I thought this would be a step-by-step tutorial. But then I counted all the cans and bottles I used – 20!!!. And all the paint layering steps, the salt, powerwash, baby wipes, polyacrylic base coat seal, gilding wax accents, wax top coat … whew!! I had a lot of fun playing with it all. But you know what, I don’t think anybody would follow a 20-page tutorial with 25 supplies!
There’s a lot of subtlety here, details that don’t show up on camera. That’s the depth you get when you use lots of layers and techniques. You are rewarded when you look very close.
It’s nice, but I don’t know if you’d do a tutorial to get subtle details that you can’t even see in photos.
Instead, remember when the Talking Heads asked, “How did I get here?” Where did a paint finish called “oyamel” come from? How did it get here?
FINDING CREATIVE INSPIRATION
The Talking Heads song Once In A Lifetime is about being on autopilot and half awake most days, getting through everything we have to do. The days go by. Day by day by day. What happens when we stop and take a second to look around? To notice things? We might get answers. We might get inspiration!
Creatives now often go to Pinterest for inspiration. My Pinterest is ALL ABOUT inspiration. It’s like I’ve hoarded every picture I like for years. I have boards about inspiring places to travel to. Doors. Colors. Patterns. Walls. The hard thing on Pinterest is choosing which photo.
But I also like to look around my own home for inspiration. When inspiration comes from something in your life, it has extra meaning.
Look around you right now.
Is there something in the room that makes you happy? Is there something that has a story? Something that makes you imagine colors? If you walk around your home, what’s the first thing you see that makes you want to reach out and touch it?
Is there something sentimental given to you by family? A friend?
What about a travel memory? Where do you go on vacation? When you’re there, what are the colors, textures, and feelings you notice?
What are your hobbies and interests? What’s your favorite piece of jewelry? What’s your favorite spice? Imagine where the spice comes from. What’s it like there?
Do you like flowers? Plants? If so, what’s your favorite flower?
Can you find inspiration in what’s around you right now? These are things close to you, things you live with. Use them to weave a personal story into what you create.
MY INSPIRATION FOR “OYAMEL”
What is oyamel? It’s a special tree. It’s a fir tree that grows in the mountains of Mexico, and it’s where monarch butterflies spend their winters. Monarch butterflies will leave areas of the U.S. and Canada where it freezes in the winter, and they’ll fly thousands of miles to Mexico to overwinter where it’s warmer. These monarchs were born up north — they’ve never been to Mexico before. But somehow, they know how to get there! They spend winter flying and huddling together in mass bunches in oyamel fir forests.
So my inspiration for the “oyamel paint finish” is the olive green, orange, and golden yellow colors of the monarchs in these trees. With some brown bark color. And the blue sky they fly through to get there.
I name everything after places, being the “nomadic” decorator and all. So that’s why I name this oyamel. I hope to see these oyamel forests someday soon – they’re within a days’ drive from Mexico City and San Miguel de Allende.
So, how did I get to that idea? Read on to see how inspiration can come from anything in your life …
THE MONARCH BUTTERFLY JOURNEY
Monarchs must overcome many struggles to survive. As caterpillars, they can only eat milkweed. But milkweed is being killed on a mass level by Roundup and the spread of farmland using Roundup and insecticides. Plus, predators and diseases kill 90-99% of monarch eggs and caterpillars before they can become butterflies! Only 1-10% make it! Thankfully once they become butterflies, they can drink nectar from many types of flowers. But they must survive an epic flight for such a little creature. Once they finally get to Mexico after flying thousands of miles, the butterflies are finding smaller fir forests – the trees are being cut down though there are a few reserves somewhat protected by the Mexican government. These pretty little guys battle a lot. Their numbers are plummeting toward endangerment.
Here’s a video that explains that the monarchs might have the most complex migration of any animal or insect in the world, and what’s happening to the Mexican forests they migrate to:
Why did I learn all this stuff? Well, I planted milkweed in my garden a few years ago. One day I saw a big fat caterpillar munching away. Yay! The next day, he was gone. He wasn’t big enough to become a chrysalis (cocoon) yet. That’s when I learned, a bird probably saw him as a big fat juicy dinner.
So early this year, I looked for tiny baby caterpillars so small you can barely see them, and I found eggs. I rescued so many that I raised 160 monarch butterflies this summer in our house. Seeing them grow and become butterflies and take their first flight was so amazing! I’m smitten. Here’s one getting ready to take off from our bathroom window. When I found this one, it was just a little white dot of an egg, not much bigger than the period at the end of this sentence.
So, I created this oyamel finish to honor these little guys and their long journeys to survive. This finish also captures the lively colors of Mexico, which I’ve been seeing a lot as I’ve been researching a trip to San Miguel de Allende, an artsy town in central Mexico.
OYAMEL FINISH DETAILS
While I’m not doing a 20-page step-by-step tutorial with lessons learned and details, below is a basic run-down of major things I did to get the look. I used mostly chalk and clay paints (Annie Sloan, DIY Paint, Frenchic) because you can blend and manipulate them easily. I also used acrylic matte “chalky finish” paints for the base coats where I did not blend.
Put a layer of light beige on the bottom half, where I knew I’d put lighter colors. The wood is dark and the light paint helps the lighter colors be truer.
Added base colors of paprika orange on the top; curry yellow on the bottom. I LOVE this curry yellow! It’s the color of tamarind staining your fingers after you eat a South Indian masala dosa!
Sealed base coats with flat polyacrylic top coat. So the base coats would stay in place while I “powerwashed” and manipulated top layers of paint.
Added dark blue on top half over the paprika orange base coat, and added olive green on the bottom half over the curry yellow base coat.
Distressed the blue and olive with baby wipes to reveal paprika orange, curry yellow and beige layers, and bare wood in a few spots.
Did asymmetrical distressing so orange and yellow areas look like random wear like maybe from a flood or something pouring onto the painted surface. Tried to hit areas where natural wear n’ tear would happen.
Powerwashed some blue off with water for texture.
Threw salt in areas while blue paint was wet. Got cool dark speckles but not super impressed. Like I said, lots of subtle details.
Added metallic shimmers with pear green color metallic, teal blue metallic, orange metallic.
Toned down everything with a light sandy beige layer of paint; wiped off most of this paint. Left enough for a dusty look.
Applied rich gold metallic gilding wax to the four bars.
Sealed with clear wax.
Noticed the clear wax diminished some metallic shimmers. Reapplied them all.
So that’s the Cliff’s Notes version. A lot of the magic happens when you reveal the layers underneath, when colors get “caught” on texture, when shimmery iridescence shows up when light hits it just right. I like the contrast of elegant iridescence mixed with a rustic cowboy outpost town kind of feel.
If you look closely at a monarch butterfly’s wings, they are iridescent! They have a color that shimmies and changes in the light. So that’s why this oyamel paint finish has metallic accents. And plus, it’s pretty!
The shelf now lives in my studio and holds … well, not much. Because I want to see the shelf!
The colors all together remind me of flashes of the iridescent golden orange butterflies clinging to the rough bark of a tree, surrounded by green leaves and blue sky. Soaking up the winter sunshine in Mexico. Even when it’s winter here in Chicago, I can look at this and think of warmer days, and maybe even a flight for myself to San Miguel and a drive to see the butterfly forest.
Meanwhile, I’m dreaming up ideas to paint something in this oyamel finish for sale, and a percentage of profits could go toward a monarch habitat conservation organization. What do you think?