June 29, 2012

Furniture Painting Seminar at Haven

Another wonderful seminar I attended at Haven
Blog Conference was "Advanced Painting Techniques"
taught by Marion aka Miss Mustard Seed.
(This is part of a series of posts done to share good ideas from Haven to those bloggers who would
have liked to come but could not.  Other posts are about the keynote speakers,

Yeah! You and I have good seats at this seminar...I came an hour early.  These photos of the
 screen look off-kilter we are so close...I tried to edit them but it didn't help much.

Shaunna of Perfectly Imperfect was also slated to be a
speaker at this seminar but she got sick was unable to come.

Marion had put out the word (I think I missed the memo) to
wear paint clothes to this seminar  because we would actually
be trying some paint techniques at the end of the talk.
The girls who DID wear paint clothes got a Frog Tape t-shirt.
The worst-paint-clothes lady there got some Annie Sloan
paint brushes as her prize.

Don't be scared off by the title of "advanced" paint techniques.
There was lots of good tips and advice for anyone at any level.

Marion said that when she started painting furniture that she
used a good quality seim-gloss latex.  She likes the Benjamin
Moore and Sherwin Williams brands for this type of painting.

Latex does not fully cure until it is 30 days old.
You should let it fully cure before moving it or selling it
(or put a tag on it for the buyer stating that).
You don't need to but you can put a polyurethane coat on it.
The shinier that paint finish, the harder it will cure.

If you are not going to distress the piece of furniture
you are painting, you can spray the latex paint on.
Marion uses a compressed air paint sprayer for this.
You will need to thin the latex paint to use it in a
sprayer.  Thin it to a consistancy of one drop per
second of paint dripping off of the paint stick.

She uses "Gloss Off" to strip the tops of the pieces
(as shown in the picture above) and expose the wood.
She uses a bonding primer under the latex to
help keep the paint on the piece.

Another type of water-based paint good for
painting furniture is chalk paint.

Like most of us, when she heard about a line of chalk
paint coming over from England a little over a year ago,
she first thought it was chalk board paint.  She has achieved
great looks with the Annie Sloan Chalk Paint. She says that
it has good adhesive properties and distresses well.

She also likes to use milk paint to achieve a distressed finish.

There are different thicknesses of milk paint.
It will "resist" as it dries and some of it will flake off.
You can add a special bonding agent to milk paint.
Most milk paints are all natural and have lime in them.

Miss Mustard Seed is coming out with her own line of
milk paint at the end of July!  She showed us paint chips
of the first colors that will be in the line.

Here is a mock-up of the packaging that will be used.
( I didn't realize it at the time, but the drawing on the box is the same piece of furniture that is on the "Latex"
slide that she used in the presentation.  I think this was one of her first "famous" pieces that she did).

The names she has selected for the colors are really cute.
The color of the dresser on the package will be the color
of the milk paint inside.  She will have online video tutorials
about how to mix and use the milk paint.  It will be easy
to ship the paint because it is a powder that you add water
to when you are ready to put it on the furniture piece.

Oil paint is good to use on kitchen and bathroom cabinets.

Oil paint can be rolled on or brushed on with a high
quality brush like the Purdy brand of brushes.

Spray paint certainly has its place for decorative items.

Marion feels like canned spray paint is not good for
wooden furniture because it is difficult not to get a
spray paint pattern on the piece.
She likes the spray paint chalkboard paint that has
come out (but not for furniture).

She does not use primers with chalk paint or milk paint.

Next she covered Top Coats.

Ummm...I don't have any notes on the polyurethane that
is pictured but here is what she said about waxes:
She feels like Minwax (which is probably most common)
will yellow white furniture that it is put over.
The waxes that she prefers are Annie Sloan, Briwax,
Fiddles & Son's and her own wax that will be
coming out with her milk paint launch.
Don't put dark wax straight out of the can on to
a piece of painted furniture.  You need to put clear wax
on your brush first and THEN get just a dab of dark wax
on the end of the bristles and work them in together.
Wax dries quickly so you need to buff it before it dries.
If you can see your fingerprint in the wax, you need
to buff more of it off.
Don't put dark wax over a stain.
Don't use colored cloths for buffing.

