Upcycle Drab Discount Finds Into Glam Creations
Have you ever been to a discount store, a thrift store or a flea market and saw something that needed a little love, but you had no idea what to do? I’m going to share a few tips that might help you buy that item you think you could love one day!
Project 1: Boring 2-Tiered Tray
The first piece we’re going to start with is this super bland, 2- tiered tray. I got it from Target’s Dollar Spot for a display at craft fair. It was only $5, which is a great price, but it isn’t setting the world on fire. With a little epoxy resin, mica, paint and holographic foils, I’m going to make it just a tad more stellar. This is something you can do pretty easily and the great thing is that it can be totally customized. Are you ready to turn a dull discount find into a treasure?
Step 1: Prepare
Rough up the wood a bit. Resin likes something it can really hold on to. I just used a piece of sandpaper with 220 grit to hand sand the indented areas where I plan to pour the resin. You don’t have to sand hard … just scuff it up. Make sure you grab your rubbing alcohol to clean up the dust. You’ll have to let the wood dry before you pour resin. Remember, resin hates water and wetness more than Gremlins do!
While your wood is drying, choose your colors. I decided to go with purple and turquoise since those colors are in my logo. I mixed up about 300ml of resin and split between two cups. One of my best tips for working with mica powders, is to add the mica to the cups first, then the resin. I’m sure you’re wearing proper PPE, but if your respirator isn’t on your face, you really don’t want to breathe in the powders.
Step 2: Mix, pour and cure!
Mix your resin and your mica. You can use other colorants, like epoxy pigment paste, alcohol inks, a tiny amount of acrylic paint or acrylic ink. Now pour however you want. I decided to do what’s called a “kiss pour” which is when you take two colors and pour at the same time from opposite sides, until the colors kiss. Doesn’t that sound so sweet? I modified this kiss pour, to have to have the purple meet the turquoise from two ends. For this project, I used Stone Coat Countertops Quick Coat. In complete transparency, I don’t recommend this particular resin for beginners because it sets in 10 minutes. I had to work FAST! It’s very important to look at the working time for whatever resin you choose. I would suggest you use an art resin for a project like this one because it will self-level, usually has a 30-45 minutes working time depending on where you live, and is pretty resistant to heat and scratches once cured.
Step 3: Decorate!
Precision painting is not my strongest skill, but it doesn’t stop me from doing it. This project is just for me, so I’m ok with the imperfections. I used Mont Marte Premium Silver Foil Paint, which is the same paint I use to edge my trays and coasters. I went around the edges of the tiers and in the inside where the resin doesn’t meet the top. I was trying for a continuous silver look. The easiest way to do this is the unscrew the tiers and remove them from the metal housing, but in this case, I didn’t have a small enough screwdriver.
To add to the design, I cut out a holographic foil from Soul X Cellar on Etsy. I had to do a technique called doming or top coating after placing the foil on the tray. Basically, I poured a thin layer of clear resin on top, so the foil adhered to the bottom layer and the surface is smooth. Doming will definitely be a more in-depth subject for another article.
Step 4: Enjoy!
Now that your piece is finished, you can admire it. I don’t recommend unwrapped food, since most epoxy resins are not food safe for more than incidental contact. As always, check the Material Data Safety Sheet (MSDS) of the resin you choose. You can usually put items on the tray after 72 hours. I generally wait 7-30 days if the items could be heavy or hot. The resin can still be scratched or dented until enough time has passed.
Project 2: Cowboy Wall Hanging
I was at a local flea market and came across a stall with a lot of vintage and vintage-looking items. One was this metal wall hanging that reminded me of a giant beer bottle cap. Cowboys aren’t my aesthetic but this piece was in really great shape and only a dollar! With a bit of elbow grease, paint, a mirror and varnish, we’re going to have a great looking, one-of-a-kind work of art. Ready?
Step 1: Prep time!
When upcyling, you always want to prep your surface.
In this case, I wiped it down with rubbing alcohol, sanded, then wiped it again with alcohol.
There is no resin in this project … say what?! I decided to go with all acrylic paints and do a dirty pour. I’ll share a little of what that is, in a moment.
