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Carey Dougherty, Founder of Her Haven, is an incredibly special person. Her organization brightens the lives of many in the inner city of Bridgeport, Connecticut.

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Her Haven was founded on the belief that comfort and beauty do make a difference in all of our lives. The organization brings the gifts of designers and artists to those most in need. Her Haven changes the lives of women by offering them a haven in which to thrive, dream and prosper.

This story is all about partnership and collaboration. When Carey is at the tail end of a project she has contacted me to add a special touch to the space, a quote or a painted surface. Sometimes my schedule will not allow me to help or he job is too big for me to tackle. When Carey called me about sprucing up the entry to the Prospect House Homeless shelter in Bridgeport, it dawned on me that I could do a lot more for her if I had the decorative Painting “dream team”.


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Entry of Prospect House Shelter before the project

Hoping others would see the importance of her work, I reached out to some of the best decorative artists in Connecticut. Within a day Sharon Leichsenring, one of Connecticut’s most talented muralists, responded by offering to hand paint the shelter mission on the entry wall.

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She also introduced me to the talented artist, Peri Pfenninger  who had just moved to the area from the west coast. Holly Whiting, who is also a contributor to the Canvas Peace Project, immediately responded as well and drove all the way from Hartford to help. Rena Paris of Cynthia Designs  did not bat an eye about offering her valuable time, (she has 3 kids under the age of 5) so that’s a big sacrifice. She came to stencil the walls with speed and precision.

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On June 9 and 10, the new team of Her Haven decorative painters gathered in the lobby and hit the decks. Arches became windows and the walls took on an elegant Moroccan design using Wallovers, “Stained Glass ” stencil and Modern Masters mix of Pale Gold and Gold Rush opaque paint.
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Holly and Peri hand painted the bricks and Sharon hand while everyone watched in amazement at their talent and precision.

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Peri did an amazing job painting the colorful pots, we added some flowers, birds and topiaries and in a
day and half the space was transformed.

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The team of 5 had never worked together, yet it was like a perfect dance… all the colors came together, everyone knew what to do without barely speaking a word and the seasoned (over 100 years) of experience in the room took control with hardly a plan.

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There is nothing more gratifying that seeing talent used to cheer up the lives of others. I think I speak for all of us when I say that we received way more than we gave. Isn’t that always the case with voluntering?

Message from Carey to the artists….“I truly felt like I was watching both a symphony and a ballet, by how in sync you all were to bring forth your creative talent in such a collective way. The result was beyond what I could have ever imagined: beautiful, inspiring, filled with underlying messages of peace, tranquility, hope and dignity. I cannot thank you enough.”

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Thank you Carey and the Her Haven decorative painters! For more information on joining the Her Haven team please reach out to Cynthia at cynthia@cynthiadesigns.com

Wanted to show you a great solution for old tired and dated tile. A great way to save money and the environment. No need to drive around looking for new tile , spending money on new materials. Here’s a project we did to turn a ceramic tile into    the look of  authentic, copper. change the look of this kitchen backsplash.

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we started by applying Prime etch, a liquid product that seals any surface so that it will be a paintable.

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Let Prime etch dry over night and then basecoat the surface using a tinted freshstart primer. This will seal the surface further and prepare to hold a metallic paint. Make sure to paint all of the grout as well.

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Then use modern masters copper penny and antuqe copper. apply them both wet and blend together.  Use a stippling brush to hide any brush marks. Let dry and repeat so there is no trace of the light colored tile base.

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Once dry use a small cotton rag and the tip og your finger to apply   rub and buff antique copper  to the raised fruit ornament . Apply the darkening rub N’ Buff on all 4 corners of each and every tile.  This creates an aged look and also a contrast between the tiles and the grout color.

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Once dry, coat the entire surface with 2 coats of c500. I like to mix the dead flat with the satin for the perfect protective finish that is not too shiny or flat.,Amazingly bautiful. authentic and quick.

