How to Create a Crusty Rusty Picture Frame (Or Anything Else)

It used to be, things with rust were for the garbage. Why would I intentionally rust a picture frame? I’m not the only one seduced by rust. There’s a mass of Pinterest boards titled “Rust” with collections of crusty images. What’s up? Trends! They have the power to infect us all.

And this is what happens when we’re infected: As soon as I got my hands on this wood printing block from India, I saw it mounted in a square rusty frame:

Yes, I took a new frame and rusted the heck out of it. Here’s the before and after, from black plastic to rusty patina:

Where did this idea come from? I got “infected” way back last year, when I saw a square metal rusty frame at HomeGoods. When I returned the next day — after it handily passed the thinking-about-it-all-night-can’t-forget-about-it-must-get-it test — it was gone. When HomeGoods says its merchandise changes every day, they mean it! You gotta grab while the gettin’s good.

So I will make one. Make that two. Because frames should have buddies.

I found the right shape frame at Michaels: square, with straight deep sides.* If the sides are not plain and straight, the finished product won’t look so much like real metal. To give the frame a slightly rough finish appropriate for a rusty surface,  I spray painted it with Krylon Make It Stone textured paint. There was a can of beige color in our basement:

You don’t need to perfectly cover the whole frame. Spray just enough to make a rough surface. This stuff stinks, so I sprayed it outside on the patio, on a plastic dropcloth:

Yeah not very good-lookin’ yet, but you just wait and see. I’m going for something like this rusty look, found on Pinterest in one of those boards that celebrate corrosion and decay:

To create rust, I used this Sophisticated Finishes Rust Antiquing Set, available at craft stores such as Michaels and Blick:

Be sure to read and follow the directions for this stuff. It can corrode surfaces because it really creates real rust. Really!

First I painted the metallic surfacer that contains iron particles over the Krylon textured paint. I painted two coats** and this resulted in a frame that looked like slightly pebbly iron:

The directions with the kit tell you to let the iron paint dry before painting the antiquing solution. However in the company’s online FAQs, they tell you to not let the iron paint dry for more than 24-36 hours. Because it may not rust if you wait this long. They say you could start painting the antiquing solution after 2 hours or even 8-10 hours, and you may get different rust effects and colors at different drying times. The warning that rust may not develop if you wait too long was *not* in the instructions in the kit’s package.

Thus, my frame sat for two days before I had a moment to apply the antiquing solution to create the rusty surface. Despite this, I still got rust. Here it is developing:

Be patient. I had to hold back from checking it all the time. Go on and live your life while the solution does its work.

The next evening, I painted a second coat of antiquing solution and the rust bloomed before my eyes. Like you could watch the rust grow! Very cool. Here’s the frame after the second coat:

The company’s FAQs and bloggers who used this product warn it may take 24 hours for rust to show, and you may need to paint 2-3 coats of the antiquing solution, each 24 hours apart. If you don’t get any rust, you can try again by starting over and painting both solutions over everything. If this process seems too long, your other option is to expose metal to the elements, and how long would that take! Makes this seem fast.

Also, you will not have full control over the rusty result. Rust has a mind of its own. The variation below looks passable from one angle:

But when the light hits it, very smeary, not so good:

So I applied a third coat of the antiquing solution to even this out, but that didn’t get the sides looking the way I wanted. I still need to figure this out. Maybe I’ll repaint both the iron and antique solutions on some of the sides.

Enough of the rust. Now let’s move to the inside of the frame …

Years ago I saw a tjap (an Indonesian copper batik printing block) for sale on eBay, mounted on a rough fabric for the background. Liked it so much, I saved the picture. Here it is:

I wanted the same contrast of surfaces and textures for the Indian wood printing block. So I covered the back of my frame with burlap. I “shopped” the hobby supplies in our basement for this rug hooking linen burlap, purchased not because I hook any rugs (I do not) but because I wanted the thicker rough weave:

I wound up cutting the burlap with little snippy things I use to cut matted fur off my Maine Coon’s butt! Ugh. Why? Because there are a dozen good scissors in the house, but can they ever be found when needed? Of course not. Tomorrow, I’ll trip over three scissors. Does this happen to anyone else?

