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Chair painted by Budget ReDesign‘s Terry Eldridge in vibrant Annie Sloan Chalk Paint welcomed attendees to decorative paint guru Annie Sloan’s American Tour workshop. © 2012 EddinsImages

Last week I attended an Annie Sloan Hands-on Workshop in Leesburg, Virginia. I’m relatively new to Annie Sloan, as well as the paint she says she’s proud to have invented. However, while wallowing in self-pity because “I never do anything creative anymore,” and reading online about the British paint and decorating legend’s American tour, I signed-up on a whim. Maybe a workshop would re-inspire my creative juices…? After all, waaaay-back-when, there was a time when I was actually trained in fine arts. And, I do have an obscene amount of old furniture pieces lanquishing in the basement – surely, each could benefit from a painted facelift. Besides, lately, there’s been quite a buzz about Annie Sloan’s paint on decorating blogs and websites across the country. Time to find out what the buzz is about, and give myself and my old furniture a much needed kick-in-the-pants.

Collection of furnishings, painted and waxed with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint, presented by Cathy Johnson’s Laissez Faire & Company. © 2012 EddinsImages

A fine artist, Brit Annie Sloan is one of the world’s most known and respected decorative painters. A darling of the Shabby Chic movement in interior design, as well as French, Swedish and – on the other side of the design field – Urban and Boho Chic styles, Sloan has written 23 books, has been featured on numerous television shows, and presents her painting techniques and design ideas throughout Europe and the United States. And, of course, she owns her own paint company. Also, she sells a line of fabrics, and painting accessories.

People came to the workshop from all up and down the southern East Coast; I met one woman who had come from as far as South Carolina. Also, several Annie Sloan “stockists,” the people who carry her products here in the United States, brought painted furniture pieces and accessories to display in little vignettes around the lobby. The furniture and accessories providing workshop attendees concrete examples of what could be accomplished with the paints. Several stockists included their “recipes” detailing how they applied and treated the paints and waxes to achieve their unique effects.

Highboy chest in Annie Sloan Chalk Paint

Presented by The Cottage, this highboy – hand painted and waxed with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint products – was an impressive piece on display. © 2012 EddinsImages

What I most appreciated about Annie Sloan was her insistence that when working on a painting project, there’s really no “right” or “wrong,” and that one can be as creative and different as one wants to be. “These are really easy techniques. After you’ve got that, it’s the color that matters – even if you’ve got the technique, if the color is not so good, then… not so good [overall].” Of course, Annie Sloan assures audiences that not only are her Annie Sloan Chalk Paint brand colors good, but, they go a long way as well.

Addressing [what had to be] many more than 100 people, Sloan was full of good humor and stories. She called her paint “highly pigmented,” which means, just about one coat is all that is needed for a single color application. “I usually say when I paint a piece of furniture, one-and-a-half coats,” joked Sloan. Meaning, one coat, plus a little more to get the spots you missed or the places that need a little more coverage.

A lighthearted moment between Annie Sloan, left, and well-known designer/blogger “Miss Mustard Seed” as they met for the first time. And, yes, my photo is distractingly blurry… my apologies! (I didn’t want to impose on their time to ask for another picture). © 2012 EddinsImages

Also, I love that Annie Sloan claims to have developed the paint because she wanted to “get it done in a day.” No prep. No sanding. And no waiting days for it to dry. Just paint it on and let it dry an hour or two. How can you not love that! And, it means Sloan was looking to create a paint that would “stick to anything,” not just wood.

Certainly, by all accounts, she got her wish. Workshop attendees reported that the paint sticks to just about everything one can imagine, including: clay pots; brick; metal; laminate; even shoes and… a driveway. The most problematic surface, said Sloan, is “really, really shiny, cheap, plastic. It’s not the best.”

I can live with that.

Regardless, “I’m always inclined to see what happens,” she told the crowd. “Having this paint is a bit like having a child – you think you know all about it, then, it does something!” Sloan’s excitement and playfulness regarding her products and processes was infectious.

Sloan added that she painted the outside of her shop in Great Britain with her Chalk Paint and, after few years, it held up just fine. She did caution, however, that when working with the paint for exterior finishes, “If you want that sort of weathered look, then this is the perfect paint for it. If you want ‘perfect’ then, this is not for you.” In other words, for many, it is the patina that the paint acquires over time that makes it most desirable.

Detail of furniture painted with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint, rubbed and waxed.  © 2012 EddinsImages

Sloan said her palette, originally just 12 colors, now 26 different hues, is based on 18th century colors like Prussian Blue – think of the colors Marie Antoinette brought to life – and early 20th century colors, like pure white and brights – Paris, Impressionists, Cubists. Also, Sloan said that often she mixes her out-of-the-can colors to create her own custom colors, depending on what she needs. Colors in her palette are made to coordinate with one another side-by-side, layered, as well as work together in the paint pot.

All in all, the day ended too soon for me. I was decidedly disappointed when Annie Sloan’s morning presentation on color (before lunch and our hands-on workshops) was cut short because, apparently, we spent too much tome talking about waxes – Aghhh!

Kudos to Miss Mustard Seed; word is she is greatly responsible for making the event happen (happily, I managed to meet and thank her). Also, thanks to the stockists and others who coordinated, taught workshops, and brought their wares to display. And, of course, my sincerest gratitude goes to Annie Sloan, whom I was delighted to meet, for her shared experience, wisdom, stories, good humor and fabulous, easy-to-use PAINT.

And… yes… I am inspired!

More next time…

All photos taken with an iPhone 4. © 2012 EddinsImages