Mixed media commission

A little before my surgery last fall some friends commissioned a big 5.5′ mixed media piece for their new bedroom. Apart from the handful of murals I’ve done this would be my largest piece to date. Unfortunately it took me what felt like forever post-surgery to recover enough to work on it.

A couple weeks ago I was finally feeling up to the challenge to start. My specifications were threefold:

1. The size, roughly 2.5′ x 5.5′ 
2. The text, “Be happy with this moment. This moment is your life.”
3.”Not farmhouse.”

I was great with all three of those. Nothing against the Gainseses, but the whole “new farmhouse” style and I aren’t compatible.

I knew I wanted to incorporate some textile elements and needlework in this piece, so I opted to work on fabric instead of paper or canvas this time. I wanted the fabric to have a certain aged quality, so I soaked it for a couple of hours in a mix of black tea and coffee. I was pleased with those results,  and then moved on to rinsing, drying, and ironing the fabric to prep it for paint.

I began by stenciling the quote in a matte black paint, and added some gold leaf to the lettering (finished with a satin varnish). If you haven’t worked with gold leaf very much it can be pretty tricky. Mainly, it can adhere to the oils in your hands, which makes it quite difficult to apply. Opt for wearing latex gloves (or use tweezers) when applying it to your surface.

I added a few painted geometric elements and then decided how I wanted to incorporate needlework. I’m no expert with a needle and thread,  but I’ve done quite a few projects with them before.

I used gold, cream, and teal thread, choosing to outline a few letters, highlight shapes here and there, and sew a few lines throughout the piece.

When I was happy with all the painted and stitched elements I moved on to constructing a simple frame. I used lightweight cedar trim pieces, and sanded them all down really well after making my cuts. I had trouble deciding whether to stain or paint the frame, but knew I wanted to keep it simple. Based on the room it was going in I ultimately decided to paint it a shade of weathered grey.

Next I stretched and secured the fabric over the frame with an upholstery stapler.

I did a test hanging to make sure everything was secure and good prior to delivering the finished product,  and almost convinced myself that it belonged in our dining room instead.
Happy with the finished product, we delivered it last week and our friends hung it that night.

I’m quite pleased with this piece in its new home. It looks like it belongs. It incorporates some darkness, some light,  some messiness, some elegance, some stitches, some gold, some unexpected elements. Just like life.

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