And don’t forget to do the light switch covers and outlets!

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Three times a year antique dealers from around the country stream into Brimfield, Massachusetts for the Brimfield Antique Show. Once a year Rena Paris (Wallovers co-owner) and I come, rain or shine, to trudge through a mile of fields for ideas for Wallovers and hidden treasures for our Connecticut customers.  So, in case you can’t get here…This year we thought we’d blog from the fields and share some of our discoveries with you.

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You don’t have to travel to Pakistan to see some of the most colorful and unusual textiles of that region. Just stop through the Shelton’s field at Brimfield where pillows and  bags shimmer with mirror, beads, tassel and other antique embellishments. And speaking of pattern…

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Ever wish it was still the 60’s? The color and patterns of vintage clothing is everywhere this year at Brimfield.

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Although it was raining we felt pretty colorful hanging out amongst these antique vendors. How about this Emilio Pucci like shirt for $20.

Color was abound on furniture of all kinds as well, from hand painted eastern influence……

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To Retro ….

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Dealers are getting more creative than ever with textiles. Covering chairs with old carpets pieces, making frames out of tin, and creating jewelry from  scraps of uphostery. The theme this year is SALVAGE, SALVAGE, SALVAGE.

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While the trend in home decor may be to go gray… you’ll always catch us around color! Rena discovered these fantastic enamel-coated, stackable bins, perfect for storing brushes, rollers and rags!!! or legos, matchbox cars and  blocks??? (She has 3 kids under the age of 4!)

Imagine a summer table set for dinner with this colorful fiesta ware?

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IMG_4128(hand-painted antique leather suitcase)


I’d like you to meet my new inspiration, Jill Gardiner. Jill is an 19 year old artist with a passion and flare for pattern and design. She walked into my studio one day to exchange a necklace I had created for her as a gift from her family.  We had set aside a time to redesign the necklace to be more to her liking.  During our visit, she asked if I could give her some advice on the wall design for her bedroom. She had already been experimenting with Wallovers stencils.

Then she pulled out a paper cutting design from her folder that made my jaw drop! She had cut and created this tiny, intricate pattern in a repeat islamic tile design… BY HAND!

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I soon forgot about the jewelry project… as we spoke about Islamic art and architecture, pattern, color and textiles. What fun!  (Above are her designs soon to be Wallovers’ Stencils)

Jill found a love for art after taking a multi-media art class in high school at Hamden Hall Country Day School in Connecticut.

“I used newspaper to build a replica of a mosque and I realized I loved working with paper!”

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But her real inspiration came after a civilization class with a fascinating  unit on Islamic art and architecture. Kudos to that teacher!  But all the real credit goes to Jill, who took this love into her independent senior study on the Ottoman Empire architecture. Her project focused on Turkey and the works of Sinan, one of the head architects under Suleyman I.

Jill traveled to Turkey to see the architecture which increased her passion for the style.

“I love to incorporate graphic design in my work and, because I and a perfectionist and love math,  I find repeat designs fascinating!  I used to carry around a ruler in school because I loves lines, but now I can see my work developing as I create more complex curves and repeats.” she says

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If you have read  blogs about my daughter, Stephanie Davis, you will see why I think these two girls would get along!  Stephanie, also a huge lover of pattern and design, will be soon exhibiting her colorful, ethereal paintings at The Skinny Pancake  restaurant in Burlington, Vermont.

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I can only imagine if I had both of them here to collaborate!

Jill is now an intern in the studio, working on new designs for Cynthia designs and Wallovers, marketing and efforts for the Canvas Peace Project.

Her paper cutting above will be translated into our newest design to be released in March….And….she did an excellent job as my assistant faux painting this very large wall for Spinning Lotus Studios using Wallovers Serenity stencil.

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Unfortunately for us, Jill does need to go back to school, but we hope to share our passions for pattern as long as we possibly can. So, if you call Wallovers or Cynthia Designs and hear a new, energetic voice…say “hello” to Jill.

