Friends from Chicago asked me to refinish this little bookshelf. It has been in their family for a long time, someone's grandmother had owned it and passed it down. When it came to me, it was painted white, chipping in places. I thought it was absolutely perfect as it was, and the whole family-heirloom aspect made me nervous. I didn't really want to touch it. But, they had asked nicely and also agreed to pay me, so I started planning this shelf's transformation.
This was a pretty different experience than refinishing the little chairs I have done in the past. The size and shape of the piece are obviously very different from a chair, and I had to really put on my thinking cap to decide what to do.
When I think of this family, I think of vibrant love and energy. They are quite amazing people, and I wanted to reflect their vibrant spirits in this shelf.
Inside the shelves, I did large-scale collages, using the same papers in different order for each shelf. I was conscious of not spending too much time on this part of the piece, as it will most likely be covered up by books. The collages are not as detailed as my typical work, for that reason. I incorporated pictures of diverse peoples from National Geographic. I have always loved National Geographic photos and use them in my collages frequently. The family who commissioned this piece are peace activists of the most sincere and loving variety. The pictures I put on their shelf are meant to represent a diverse, peaceful, happy world which they are working toward so tirelessly.
For the sides, I wanted to mirror the long skinny shape of the shelf in my design. I decided on this tall, modern-looking plant, inspired by some scrapbook paper in my collection. The buds on the plant use the same papers that appear in the back of the shelves. I loved the little cut-out detail at the top. I decided to line it with bright yellow paper. It represents the sun, drawing the plant up toward itself.
Finally, a couple of peace-themed quotes to finish up the sides.
I must admit, this piece was a challenge. My overall aim was to honor this family's spirit with my alteration of this little bookshelf, and I hope that will shine through to the recipients.