Friday, August 26, 2011

A Day in the Life of a Faux Finisher

Ever wonder what a typical day looks like for a decorative painter?  Unlike artists, we don't stay in our studios, waiting for the lightning-strike of inspiration, or trying to tune into the "vibe of the universe" to motivate us... ( just playing with the stereotype!)

Most of the time, we're up on scaffolding in a client's home, applying the next layer of glaze or plaster (most finishes take several layers to complete).  Here's a day I had this week, which was typical, if a bit frenzied...

7:36 AM
Dressed in my work "uniform" (paint-splattered pants, a tank top, sneakers, and a few bracelets for fun), I start with coffee and flip through my spiral notebook with my day's schedule.  Today we'll be doing a paint-and-glaze finish in a powder bath, and late in the afternoon I need to finish a fireplace project at a different home across town.

I keep two daily lists going:  "To Get Done" and "Load Up".  Everything on the "Load" list - such as ladders, rollers, tarps, and paint - has to be loaded into my work vehicle, like this.

8:50 AM 
Head to the first jobsite:  a beautiful home in Sonoma Ranch, where my assistant Arlene and I will apply a strie'd finish in the powder bath.  The walls were refloated and painted days ago by one of my husband Peter's painters, so they're smooth and ready to go.

Here's what a "strie" finish looks like:

It's quite lovely, especially in metallics, and is achieved by dragging vertically through wet glaze to get the striated effect.  The sample for today's project  -  ebony glaze over rich brown paint  -   looks like zebrawood.  Very cool.

9:40 AM
We've started applying the finish and realized that the slow-drying glaze is drying a little too slowly.  At this rate, the client won't be able to use their bathroom for days.  I set Arlene to dry the walls with a hair dryer while I continue working.

2:15 PM
At last we're done.  The finish took longer than expected due to the frustrating tendency of my vertical dragging to drift off-plumb.  But that's the advantage of slow-drying glaze: it can be worked and reworked until it's right.

4:00 PM
We've cleaned up and Arlene is headed home.  (She'll rejoin me here the next day when we glaze the client's stairwell.)  I'm headed to Home Depot for supplies and then up to Stone Oak to finish yesterday's fireplace project.
In Stone Oak I apply a glaze over a fireplace mantel, help the client select colors for the next project, and inspect the limestone finish I'd put on the fireplace wall.  After about an hour, I head home, stopping to see some friends and grab a bite to eat along the way.

7:30 PM
After dinner both Peter and I have some office work to get done.  At my computer I make new lists, answer emails, and prepare some paint estimates for Paper Moon (Peter's business).  Then some sample-creating, including this rich red crackle finish for a client's master bedroom headboard wall.  Most evenings we're busy with family and friends, so desk- or studio-work usually happens late nights or early mornings.

And always interspersed throughout the day are the various phone calls and emails that keep my business running.  Thank goodness for smart phones!

Often I'll have larger projects, where I'll stay at one jobsite for a week or more.  Or, on a rare day with no on-site work, I'll have an Office Day and work on accounting, upload photos on facebook, write thank-you notes, and catch up on my favorite shelter magazines ("Veranda", "Architectural  Digest", and "Elle Decor").  Once in a while Peter and I can accompany each other on our workdays, which is always nice.

I love the variety of my life.  I don't miss working a desk job... although I do wish I had more time to write.  And my work can certainly be physically exhausting.  Ideally, I'd do more interior design projects and leave the sample-making and installations to my assistants (except for my mural commissions).  And I would like to create some fine art again.  I tend to be a realistic painter, but the finishes I do in client's homes often inspire me to create some large-scale abstracts in a similar style.   Those are next on my agenda.
There's my day, all wrapped up in a bow.  Sometimes I think that "faux finishers" are seen as elusive, mysterious creatures, similar to "ghostwriters" or "media consultants".  Hopefully I've demystified us, just a bit.   Until next time!


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