. You have to keep reinventing things. I keep reinventing my eye. I go back to art all the time. Modern art or any art, real art. You can look at people's junk with a bit of a fresh eye. You have to train your eye to appreciate the very best. My other little mantra is less is more. Mies van der Rohe, one of the great 20th century architects, always said that. It's not always true, sometimes it's great to really over-egg it, but more often less is better.
Your new textiles line seems to adhere to that. Clean and classic.
Fashion is fascinating. You see a new idea and you're terribly stimulated by it and then two years later you're thinking, oh, that is so dated now, and you've spent quite a lot of money on these amazing curtains that now don't look so great! It's probably a sign of age, really, loving a classic look. Not traditional, classic.
In addition to your recent fabric introduction, what else will we see soon from the House of Sloan?
The most exciting thing -- well everything is exciting! -- coming out in November is the Work Book. It's a different way to explain about color and color mixing and how it all works. People are used to having a notebook that they can write in. It has pockets so you can stick a bit of fabric in there, or ribbons. We started out with 50 tips but we didn't end up with 50; it was getting too busy! It has lots of plain paper you can write on and color on it and even paint on it. We've tried to connect it with Pinterest so people can share what they do.
Persian Green has been renamed as Florence! I was a bit naughty; my family gets so annoyed; they say you can't change the names of colors! Years ago I made that color but reintroduced it and the American and English pigments are slightly different. I do drop colors since I am bringing more colors in.
We're profiling our Junk Bonanza vendors with
a series of questions to help reveal a bit about their personalities. I have a few of those for you. First, what would you save if your workshop were on fire?
The first thing I'd be really sad to lose is a long board that I painted in 1986; it's got on it all the things I still do. Some distressing; it's got some craqueleur, some decoupage, some stenciling, some gilding.
What kind of house do you live in?
An 1860s Victorian townhouse in Oxford. It's a mixture of classic meets modern. I have French Bergere chairs and modern pieces. It's got beautiful carvings on the ceilings and a modern garden room. There is always filming or photography being done there; it's chaos!
In France the house is an old farmhouse and the farmers had just moved out. The room above the kitchen was where the chickens were kept! One of the beams in the kitchen is carved with a cross and next to it, 1776. The boys used to play in that room and find old eggs and have great fun throwing them and they were delightfully smelly.
What's your guilty pleasure?
Oh lord! I am so bad, so bad; it's watch
ing American Idol!
Do you have favorite music to paint by?
It depends on the mood. It can be anything from Erik Satie, calming and lovely, but then it could be something like Frank Ocean. The music for Baghdad Cafe by Jevetta Steele. I will paint madly to Mozart's Requiem and The Magic Flute.
What three words describe you?
Oh, I try to ignore myself as much as possible, truthfully!
What's your best junking advice?
Go with your hunches!
Great advice from a pro! Interested in all things Annie? You can see her most recent video here! And next week the blog will share an interview with Lisa Rickert of Annie Sloan Unfolded and the story of how she brought Chalk Paint to the United States
(plus loads of pictures of how she's used the paint throughout her New Orleans home)!
Can't wait to see you at the Junk Bonanza