To add another color to a small area of the piece,
Marion's favorite brush is a 2" sash brush.  She does not
have to tape off areas if she uses this size brush.
She does not paint the inside of drawers.
For painting on details and vines, she uses a 1.0 liner brush.
For lettering a sign, she uses a 1/2" angle brush.

Miss Mustard Seed now prefers strippers over sanding.
Her favorite strippers are Smart Strip, Citrus Strip, and
Motsencoker Stripper.  (Has she seen "Magic Mike"?)
Clean off the stripper product with mineral spirits.
Put stain on with a cloth NOT a brush.
After getting some stain on the cloth, rub it down in
a straight line along the wood grain.
You can also use stain as an antiquing agent over paint.

When you buy a piece of furniture to refinish, know
your limitations.  Don't buy something that is beyond
fixing with your skills or that will take way too long to fix.
If you see a piece that has "chippy veneer" decide if you
can just pull off the bad piece and just "go with it" being
what it is...an old piece of furniture.
Old red stain on furniture can bleed through a paint finish.
You can try to seal in the red finish before starting to paint.

At the end of the presentation, we went to tables to
see the paint products up close.  Here Marion is showing
us her milk paint and how to mix it.

It does have an unusual smell when it is first mixed
but the furniture piece it is used on will not smell.

Marion has a book on painting coming out this Fall!
I asked her if it was alright to share the info from this
 seminar in a post and she said that she did not mind.
She will probably be doing a book signing tour so
if she comes to a city near you, go meet her...she's so nice!


June 28, 2012

Photography & Photo Styling at Haven

As part of my "Wish You Were Here!" series of posts about
some of the seminars I went to at the Haven Blog Coference,
 this post is about the "Basic Photography and
Photo Styling" seminar.
(Other blog post in the series are  Keynote Speakers At Haven,
 Furniture Painting with Miss Mustard Seed and Power Tools 101 )

One of the hard-working organizers of Haven, Kate of
 Centsational Girl, introduced the speakers which were
Kevin and Layla Palmer of The Lettered Cottage and
their friend and co-founder of Shoot Fly Shoot, Josh Moates.

The boys went first with their tips for taking better
photos with a DSRL camera.  The main point of the
whole talk was to learn how to put your camera in
the "manual" mode and off "automatic".  They
have given manual mode the name "Manuel"...many
of us are scared of Manuel and think he is a monster.
These photos aren't that good but I'm standing towards to back so I can take pictures to
share with you without blocking other's views....bad pictures from a photography seminar.

They told us ," You are smarter than your camera",
and that we know what kind of photo we want.
Don't let the automatic setting on your camera
dictate to you what your picture will look like.

To get us started on controlling our cameras, they
taught us three basic settings on the DSRL camera,
ISO, Aperature, and Shutter Speed.

ISO relates to exposure.  They said that "exposure
is everything". An underexposed photo is too
dark and an overexposed photo is too light.

The lower the number ISO, the higher the
 quality of the photograph. 

If you have good light, use a low number ISO.

Here is a blow-up of that screen showing the
difference in the ISO numbers between an outside
photo and a photo taken of a performer inside.
A higher number ISO will have a grainy quality.
(the arrows and black text is something I added for clarification...I hope I got that right)

Next, on to the aperature setting.
It is not actually IN your camera...it
is the opening in your lens.

Aperature controls the depth of field in your photo.
The lower number aperature yeilds a shallower
depth of field.  It is actually a bigger opening of the lens.

If you want a specific item in the foreground to be
in focus and the background to be fuzzy, chose a
low aperature number.  A setting of 2.8 is good,
Josh says that 1.2 is "crazy"...I think he meant "crazy"
as in a "crazy good" way. 

If you want your whole photo to be in focus,
use a higher aperature setting. For example, if you
are taking a photo of a whole room and you
want everything to be in focus, use a higher setting.
A higher aperature number is a smaller lens opening.
(This always confuses me.  Basically, low number aperature yeilds a fuzzy background.)

 Josh took these example photos of his fence. 
He said not to judge him...he knows he needs to paint it.

