Thursday, 17 February 2011


My last post was a challenge to my own massive skills in the procrastination department. I had a really tricky project matching some timber and because it was tricky I was finding every excuse NOT to do it so just to get me going I posted it here, knowing that I had to then get on and complete it or look like a total slacker...
So to recap here is what I was given, an beech door with an MDF panel.

and the panel was to end up looking like spalted beech which is here

here is the chart out trying to pin a base colour down

and a close up of this tricky tricky has a lot of underlying pattern in it

So I started putting structure and pattern in with acrylic


This was dry very quickly so then I over grained in oil




I'm not unhappy with the result. And here is a close up of the knot

Now all I have to do is take the tape off and varnish...let's hope I can match the sheen of the cellulose lacquer on the surround.

Cait Whitson
Carte Blanche Decorative Painters

Monday, 14 February 2011

If I post it here I will HAVE to do it

I have to make this blank MDF panel in the centre of this beech cabinet door look like

Beech Cabinetry

this Spalted Beech here

Spalted Beech
 I have put it off and put it off, for too long....a complex job, lots and lots of little detaily stuff in this timber, it's beautiful, but the more you look at it the more you think you'll never quite get it.
So having committed here.... I now have to pull my finger out and get this monkey off my back. I will post more later and let you see how I get on.

Cait Whitson
Carte Blanche Decorative Painters

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Biz Bites

The Scottish Conference for Social and Private Enterprise is held annually here in Perth, run by Perth College UHI in conjunction with Perth and Kinross Social Economy Partnership. Gibson and I attended the first in 2009 and it really fired us up so this year since we have felt so slow to get motivated  we decided we needed a dose of NewBiz'11 and joined the other 300 delegates at Perth Concert Hall for another excellent day of networking,  ideas, motivation and very nice food.

This conference is aimed at budding entrepreneurs from the private and social enterprise sectors and existing businesses. It is as beneficial to those of us who have been hacking away at running our businesses for ages as it is for the fresh new and excited, I think we all need a good injection of ideas and that business BUZZZZ in our veins every now and again and Gibson and I certainly felt the benefit of a bit of that drug.
So who spoke, what was it about and more importantly what did we learn that we can share with you?

Let's start with the keynote speaker The Badger aka Ruth Badger best known for her appearance in the television programme "The Apprentice".

Ruth Badger
Ruth was very good...she would need to be, I think she said she did 3 presentations a week. It's a bit of a scatter gun approach. She fires stories, biz bites, bon mots...she is so obviously driven by steam, gas and coal to just make money and she makes no bones about the fact that she has no real qualifications to her name, so all this success seems very possible to the average Jo. She does fire home a number of points that are vital in business and probably in life too:
  1. Know the Goal -  set goals, know where you are going and in particular set sales goals (I know you artists out there are saying "I don't do selling" but this is vital)
  2. Keep Hold of your Costs - know your baseline costs and your project costs at each stage, then you will understand your profit
  3. What Makes You  Different - find your USP (unique selling point) and it can be as simple as "I turn up for the gig"
  4. Turn Up For The Gig - if you don't get up and out there, no-one will call to see if you are OK, you have to be there to get the customer, to price the work, to do the work
  5. Keep It Simple - you can build a business in your back bedroom with a cell phone, a domain name and a pad of paper to start with, you don't need fancy offices, stationary or cars to be better than the next guy and succeed.
I think that everyone in business needs reminding of all of these seemingly obvious points. Even after 25 years in business I can genuinely say that at any one time there may be as many as 3 that I will forget to put into practice (not telling which).

Next came the panel discussion 'Been There, Done That, Got the T-shirt'  with Angie Foreman, John Gillespie and Gavin Oattes. Angie Foreman is Social Enterprise Manager at Dundee International Women' Centre; John Gillespie celebrity hairdresser from Perth and Gavin Oattes a recent Dragon's Den contender and owner of Tree of Knowledge
What did these 3 people offer in the way of help to businesses? Well, Angie was able to demonstrate Keep it Simple - she realised that she needed to make it easy for the people involved in her business to participate and that meant something as simple as not saying "your late" to a member of staff that was unable to arrive at the classic 9 am. Instead she changed the start simple, how easy to get the best from your staff.
John Gillespie demonstrated Turn Up For The Gig -  he went to competitions and just by being there he was in the race so by being in the race he had a chance to win, and he did. Sometimes putting your neck on the line is worth it because no-one else wants to and because you turned up, and your competition didn't, you get the prize.
Gavin Oattes once again demonstrated Keep It Simple - in fact keep it fun, he gave an extremely amusing and very well presented talk about the importance of fun in the workplace, and reaching your inner child to reduce stress. Check out the video at the end of this post to see Gavin in action and you will see why we enjoyed his contribution so much.