I cannot imagine where this passionate and talented young woman’s talents will take her, but I definitely will be watching and staying a part of it!

Oh, and I think she was happy with how her necklace came out.  Maybe we will design some jewelry together too!

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It’s time to bring out the red. It’s so easy to say “yes” to favors for the holidays with the ease of allover designs using a large stencil and the industries largest stencil brush, the WALLBUSTER. This brush expands to 3 inches when in use so you get the greatest amount of coverage with one load of the paint.

The past two years I have supported this wonderful event at the Fairfield, CT  historic Burr Mansion. Each designer creates a holiday vignette  for the Christmas Tree Festival and all the proceeds fro the sale of their items go to local charities. The  local designers, Donna Bonafide and Kim Smith, chose a red and white theme to kick off this holiday party and asked me for something to brighten the feature wall, a challenge when you cannot touch the historic walls! ….But with a some Roc Lon Canvas and clips… it’s easy.

I love reverse stencils because you can go crazy on the background, forgetting lap lines and mistakes. The stencil will cover most of it showing your creation as it peaks through to create the actual design. it’s hard to see here, but I used many different white on white products, including Modern Masters shimmer stone, various glitters and mica powders.  Then stenciled using wallovers’ Maya’s Rose Revers stencil  with Ben Moore 2004-20 mixed with a little Antique Cherry Stain ‘N Seal, my favorite red combination. Once hung, the lights lit up all the sparkle.  So don’t forget to try a reverse  stencil design with a Wallbuster brush the next time you squeeze in philanthropic project!

My son, (Ben Davis, Beats-On-Tap) says I am not a good blogger because I don’t post enough. He’s right. After all, he blogs regularly about music and it is worth checking out! I wait and wait until something really inspires me. Well it hit me tonight as I walked into my studio. My husband and I had just returned from the airport after dropping off our daughter Stephanie to fly to Barcelona, Spain for 3 months.  No… not as part of a college program, or any program…  After Freshman year at Connecticut College, Steph felt she needed to break out and away from the constraints of  art classroom assignments and see what kind of artist she could really become.  Somehow she landed upon a website for Estudio-Nomada. She applied and was accepted to the independent art program in Barcelona. She found a family to live with and after  private lessons of Krav Maga, self defense class by the best in the State at breakthru fitness.… off she went.

For a moment I felt empty walking back into the art studio without her paint brush in action as it had been all summer. She had just completed a large canvas and her palette papers were still there like their own work of art.

Her glass lamp-working table left with glass all about and an empty gas tank.

…but then I found myself sifting through her work table. I had not touched her side of the studio for weeks as she prepared her journals and inspirations for her 3 month art adventure. I admit I was tempted to throw out some scraps and gain some real estate on the 6 foot table but I never did and tonight I could not break away from the table of art books, cuttings of colorful hand-painted paper, mini cards, poems, fabric journals and paintings. With a list of things to accomplish myself, I just sat and let the colors and textures soak into my senses and let the time slip away.

The last thing we had done together at home was sit across from each other on our yoga mats and say a final Namaste. Finding her work left behind was like another ujjayia breath left from her in the room.

I am tempted to photograph every page of her journals and publish them. Don’t worry Steph…. I kept them closed. But seriously. Her writing is Bob Dylanesque and her paintings a mix of Dali, Kandinsky and Matisse wrapped up in one hippy, vibe, mystical, mother-earth-loving imagination. Is that a genre??

Ok, I’m not jealous or anything. I wouldn’t want to spend three months painting with a group of artists from around the world with instructors and the inspiration of an artistic european city. Nooo….Not at all. I always remind myself that her grand mother, Fae Woolf, was a fine artist who only started painting at the age of forty. Her mother, a decorative artist, who started painting at the age of twenty and she began at the age of two and never left the art studio. She started mirroring images, mixing colors and collaging by age five. So what will three months in Barcelona at age nineteen do for her? I hope to chronicle her experience by posting her work here and there over the next three months. I hope you will become a fan of her as well.

