43. How to Upcycle an Old Picture

Upcycle an old picture with roller blind off-cuts and left-over emulsion paint

This episode is subtitled: ‘We need you, Jaz…’

I’d been dreading this week. We normally enjoy preparing flowers for weddings, even though it can be a bit hair-raising getting all of our beautiful creations to the right place at the right time on the day. But this particular bride was the bride from hell.

We’d first met Penelope at a wedding fair twelve months ago when she’d approached our stand clutching a pale pink and silver notebook with diamanté details on the front. Jaz had given me a nudge and whispered, ‘See if you can put her off, Jen.’

‘Don’t judge a book by its cover,’ I’d whispered back, thinking that not all brides with mood boards and theme ideas and snippets of silk in diamanté-encrusted notebooks would be a nightmare.

Her first words were, ‘I want roses and they need to be this shade of ivory,’ pointing in her book at a photograph of a beautifully elegant dress she’d printed from the internet. Yes, you know that trying to match anything to a printed image is pointless but she was oblivious.

Over the course of the year it’s taken five consultations (seven hours!) of talking through her requirements, our ideas and her changes of mind. Jaz was right, I should have put her off at the start but I gave her the benefit of the doubt and soldiered on. Even though the order is a large one, it’s not been good business.

So, this was the week of the wedding and I was sure we’d make absolutely beautiful bouquets, buttonholes and arrangements according to our very detailed notes that had been updated, agreed and updated again over the last few months. We all want a wedding day to be perfect and even the most fussy of brides are thrilled with what we produce for them but I was nervous about Penelope, worried that we wouldn’t quite meet her expectations because what she expected was constantly changing. All we could do was stick to the brief and provide spectacular quality.

There’s only so much you can prepare in advance but earlier in the week I was happily ticking off the jobs as we got them done: Perfect flowers delivered by our lovely Dutchman, Guus. Tick. Large swathes of ivy for the swags picked, cleaned and soaking up water in my bath. Tick. Glass containers for table centres cleaned to sparkling. Tick. Everything else (bride’s bouquet, five bridesmaids’ bouquets, 15 table centres, 120 buttonholes and corsages, church arrangements and mothers’ bouquets) would have to wait until the day before the wedding to be started and then it would be all hands on deck to get it finished.

But on that day disaster struck. Jaz was ill. Jaz is never ill. When she phoned me she could hardly speak, completely wiped-out by a virus, upset at letting us down but totally unable fight it off. I already had all of our available staff in because there was so much to do so I had to go next door and beg some assistance from Teacups. At least one of them could answer the phone and make up some bunches for the display outside the shop. And maybe even wire up 120 ivy leaves for the buttonholes, given a bit of tuition.

The girls worked for as long as they could but one by one they had to get off home, first Sally from Teacups because it was the end of her shift, then Gillian who was an hour late preparing Bill’s tea, then Daisy, our Saturday girl, who’d been good enough to come in after school for a couple of hours but needed to go home and do her homework. So that left Blue and me with the six bridal bouquets to prepare, all intricate teardrop shapes, Penelope’s being bigger, more extravagant and more tricky than her five bridesmaids’.

Blue had been as good as gold all day despite missing out on a midday walk round the block because there had been no time to take him.

Blue in his basket from salavebox.co.uk

I was worried about how I was going to feed him and walk him that evening; in fact, I could see me not even getting to bed that night with all that work to do. Panic set in. But I pressed on, hoping that by some miracle or other I would get it all finished.

Then a kind of miracle did happen. Janice, Sooty’s owner, popped her head round the door. ‘You’re working late, Jenny.’

A few doors down from us is a general store that stays open late and she’d needed a bottle of milk. She was delighted to take Blue and I was utterly relieved as they trotted off. While I continued to work on the bouquets she fed and walked him then brought him back to me a couple of hours later, by which time I felt comfortable with what was still to do, and much more relaxed to know that Blue was sorted.

I didn’t get to bed that night because it hardly seemed worth it by the time I’d finished the bouquets so I just got started on the buttonholes and was well underway when the others turned up for work. They’d made an effort to come in a bit early so we could get everything out on time – as usual, it was a brilliant team effort, but I definitely don’t want to go through that without Jaz again!

Janice has turned into a good friend and I was able to thank her for looking after Blue by offering her one of the pictures I’d made for this week’s post. I know pictures are difficult to give as presents because people’s tastes and décor vary so much so I gave her the choice of one or other picture or a bottle of wine and she declined the wine in favour of something home made and original.

Janice was thrilled with her picture but what did Penelope think of the flowers? I’ve no idea because I’ve not heard anything from her but on this occasion, no news very definitely is good news.

Blue's signature I had two old and very faded Paul Klee prints in matching blue frames that I wanted to upcycle. I also had some lengths of an IKEA roller blind that I’d had to cut for the blinds to fit the width of the windows in my sunroom. So I set off on a bit of an experiment to turn them into new pictures with the added help of some leftover emulsion paint.

Upcycle an old picture with roller blind off-cuts and left-over emulsion paint

Upcycle an old picture with roller blind off-cuts and left-over emulsion paint

First I placed a piece of the blind material over the print and marked up where I wanted to cut it, making sure the blind was slightly bigger than the size of the old print. I cut out two pieces, one for each picture.

Upcycle an old picture with roller blind off-cuts and left-over emulsion paint

Upcycle an old picture with roller blind off-cuts and left-over emulsion paint

Upcycle an old picture with roller blind off-cuts and left-over emulsion paint

I was going to paint over the image so I taped around it to give me sharp lines at the edges (I think this is insulation tape. Whatever it is, it peeled off the paper quite easily). If your picture is under a mount then you won’t need to do this.

I painted it with a bright pinky red colour that at one time I’d had in my bedroom (wow, that was a brave colour to have on the wall!).

Upcycle an old picture with roller blind off-cuts and left-over emulsion paint

Upcycle an old picture with roller blind off-cuts and left-over emulsion paint

Upcycle an old picture with roller blind off-cuts and left-over emulsion paint

Here’s what it looked like with the tape removed. (From Paul Klee to Piet Mondrian!)

Upcycle an old picture with roller blind off-cuts and left-over emulsion paint

It took a couple of coats to cover the frame but it was quick enough to do.

Upcycle an old picture with roller blind off-cuts and left-over emulsion paint

Upcycle an old picture with roller blind off-cuts and left-over emulsion paint

Then it was time to assemble it. I chose to stick the blind material on with a glue dot in each corner.

Upcycle an old picture with roller blind off-cuts and left-over emulsion paint

Upcycle an old picture with roller blind off-cuts and left-over emulsion paint

The glue dots were okay but if you look closely you can see they show up slightly darker on the paint so I opted for spray mount for the second picture. Can you believe the Paul Klee print on the second picture is a slightly different size to the first one! I’d never noticed. It’s a good job I had more blind material to cut another piece out. This time the emulsion paint was thicker and it did wrinkle the paper, which is a shame because I like the way the green turned out – it shows up well behind the pattern.

Upcycle an old picture with roller blind off-cuts and left-over emulsion paint

Janice chose the red one and promised to pass it back to me to recycle again when she gets bored of it.

Tips:

  • Don’t paint too thickly over your printed picture or your paper will wrinkle.
  • If your old picture has a mount then you won’t need to tape round the shape to keep the edges sharp.
  • If your old picture has a mount you can tape your blind material to the back of it so you won’t have any glue dot issues and the whole effect should be neater.

Salvage Items:

  • Faded pictures
  • Roller blind off-cuts
  • Left-over emulsion paint

Which do you like best, the red or the green?

Join me for some more creative fun next week.

Jenny signature

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