After a really excellent, healthy and tasty lunch (rare at this type of event) there were workshops for us all to attend. Gibson and I split up and I headed off to Jackie Wade's Workshop  "Selling – A vital habit or a quick fix"
What did I leave with? What Makes You Different - if you have difficulty working this out then think about value. What is your value to the customer? What do you or your company add, what do you take away? So for us at Carte Blanche I think we add beauty to your environment; what do we take away, we take away problems, such as a damaged piece of marble needing matched or an impossible surface to wallpaper that needs character. In that simple evaluation you have your USP and your pitch.
Secondly I joined John Campbell of Precedent in a workshop entitled Doing Business with Social Media.

John Campbell
Initially I have to say that I wasn't convinced this was a great workshop, not sure what I gleaned from it and feeling that John had assumed to much existing knowledge of his audience and tried to cram too much into a short workshop, however I came home to find I had picked up rather a lot. He demonstrated Know the Goal which seems a fairly bizarre thing to suggest for social networking., however how many of us think social networking is GREAT fpor business. we join Twitter, Facebook, create business pages, tweet, post and realise all we have done is told the world what we ate for lunch so nil business benefit. There is a difference between successful business networking and just hanging with your mates online and you should set goals and then evaluate what is most successful. I now have Tweet Deck, and have discovered Social Mention. So I think I came away with a fair bit actually.

That was Tuesday and on Wednesday we met with our new business advisor from Perth and Kinross Economic Development Sam Greer. For those that haven't discovered Economic Development then do what I did and phone them up and ask them what they do, they will be only too glad to tell you and they are an amazing resource for business in this county.

We ran from our excellent meeting to an event run by Business Gateway. An entertaining (if not a little loud) comedy performance from Rachel Bridge - writer, journalist and public speaker specialising in entrepreneurship, start ups and growing businesses. Rachel was promoting her latest book "How To Make a Million Before Lunch"

Rachel gave us an amusing insight on what it really takes to run your own business and guess what messages she was ultimately giving us - Ohhhh I don't need to tell you, yes, most of them were the same as we had heard lots about the day before but one thing that she really drove home that had been talked about on Tuesday but not as directly and that is that if you have a good idea...go out and just

DO IT!!!

Gavin Oattes - the video I promised. This is Gavin presenting a very similar talk to the one that he gave at the conference at the opening night of a Scottish Company Uniq

Cait Whitson
Carte Blanche Decorative Painters

    Sunday, 6 February 2011


    I was lying in the bathtub this evening and for a change I was reading a magazine...normally when I am in the bath in the evening I make phone calls I love to soak and chat. Tonight it was too late to call anyone, I've finished my latest library book ("The Riverman" by Alex Gray) so I picked up the latest Homes and Interiors Scotland Magazine and started to read.
    Homes and Interiors Scotland was always a magazine that seemed to concentrated on modern, generally city properties and although I like a spot of modern I am not convinced that modern reflects Scottish interiors. Well Homes and Interiors Scotland has changed, a lot and lying in the bath tonight I grabbed the previous issue and had a more thorough read of that one too I realised it was a FANTASTIC magazine these days and I stepped out of the bath quite inspired with sample ideas and colour schemes all winging about in my little brain. Now this is something that hasn't happened to me for ages, magazines haven't given me a rush in years and there was a time that I would genuinely be excited by the arrival of a new issue of a magazine.

    I had become pretty jaded by interiors and lifestyle mags. "World of Interiors" Magazine can be wonderful, but some months is so obscure it bears no relation to anything and it is an expensive dud when that happens. Conde Nast's "House and Gardens" is too posh; "Homes and Gardens" is too samey and safe...all Farrow and Ball, all middle middle, all very clean. Finally Country Living...and just to put this in perspective Country Living is a very different magazine in UK than it is in USA - championing causes, keeping it green, discussing farming and genuine country life and  I loved this magazine for years but do you know, I am bored of it. No not is a magazine that just leaves me deeply dissatisfied. The artfully arranged piles of old books on an objet trouvais with a single flower in a jam jar..well we don't have enough space for that and if I did I would forget about it and the flower would die and the jar would get knocked, the water would seep and drip and the books ruined; I know I was going to get hens...and I haven't because....because I lost momentum and I  was trying to knit my own muesli, make compost jam and have indoor outdoor living that doesn't involve waves of mud and no laptop but I FAILED.....let's face it I am just NOT Country Living material. I don't think I can be bothered and while I love living in the country I am not really very good at all that stuff. I think I just like the country because my family and I can have privacy. Not to say I don't admire those that are good at sister in law Katie Whitson is fantastic at it and tells it well on her blog sharing her jamming, gardening, revamping and her felting business as well as pigs, hens and wellie boots all done with a dash of style...