A lens (that usually does not come with your
camera if you buy it as a kit) that they suggest
purchasing is a 50mm 1:1.8 if you like fuzzy
 backgrounds.  It runs between $100 - $150.
Josh says that it is "plastic fantastic"...I think
this means that it gives great results with little
additional effort on your part.  It also gives you
good "Bokeh".  I have seen this word written but
really did not know what it is or how to say it.
Josh said that it is the blur background in shots and
they refer to it as "boca burgers" (like the
 vegetarian food product at the grocery store).

Finally, they covered Shutter Speed.  The shutter
in the camera is like a trap door. A fast shutter
speed will freeze action but not let in much light.

A slow shutter speed shows motion (which is
cool in some situations) and lets in more light.

For indoor photography of things that are not
going to move (furniture, etc.) you can get good
lighting by using slow shutter speed. However,
slow shutter speed means that any movement of
the camera while the shutter is open, will
result in a blurred photo.  The secret weapon
to combat this problem is A TRIPOD to hold
the camera still while the shutter is open.

Kevin (who takes product and room shots
professionally) says that to reduce movement
even more, he uses a remote shutter release and a timer. 
AND anyone in the room has to be motionless.

Rule of Thumb: if your shutter speed is going to be
less than 1/60 use a tripod to hold the camera.

To put it into an easy nutshell for us, the guys
developed a "Three Step System" :

1. Decide what ISO you need for your lighting
situation (bright outside? dark inside?), set
your camera according then forget about it.

2. Decide if you want only foreground in focus
  or whole picture in focus, set your aperature
accordingly, then forget about it.

3.  Shutter speed is where you will need to "play"
with the setting as needed. They suggest
taking a trial photo and then dialing in faster
or slower shutter speed on your camera to
adjust the amount of brightness/darkness.
You may need to take several trial photos
(looking at your camera screen each time)
to get the shutter speed where you want it.

For the Photo Styling part of the seminar,
Layla and Kevin were the speakers.

Layla told us that photo styling is subjective and
what looks good to one person might not to another
but here are her "Top Five Photo Styling Tips".
(these are paraphrased/condensed/what I wrote down...hope it is correct)

1. Think 3-D
When photographing interiors, think about perspective
and creating depth.  Use interesting objects in the
background to draw the eye into the photo. Create
a visual journey from the front of the photo to the
back.  Look for interesting angles to shoot from.
If a window is involved in the shot, try to have
the light from the outside to be about the same
level as the light inside.  You may have to wait
for a certain time of day for the best photograph.

2. Group In Odd Numbers
Use odd numbers (of items) to break up the evens.
You can use space to break up evens into
groups of odds.

3. Break Photo Into Thirds

For some reason, a photo is more pleasing to
the eye if the main object falls along the "lines"
that divide an image into thirds.

The places where the lines intersect are called
"power points".  It is especially effective to place
a main object at one of these points in a photo.
You can use the cropping tool in your photo
editing software to achieve a photo that uses
the idea of thirds. The object of attention should
fall along the lines of thirds (as shown above).
Here is "The Rule of Thirds" from "A Nest For All Seasons" if you want more info on that concept.

4. Use Contrast & Color
Layer dark with light, shiny with matte,
smooth with rough.  Tell a story with color.
Pop an accent color from side to side and
top to bottom in a photo by repeating the color
in various forms and around the photo.

5. Add Life & Movement
A photo of a room should look lived in (a book still open,
slippers by the bed, coverlet turned back).
You can add life to a photo by including people,
pets, green plants, fresh flowers, ect.

Layla's Four S's
1. Skooch It
make the room look not too perfect
2.Scorch It
don't have an never-lit candle in a shot...
light it and then blow it out if necessary
3. Swap It
move things around to look more interesting
4. Stamp It
be sure to watermark your photos..
plan the photo with a space to include a watermark.

All three of the speakers live in a city about ten minutes away from mine. 
Layla and Kevin and their blog have been featured in the newspaper at
least a couple of times in the past few years. 
Last year I did a post about them called Local Celeb Bloggers.
So Layla and Kevin have had some local press but they are probably
better know for their huge prescence on the internet and in national magazines.