After that, I pried the wood handle off the printing block (with the correct tool!):

Then attached the block to the frame backing.

Here’s the finished product!

Because I feel like this needs a buddy, I’m seeking another wood printing block to mount in a second rusty frame. Then both will hang on a wall together.

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* NOTE: I ran into a big problem during this project. Don’t use this t-shirt display frame if you don’t want glass in the frame. I thought I’d simply remove the glass. Not so! The glass is sandwiched between plastic sides molded to permanently hold it in place. I had to break the glass to get it out of the frame! (Always dispose of broken glass safely, both for you and the garbage truck guys.)  For this project, I should have used a shadowbox frame without glass.

** ANOTHER NOTE: This solution contains iron particles. The bottle is heavy like metal. The directions tell you to shake it up — shake it up real good! Which I did. But it didn’t mix well. Because the first coat was the consistency of gray water. The second coat was dry and crumbly and I sort of smeared and pressed it on. The solution in the bottle seemed nearly solid. I wasn’t sure how to dilute it — I didn’t want to mess up the interaction of iron solution and antiquing solution chemicals. I honestly did not pay much attention in high school chemistry class and don’t want to create any combustion problems involving the fire department. Has anyone else used this product? What happened for you?

FOLLOW-UP: The company says any high-quality acrylic paint can be mixed with the iron paint solution, which may help improve the consistency if it gets too dry and crumbly. “Any high quality acrylic paint can be mixed with the Metallic Surfacers. Mixing the paints can alter the reactive nature of the coatings and change the color and patina finish that develops when an Antiquing Solution is applied.”

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See this project and more DIY ideas at:

Cherished TreasuresChic on a Shoestring Decorating | Craft Junkie Too | Craft-O-Maniac | Crafty Confessions | DIY Home Sweet Home | DIY Showoff Project Parade | Flamingo Toes Think Pink Sunday | Home Stories A2ZI {Heart} Nap Time | Ivy and Elephants | Ladybird Ln Weekend Show Off | Redoux Interiors | Show & Share with Southern Lovely | Sugar Bee Crafts | The DIY DreamerThe Kurtz Corner | Thrifty Decor Chick | Very Merry Vintage Style





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Bringing Buddha Closer to Home

Many of our travels have taken us to lands of wats and Buddhas. Now we’re too busy with the business of business for vacation. I really miss traveling to Buddhas.

My sister-in-law knows we like Buddhas and gifted us with a Buddha head to decorate the Chennai apartment. I transformed it a bit:

In my mind, there’s always saffron with wats and Buddhas.

Via Food and Farsi Flickr:

From Steamy Kitchen, another delicious saffron photo, tips on finding quality saffron, plus many recipes in the 100+ comments:

Another striking saffron photo and recipe from Veggie Belly (website full of vegetarian recipes, do check it out):

So, um, why did I come here and start writing? Oh yeah … today I share saffron  in the form of paint. Because I envisioned combining our black Buddha head with saffron and gold for a striking combination. Like this image, “Monks in Yellow Robes” Painting by Aung Kyaw Htet:

Here’s what I did:

  • Found a wood block at Hobby Lobby
  • Painted it with DecoArt Americana acrylic paint in Persimmon color
  • Stamped script text in gold ink on the top of the block
  • Drybrushed light brown paint on the Buddha to make features pop, then lightly dabbed antique gold Rub ‘n Buff (or gold leaf pen? forget now) on the hair to give him a golden glow
  • Glued Buddha on the wood block with E6000 glue

But he was missing something. In Thailand, I loved the texture added by the little squares of gold leaf that people apply to Buddhas, especially when there are many shredding pieces. Via Hawke Backpacking:

So I added a little more gold. Because Buddha is on a lotus, I got an Indian lotus motif wood block stamp from Catfluff on ArtFire — here’s a similar wood block print stamp.