It is hard not to get lost in her passion for her work. Her cat is obviously protecting her territory so I guess I will not be cleaning up tonight!


I recently took a trip to the textile museum in Washington, DC.  The museum is small with only a few rooms which I felt couldn’t do justice to all the history and global influences on textile design. I was mostly enthralled with the gift shop with a wonderful selection of books and magazines I found myself sitting on the floor sifting through pages of scrumptious photos.

I love textiles. I just want to look deeply into the stitches and find out how each and every weave is accomplished. I never appreciated work more than my visit to the weaving market in Chinchero, Peru located 13,000 feet above sea level. The air is thin but that does not stop these women from producing. We watched as they dyed alpaca wool and worked looms for hours creating the tightest stiches imaginable.

Shopping in the local market was a feast for the eyes with brilliant colors and patterns stacked like candy.

The difficult part of shopping was choosing just one thing to bring home when every piece was its own work of art.


After a long day in the high altitude, we happily returned to our peaceful chakra garden, mystical surroundings and yoga room at Wilka tiki in the sacred valley of Urabumba.

Driving down 3000 feet in altitude also helped the headaches and breathing, giving us energy for some much needed yoga. In the studio I was keenly aware of the antique carpets and woven mats used making each little bench a unique retreat. Everything at Wilka Tika awakened the senses of the soul.

Have you ever had the “after vacation blues” when you know work is awaiting you and the memories and restful feeling of the trip begins to slip away?  Those blues set in for me on the airplane ride home. To channel the energy from the trip I took out my computer and began drawing the hundreds of small geometric shapes that would create “Batik” by Wallovers, reminding me of the fabrics in the peaceful valley.

“Batik” is a stencil design that once applied to any surface will create the look of hand paintied and dyed fabric.

Remembering the wonderful spaces at Wilka Tika Retreat I realized the space between the walls at home was a perfect spot to fabricate a bench in our own small yoga room. I began by painting a wonderful red and fushia base, hand-brushed to create a an impression of a woven background. I used modern masters metallic Gold Rush paint and some mica powders for the strong contrast of a yellow gold. The base was then made from Terracotta  chimney flues that I painted in a periwinkle blue.

The final touch was the Bench pillows made from the fabrics collected at the markets in Peru and the Chakra Gardens book from Wilka Tika. What a cure for the blues!!!

Proceeds from the book benefit the non-profit Wilka Tika Children’s Fund to support the isolated mountain schools and Andean children in their communities founded by the writer and Wilka Tika owner Carol Cumes.

Nothing is more daunting then thinking about repainting cabinetry. Right?

No longer! Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint makes all the arduous preparation a thing of the past. It can be applied to any painted surface. The surface for this Refrigerator wall was painted to start in a latex Ben moore paint, Classic Color 1146. I wish I remembered to take a “Before “pic!  Isn’t that everyone’s biggest mistake??

We get so excited about the project and complete it without ever showing how awful it looked to start. Darn.

Well, at least I can show you the process.  For some reason I can NEVER just use a paint color out of the can the way it comes. Why is that? It’s like disease. For this project  I mixed three colors: 3/4 Emperor’s  Silk red,  1/4 Arles and a touch of Primer red. ok , I know that’s more than 100%  but that’s always how my measurements turn out.

After mixing and testing to dry on a sample of wood,  you are ready to paint the cabinet. Apply the paint with a wide chip brush or even better, Pierre Finkelstein’s  Spalter brush (yes, that’s actually the name of it). As Tiff Ziter said at the Faux Expo, “Here Cynthia, Use this Spalter brush…you will never use a chip brsuh again!”  Well, she might be right.  At least not for this application…..hard to give up old scruffy chip brushes forever but  this brush is a MUST HAVE!