    Vintage Squirrel

    So this got me thinking about the fact that we used to look forward to a magazine and now...not so much. I was talking to a colleague the other day about how we used to constantly be looking for ideas in books. This was prompted by the studio clear out this week where I sorted out our books and rediscovered some wonderful books...I also found the yellow pages and some maps and a whole lot of other reference that I never use ....and I realised that for me all that is redundant for the most part because of Google.
    I never get a calculator I punch the sum into Google; I never use the phone book I punch it into Google. I look for inspiration...yup you guessed it by Googling. Google Reader makes me happy...keeping me up to date with my favourite blogs. Blogs inspire...bloggers are far more likely to inspire me to make jam than Country Living Magazine these days. And it's not just inspiration that I head to the laptop for, I know that I turn to the computer before almost anything if I need  help or advice. So where do I look?

    If I need to fix my boiler, learn to tile a splash back, find out if my plumber conned me or what the best exterior gloss on the market these days is I go to Ultimate Handyman Forum

    The Nicest Politest UK DIY Helpsite EVER!!

    If I want  help with something to do with decorative painting I head for a decorative painting forum. I am a moderator on Talk Faux the most approachable decorative painting forum on the net that will help anyone from the beginner or keen diyer to the seasoned professional

    The Most Approachable Decorative Painting Forum EVER
    There is a forum for everything...and if you want to repair something there is someone out there ready to help, a parts list for your appliance and the instructions to replace the part SOMEWHERE online.

    But I had forgotten how good a really good interiors magazine or book today I ran out and did a search (on-line of course) and bought this

    and back to where I started...what was it I loved in the new issue of Homes and Interiors Scotland? Well there was the gorgeous limey, yellowy slightly dirty green chair that colour that I want to use for my kitchen, and some fab antlers mounted on coloured mounts ..I have some antlers and I want to do some wild coloured mounts for them

    and a write up of the latest interiors books and the wonderful Tricia Guild, founder of Designer's Guild has a new book out and fabulous colour schemes in it ...I NEED that book

    Tricia Guild
     and decadent wallpaper in a bathroom in Orkney

    So maybe we should change our perspective...if you are locked into magazines, check the net...if you are addicted to blogs, try the forums and if you are happy herding hens in a purely Country Living fashion, welllll you are probably not reading this anyway because you are too busy and for those who think..."I don't know how she has time to go on the net all the time?" I give up a lot to do so. I give up TV (no hardship), but I also give up housework and not only that I give up to my husband doing housework....that's tough

    Cait Whitson
    Carte Blanche Decorative Painters

    Friday, 4 February 2011

    Shiny Bright Studio

    Last week I had a bit of a blitz on the studio, it is normally a bit of a tip and it seems we have just wayyyyy too much stuff at the moment. There are a lot of furniture"finds" waiting for paint, they are all stacked up at the back of the studio;

    My *Finds*
    the paint store was so full I couldn't walk through it and the office was so stacked with junk it was mad.
    Then our sample storage was appalling...I had woodwork samples in sort of metal basket things that at one time I thought looked artsy, the baskets are funky but they don't do the samples any favours, they just scratch them.

    scratchy display

    extremely unsuccessful display
    I have a big proper metal print display rack but it is ugly and full, how it got so full I don't know and it so needs sorting and I so need to throw stuff out but I cling to certain samples 'just in case' ...and why I need quite so many green metallic finishes samples is anyone's guess. The floors were cruddy and foul because of snow mainly...we had been wearing heavy walking boots that not only marked the floors but traipsed in more muck than normal but it was the only way to keep our feet warm during the cold snap.
    We had a class coming up and we also had to clear up for the masonic meeting. Bet that confused you LOL. Our studio is the masonic lodge...every second Tuesday of the month while the masons are in season (which is now) we clear the studio floor and make it ready for their meeting. They have their formal meeting room upstairs and downstairs, where we are they have their food and open up their bar so we set it up a bit like a cafe for them.
    So I scrubbed and  cleaned and sorted and chucked and chucked and did a little bit of painting and finally had a shiny bright studio
    Ready For Class

    Shiny Bright and Lovely

    The display got a bit more sensible 
    cabinetry samples
    Annie Sloan Chalk Paint Gilding samples

    I have tons and tons of furniture that needs painting and lots of ideas but I decided to tackle and small and fiddly item that I loved when Gibson brought it home from an auction -  a little arts and crafts shelving unit.  It was fiddly...I took it apart and of course then you can only easily access one side of the piece but here it is all finished and displaying a few other pieces painted in Annie Sloan Paint. She shelves were painted straight over french polish (after a little wash and a sand) in Old Violet with Old Ochre on the ends. They were waxed with clear wax and then I used a spot of the rustic just to make it a bit *lived in*.

    Old Violet and Old Old Ochre
    Took me 2 hours yesterday following then masonic night to annihilate the gorgeous organisation
    All for a good cause...lots of sample making going on and I'll post about those soon.

    Would you like to try out some instant makeover paint - Annie Sloan Chalk Paint? Virtually no prep, no priming and lots of fun. Phone for acolour chart 01764 684324 as we have a winter cheerer offer of £15.95 a litre and lots of discontinued colours on SALE at £13.50