 You might not have heard of Josh Moates but he is a local celebrity too.
  He and his partner, Kim Box, have a super successful photography business
doing mostly people (wedding, babies, families) in a photojournalist style.
  I see his name credited all the time for his work in local magazines too.
I had seen his work and wanted him to photograph my daughter's wedding.
When I called his biz to check, he was booked up a solid over a year in advance!
I found this fun video on the internet if you would like to see it:
He is married to a lady was one of the pretty girls that was on
"Deal Or No Deal" show...she carried one of the briefcases down the steps.

Josh and Kevin played in band together.  Josh honed his photography skills
 taking pictures of their band too.  Now Kevin and Josh have started an internet
business called "Shoot Fly Shoot" together.  They have made videos that
teach folks even more about photography than they had time to present
 at Haven.  If you were there at their photography session at Haven, you know
what great personalities they have...I'm sure this comes across in their videos too.

I just bought the photography lessons today...they are offering a 30% discount
right now if you enter the code "Haven2012"...I don't know how long that lasts.
I have never met the speakers and they are not paying me to say anything about
their business...I just wanted to pass that info along if anyone else wants more
help in learning how to use their DSLR camera. 


June 26, 2012

Haven's Keynote Speakers

The Haven Conference for DIY/Home bloggers in
Atlanta June 21 & 22 was so much fun for me.
I wish that every one of my blogging friends could
have come to it.  In case you did not get to come,
I am doing a few blog posts on some of the
sessions there to hopefully pass along some of
the good advice and information that I gleaned there.
Sort of a "Wish You Were Here!" series.


The first morning of the Haven Conference
we were welcomed to the opening meeting
by Rhoda of Southern Hospitality blog
and her fabulous co-organizing team
of Chris (Just A Girl), Kate (Centsational Girl),
Sarah (Thrifty Decor Chick),
Marion (Miss Mustard Seed),
Beth (Home Stories A - Z), 
Traci (Beneath My Heart,
along with blog designer,
Kristi, and event planner, Kristin.

The keynote speakers for Haven were Sherry
and John of the very popular (5 million views a month!)
DIY/Home blog Young House Love

I thought that they were fabulous speakers...
so cute, so entertaining, so informative, so humble.
Their topic was "Eleven Biggest Decisions" that they
have made concerning their blog.  They added the subtitle
"Or Eleven Somewhat Subconcious Choices That
Have Steered The Course Of The Blog".

To give us a little background, they shared that they met
while both working at the same ad agency in New York City.
Sherry was the copy writer for an account that John
helped to manage.  They kept their relationship a secret
from their co-workers until they decided to leave NYC
for a slower pace in Richmond, Virginia, in February
of 2006.  They got engaged in March of that same year
and the next month they impulsively bought a house.

These photos are just pictures of the screen in the big meeting room they are speaking in...as if you are there too!
And, by the way, you and I are standing in the back of the room

The house was well within their budget with even
a little left over for the renovations that the house needed.
John started the blog to share the re-do of the kitchen
in that first house with friends and family (and maybe
complain a little too about some installation problems).

 Sherry eventually started writing some
 posts for the kitchen make-over on the blog.

The kitchen remodel took four months.  They entered
the project into a contest and won!

They had more projects that they wanted to do to
update the house, so they just kept the blog going.

Sherry said that it kept their creative juices going to
continue writing the blog.  She felt that if they did not
keep posting a few times a week, they might stop
and then never start again.

In 2007, they got married in the backyard of their
house.  It was "one giant DIY project".

What started as a hobby slowly began to bring in
a little money.  John had a job at an ad agency in
Richmond and Sherry worked from home.

They added Goggle "Ad Sense" to their blog
and earned 30 cents a day at first.

Sherry also added some other ways to
earn money via their blog.

This is a pie graph of how the blog earned
money in the early days.  After five years of blogging
there are not as many pieces of the pie.  Their main
sources of income now are ads, sponsors, writing for
magazines, etc. and their book coming out this Fall.

As many of the other speakers would say at Haven,
Sherry and John agree that "Content Is King"
when it comes to bringing more visitors to your blog.
Their good content and "luck" brought them some press.

John told the funny story of when they were
shooting the cover of "The Nest" magazine that
they told him NOT to look at the camera.  He said that
if you go back and see that magazine's early covers
that you can discern that they never photographed
the husband looking at the camera.