Apply the paint heavily so you have complete coverage in one coat. During the application hit the thick spots with a hairdryer or heat gun so they bubble and chip off, giving the affect of old weathered paint.

After you have completed the painting and chipping process, let the piece dry overnight. When you return you can begin the waxing process. Annie Sloan sells a great brush for waxing. I have to say I also tried The Wallovers Allover brush and it worked great so if you have one of those on hand you can definitely use it!  The results are awesome!

Lightly coat the surface with clear wax first. This controls the dark wax and enables you to apply it with a lighter touch. The clear wax will allow the dark wax to rest on the surface a bit and not darken it excessively.  Start light as you can always build up on the dark wax.

And that’s it! With a little patience you can create a piece that looks like its from an old barn. And, because you can skip a lot of the preparation work and sanding and stripping, it is actually fun!

 

I had just brought my daughter to college and went through all the emotions of leaving my best friend and soulmate off for her new life, when I received a text from her that she’d be coming home.

Hurricane Irene was coming up the coast and threatening to slam into the coastal towns in Ct. The college was closed. I had mixed emotions about having her back and starting the whole difficult process over for both of us, but I knew 3 days of having her home was a gift.

So I am not bragging, but who wouldn’t want to see what this blossoming artist comes up with in a day in the studio.

First she asked me for some old magazines and an hour later had created these beautiful bowls to put her jewelry in at school.

Them empty tin cans were turned into small treasure to hold pens and pencils.

Scraps of cardboard were decoupaged and turned into storage boxes.

“Ya got any yarn, mom?”

This container was literally made out of yarn, cut up tin cans and fabric. My first thought was that it would make an awsome lampshade!  As I struggled to get my one assignment complete, she continued to wow me with her imaginative creations.

Next came hand made frames and cards from watercolors, acrylics and anything found on the table. I secretly hoped to receive one sent from her while at school.

After 2 days, creative overload hit and she took off to visit her brother in Boston. Before she left she made sure to remind me to save the messy craft paper she had used as a palette on the table. I don’t need to ask why. I am sure it will become someone’s birthday card….or maybe a letter to her at school.

When I was asked to paint on muslin I was challenged. First of all, if I made a mistake, if the paint bled under the stencil or left a mark, I was finished. You can’t paint over or get fabric paint off fabric. I was also asked to try a new paint that I was introduced to at the Quilt show in Houston last fall. So the inexperience with this particular paint and the thin Muslin was enough to make me sweat. The muslin was given to me by Rockland industries to then be made into a quilt.  hmmm, ok, I’d like to see this happen.

Well, Of course I used a Wallovers stencil to start and chose a couple of contrasting and happy colors, copper and aqua for my design. I chose Mediteranean Tile as it is simple, small with an easy repeat! By blocking off some of the design with masking tape, I easily turned the stencil into a two color pattern.


Surprisingly, the  thin muslin was extremely easy to work with! (Roc-Lon #5115 118/120″, bleached, 100% cotton, CRF  crease resistant finish). The stencil, with a little spray adhesive on the back, stayed beautifully on the fabric. The fabric did not scoot and the paint……like butta! (Stewart Gill Paints available through Notions Marketing)


I still do not know if it was the fabric and the way it accepted the paint, or the really creamy, delicious fabric paint that made the job so simple. I used the old swirl stencil technique, (I am usually a pouncer),and the small, 8oz container  of paint completed 2 sides of a king size quilt. It just kept going and going! After stenciling the two king size sides of muslin, I shipped it back to Roclon and off it went to the quilter. Where the real magic happened!!!

White Lotus Quilting in Bainbridge, Washington took this basic painted muslin and tuned it into a real work of art.


By adding her own creative touches to the design, Marybeth O’Halloran and her quilting machines at White Lotus created a one-of-a-kind, muslin quilt.


Gorgeous! what a team effort! Thanks Rockland, Wallovers, Stewart Gills Paints and White Lotus. Can’t wait to see it displayed at the next quilt show!


 


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