I chose my colors. I wanted a darker base since the sides are mostly black, so I used a mix of Lava Black Paint (Medium Body) from Liquitex, mixed with Flood Floetrol. My standard mix is 3 parts Flood, 1 part paint and mixed it really well. I do a lot of paint pouring, so I premix many of my most-used colors in squirt bottles. My other colors are turquoise and silver. A dirty pour is when you layer the paint colors in a cup, without mixing them and then pour them slowly onto the base.
Step 2: Pour and swipe
You can see in the pictures, I poured a nice thick layer of black, then poured the other paints. I put a layer of Floetrol between each color in the cup and I added silicone oil to the turquoise to help create cells, which are the circles you’ll see later on.
After I poured, I decided to use a paint sample card from the hardware store and lightly swipe through the turquoise and silver paints … that’s what creates those cells.
I used a culinary torch to pop any air bubbles that formed. The hardest part is to leave the piece alone and not over manipulate it. There are many different types of acrylic pouring you can do, but we will cover some of them at a different time.
Step 3: Decorate or stop
As of this writing, this piece isn’t completely done. I want to glue on a mirror once the paint is dry. Acrylic paint can appear dry after a day, but give it several days. I usually wait at least a week. I pan to attach a mirror in a few days.
To do that, I’ll use some E6000 glue on the back of it and place it on the hanging.
I’ll also want to use a few coats of varnish to give the paint some shine and protect it from dust. I’m going to use Winsor & Newton Artists’ Aerosols Artists’ Picture Varnish in Satin. Another artist turned me on to this while talking in the paint aisle at Michaels. I highly suggest you do this outside if you can, so the fumes aren’t in your home.
If you choose to stop because you’re in love with it, then hang it up and admire!
Project 3: Clearance Tray To Treasure
This Rae Dunn tray was on clearance at my local TJ Maxx and I thought it would be a perfect blank slate. I added flowers, resin and glitter.
The bath tray is already so cute, but it needed a little pizzaz and like so many clearance items, it had a couple of imperfections.
For this project, I only wiped down the surface with alcohol. I didn’t want to sand it and ruin the paint. When you’re working with pre-made trays, it is imperative you make sure the seams are tight, otherwise the resin will leak out. If there are any gaps, seal them with your hot glue gun. This didn’t have any gaps, so I was good to go.
Step 1: Resin
Mix your resin according to the instructions that came with it. I used Unicone epoxy resin for this project … it’s a 1:1 which means you mix equal parts of resin and hardener. I poured just enough to cover the surface of the tray and let it sit for about 10 minutes to get slightly tacky before adding the flowers.
I preserve a lot of my flowers myself, but I love the variety of pressed flowers from a small business called Greetings of Grace. The prices are phenomenal, so I will keep supporting. Flower placement is about personal preference, so you might have to play around with it until you’re happy.
My next step was to pour another thin layer of resin over the flowers to weigh them down until the next step.
Step 2: Sandpaper
After 24 hours, the resin was cured, so I used my handy sandpaper to scuff up the surface. Don’t freak out … you have to do it and I swear you won’t ruin your piece. Resin needs something to bond with, so you run the risk of the new layer breaking away from the first, if you don’t have that bit of ruff. After you sand … I used 220 grit again … use some rubbing alcohol to clean the dust and let it dry.
If you’re a glitter addict like me, this is the time to add it. I used my fine silver glitter from Crownmade, it’s called Magic Silver. This is another small, woman-owned business I support buy purchasing silicone molds, pigment powders and glitters. I didn’t measure how much glitter I added to my cup of resin, but it’s really all about personal preference.
Once the resin and glitter are mixed well … pour them over the flowers. You want to completely cover the flowers so there aren’t any pieces stick up. You can use your torch to pop any bubbles that appear. I l like to use a silicone brush to move the resin around, without scratching anything.
Step 3: Wait
After the last layer is on, it will be dried to the touch within 24 hours. This is the time to check in with your piece to see if it needs another layer. If there are any dips or rough spaces, you will have to add another layer. You will redo step 2, minus the glitter, unless you need more. Give your piece at least 10 days, but 30 days would be better, before you start putting items on the tray. You want to make sure your resin is completely set so you don’t damage it with rings from bathroom products.
I hope you enjoyed these three projects and have been inspired to find something from a store and turn it into an upcycled treasure! Let me know in the comments if you’ve made something like these projects in the past and also what you want to learn in the future.