Recently, the couple was highlighted in a New York Times
article about computerized floor planning.  That came
about due to an blog post they did back in 2007 about
the product.  They wanted to empasize to us that their
growth and exposure has been gradual and over time.
Don't expect big exposure when you are first starting
 a blog...keep your content excellent and exposure will come.

Sherry and John are self-professed "DIY dorks"  who
are learning as they go about turning a house into a home.
They readily admit that they are not experts on anything
other than being themselves and that is what they write about.

Since Sherry is a professional copy writer, the first blog
posts had a more business-like tone to them.  One of her
friends that looked at her blog told her that she was
"way funnier in person" so she decided to let her
"freak flag fly" and began writing just as she spoke.

Sherry advised us to be ourselves in blog writing
and be authentic...it brings dimension to your blog.

They advised that "sometimes you just have to say 'no' "
to opportunities that come along.
A company once pitched them an idea for a "sexy" home
improvement show (John working without his shirt, etc.).
Sherry asked them, "Have you ever read our blog? That
is so not us." Needless to say, they turned it down.

A personal decision for them was to not accept
free products.  They did not want to use or feel
obligated to recommend products that they would
not use normally.

The title of their blog when they started was
"This Young House".  A certain entity with a similar
name served them with a "cease and disist" order to
stop using that name or they would be sued.

John said that things like that just make you want to
walk away from blogging.  He says now that they are
glad that they just went on and changed the name to
"Young House Love".  On their blog it says
"1 young family + 1 old house = love".
Another way to remember the name of the blog
is to think "Young love with a house in the middle."
I always thought that their last name was "Young"
(it is not) so that was a revelation to me. 

Sherry advised us to not get angry or defensive if
someone does not like our style or makes a negative
comment.  Someone actually wrote to her that
her baby looked like an alien!  Can you imagine?

Here are some things to keep in mind about comments:

The only time they delete a comment is if it does
not add to the conversation.  Comments like "Your baby
is ugly" or "You smell like a fart" get deleted. 

Sherry and John are going to let the future surprise them.

Of course, they have some plans but they said they could
have never imagined five years ago where they are now.
They want to concentrate on their family and their blog
and just see what the future holds.  One idea may be to
buy a rental or vacation house to re-do after they
are finished with the house they are in now. 
(They had moved into a larger home
several months after their baby was born).

After their presentation, there was a Q & A time.
The subtitle of this screen is "Or Please Don't Make Us Stand Here Awkwardly While
No One Raises Their Hands".

Here are a few questions and answers:
(some of this is paraphrased/condensed)
Q: How much time do you spend replying to comments
A: Four to five hours a day

Q: Do you worry about running out of things
to blog about?
A: No, we have more ideas than we have 
time to execute them.

Q: Will you re-do anything in your house that
you have already done?
A: Yes, a house needs to evolve with the
changing needs of the family.

Q: How do you keep up the pace of as 
many blog posts as you do?
Do you ever burnout?
A: We are tired a lot.  The challenge of a 
stay-at-home business is that it is AT your
home.  The blog is now our full-time income
so there is that  incentive there to support
the family.  We actually have started a
new blog about family...it makes us get out
 and do things that are not house-related.

Q: How many projects do you have
going at one time?
A: One major and maybe three smaller ones

Q: Your photography is beautiful. What
tips do you have for us?
A: Emulate other blogs that you admire
their photography, use a tripod, remote
shutter, timer on camera, turn off lights in room.

Q: How did you come to the decision to
quit your "day job" and depend on the blog?
A: Sherry had already been working from home
as a free-lance writer so that kind of transistioned
into spending more time on the blog. For John,
it came down to numbers when the baby came...
do you pay someone to watch the baby so the
blog can continue to prosper? John was having
his last day of work luncheon with co-workers
when he got the call that Sherry was in labor.
They say that they "make a modest living by
blogging about living modestly".

Young House Love blog site is just packed with
wonderful pictures and ideas.  I went over there just
to get a digital link to use in this blog post and
found myself there for an hour looking at the
 projects,"how to"s, and stories about
their lives that Sherry and John have put
on their site.  If you have not been, you should go! 

If you would like to see a recap of the
"Photography and Photo Styling" seminar" click here,
or "Painting Techniques" seminar click here,
or "Power Tools 101" click here.

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