I tried to stamp a gold lotus right on the persimmon-color wood block. But I found wood block stamps made for fabric and paper don’t work so well for wood-to-wood impressions. So I found scrapbook paper with persimmon and other colors in it — I was disappointed about this change of plans at first, but now prefer the extra dimension the mottled paper brings. I cut the paper slightly smaller than the wood block’s sides, and stamped the gold lotus on the papers, one for each side of the block. Then I glued the papers to the wood block, and antiqued the edges with Distress Ink.  Here’s the result:

However the Buddha head is heavier than the wood block, so when put together the whole thing was top-heavy and unstable. So I found an old coaster sized perfectly to fit under the block, and got huge heavy washers at Home Depot to add weight. I glued the washers to the coaster with E6000 glue. Then I applied antique gold Rub ‘n Buff to the coaster, flipped it over, and glued the Buddha block to the coaster with E6000. Ta-da, stability! Always a good thing.

To make a clean bottom, I cut thin cork backing to size and glued that to the bottom.

Now we have a reminder of travels to wats and Buddhas, but closer to home! On our next trip to Chennai, we’ll return him to the India apartment, his intended residence.

So if you have wood block prints, try printing them on paper. You can add extra designs to printed scrapbook papers.

I left gold ink on the stamp and set it out for display on our living room coffee table, along with a paisley wood block stamp from India that I picked up at Uncommon Objects in Austin, Texas.





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A Doorbell Cover Make-Over. Yeah! Why Not?

Even the most mundane things should be pretty. Think about one thing in your house that you completely forget exists. Take a look at it. Do you like it? Could it be better? Why not make it so?

Our doorbell cover came with the house. It was sort of … prairie style? Mission style? I don’t know. All I know is, it didn’t go with our style. But c’mon I’m not  buying a new doorbell cover. So when I removed it in order to paint the wall it hung on, the time was right for a makeover.

Here’s the “before and after”:

First I filled the grooves with wood filler. A glumpy gloppy job. Yes, real high quality work here!

Then I sanded the gloppy stuff down, and painted the cover black.

The cover was originally really uneven so it’s still not a level surface, but that’s OK, I want it to look old and imperfect, like a relic we found in a souk somewhere exotic. This is to compensate for the fact that I haven’t yet been in an actual Middle Eastern or North African souk …

I next brushed on a few coats of matte Mod Podge, then sanded in one direction with coarse grit sandpaper. This made cool striations.

Then I stamped with various scrapbooking stamps and gold Tsukineko ink, with intentional uneven coverage of gold ink.

But wait. Something went a little too far with the uneven coverage! This cut-off of the stamp image bugged me even when hanging on the wall.

There’s a ridge on the surface there, and the stamp didn’t make contact. How to fix this? I used a trick shown on a video of how expert Indian block printers do their work. If you don’t want to stamp over previous work, cover it with paper. Simply genius! The newsletter from the local gardening center will do.

It’s much less lopsided feeling now.

Here it is on the wall. Much better! And it no longer clashes with the frame below it.

So if you giggle at the fact that any blogger would trumpet about the amazing makeover of a doorbell cover …. you never know, you may find yourself looking at a silly forgotten thing in your house, and making it special too!





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Lakshmi Niche

Where are these Lakshmi goddesses? In natural niches carved by flowing water, in a red earth cave somewhere deep in the jungles of India?

Nope. They’re where we can see them every day. On a wall in our dining room:

Here’s a side shot so you can see the niches are deep to give Lakshmi room to sit:

The west side of our house has a lot of windows, making a lack of many appropriate east-facing walls to choose from. The niches feel a bit misplaced here, but I think that’s more because we need something in that empty space between the mirror and niches.

Lately, we’ve been busier than ever. There hasn’t been time to work on finishing the India apartment in Chennai for many months. So I’ve decided to bring a little more of India into our Chicago home, instead of trying to get back to the India apartment so far, far away. So the focus for awhile on this site will be much closer to home.

And speaking of that, these Lakshmi niches I recently hung in our newly-painted dining room … I made the niches in a handbuilding clay class way back when we lived in Minneapolis. They’re intentionally unfinished and crude, to look like niches lifted from the earth of an exalted, revered cave hidden in the jungle, holding long-forgotten artifacts. The kind of place where you risk poisonous snakebites and mysterious curses if you dare venture there. Risking all to find Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth:





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