Antique Apothecary Vase

In my DIY Junk Thanksgiving Cards I posted one card using the label of an antique apothecary bottle I was given (translation: told to throw in the garbage) because it was quite badly cracked.

I had other plans.

I can’t find the before photo, but when I do I’ll post it. But as you’ll see there was absolutely no reason to toss this little treasure in the trash.

Martha Stewart popularized the idea of repurposing antique apothecary bottles as outdoor lights by filling them with lamp oil and wicks. But that wouldn’t work for me because of the cracks.

We’ve all been in Pier 1 and Winners and such and seen the bottles used as vases for dried flowers. That’s what I needed to do.

To help disguise the cracks I mixed up a batch of homemade chalkpaint but added a lot of extra Plaster of  Paris to make it really soupy.  I wanted the dried paint to be very textured.

apothecarybottle1  It took 3 good coats of goopy chalk paint but the cracks are only visible if you know they are there and look hard for them.

I added some dried hydrangeas that I spray painted earlier in the summer…

I am lovin’ it on my nightstand.


Since posting this I found another great apothecary bottle vase project at Knick of Time – check it out!





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Autumn Teacup Wreath

I just couldn’t stand to see these antique Royal Albert Crown China (Devonshire Lace pattern – 1930s) teacups thrown away – even though they had cracks on their insides.



They were a Craigslist freebie – the ad said if no one replied by that evening they were going in the trash. I couldn’t bear the thought.

Among other considerations, these types of dishes cannot go in our recycling bins. They go to landfill.  No way!


So I gathered some autumn rust coloured hydrangeas (yes – I cheated and added a couple of Dahlias for filler because I temporarily ran out of hydrangeas and have to wait for more to start to dry – too hard to handle when they are fresh fresh) from the garden and made a teacup wreath.

But you get the idea.  Not including the harvest and drying of hydrangeas, this project took a whopping 15 minutes to make and cost nothing (I used a grapevine wreath that I had on hand. I bought 3 for 75 cents at a yard sale a year and a half ago but I have used them several times already).


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10 Junk Altered Autumn Cards

Old lace, fabric scraps (including the seams that are of no use as dust cloths!), old buttons, belt buckles, bottle caps, corn husks, candy wrappers, old keys and broken jewelery pieces…

When most people do a cleaning purge such items go the trash.  With me they go on cards.

I recently took the opportunity to get a jump on my holiday (Thanksgiving/Christmas) cards.   Boy I  had fun!

I’m getting a lot more confident in my multi-material play at the same time.

And since the cards frequently include something more, I pulled out to include with my cousin’s card this antique autograph book that belonged to our  Grandma.



I enjoy the benefits of the internet as much as the next guy. But I swoon over hand-written cards  and letters.

I don’t receive a lot these days, but here’s a sample of what my family and friends can look for in their mailboxes over the next few weeks.













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Rustic Engagement Sign

This wonderfully bashed-up trumpet is not new to this blog. And the door from a 200 year old Quebec cupboard is not new by any measure.

But they are new together, like my 58/63 year old friends who just got engaged.

They wanted to keep it quiet – it’s not the first time for either of them.

But I convinced them to have a little soiree to share their happy news and made this for the occasion.

And it all comes apart very easily (no chalk paint here – just regular latex that will scrub off fairly easily within a few days), so the pieces can live on to trumpet other occasions.


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Chair Planter with Bling

Planterchair1.jpg  Here’s a tip off the top from the auctioneer’s kid: when you go to an auction (or antique store) park near their garbage.

It’s astonishing in this junk-friendly era with distribution mechanisms like curbsides and “Craigslist free” listing, but people still throw away stuff that is…well, “killing me with potential” as we used to say around the Crib board.

In this case the source was my antique auctioneer uncle. He bought a batch lot (a “Lot” at an auction is an item being sold. That item can, as in this instance, be a group of items. Usually they are items of low value grouped together in the hope of creating enough value to make it worth the auction house’s overhead costs of selling it.)


My uncle wanted one item in a batch lot being sold at a competitor auction and he did NOT want this seatless, scratched up chair frame and told his employee to haul it out to the garbage.

It never got there.

The frame was nearly 100 years old and perfectly solid. Someone had sanded one side – clearly intending to refinish the frame and probably upholster a new seat cushion (if that is your desire for a chair frame you come across, there are tons of cushion forms floating around for free or you can get one cut from scrap wood for a song!)

I had other plans. So on the way home I stopped by the recycling centre. I don’t know about where you live, but in British Columbia you can take your leftover paint to the provincially funded recycling depot in every community. They will either dispose of it in the most environmentally-safe manner possible or, if it is still usable, will put it in a bin where another member of the community can take it for free and use it up (THE most environmentally responsible disposal method). I picked up almost a full litre of off-white paint (colour selection is limited to what gets dropped off…of course).

But I was fortunate and found a good supply of cream colour latex – which I made into homemade chalk paint with the addition of some Plaster of Paris (about 30% which I mix in a separate container so I can play with the combination until I get it right.

I took advantage of the lovely summer weather to paint outdoors. Two coats.


I then distressed it by scraping with the blunt edge of a butter knife the parts that would be worn naturally (edges of the legs, back and seat, most elevated areas of carved section) and then lightly sanded with a sanding block.

It was pretty, but I wanted something a bit more so I looked through my vintage costume jewellery and found a brooch I thought perfect for the job.

I love pearls – and am quite fond of rhinestones.


I attached it with E6000- a good, strong glue.


I wiped the chair down and gave it a coat of clear outdoor Minwax.

The only planter I had that fit the chair was brown, so I gave it a quick spray with quick-drying Rustoleum matt white spray paint. Filled it and set it next to the front door.

The pink flowers brought out a pink tone in the pearls.




I’ve used it as porch décor, but it would make a nice piece of decoration for a backyard wedding, as well.


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Flower Tins

Confession: when I go with my uncle to take consignments for the auction I have to leave my wallet at home.  I have an addiction. I’m a junk junky. o

Sometimes, even without my wallet I frequently come home to my bursting apartment (I’m not quite being scouted for the tv show “Hoarders” but it gets close sometimes).  Occasionally I use the Wimpy (the Popeye cartoon character) approach “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today”.  If it’s a really special item – and I’ll share a hilarious story in an upcoming post – my darling uncle buys it for me.

In this case, our friend John, who buys and sells out of a commercial storage locker, as well as an antique mall booth and a portion of a new antique store, gave me a handful of leftover tins. I wouldn’t have bought them all – there are some American tins and I only collect Canadian and Irish-theme tins.

This blog is as much about landfill reduction as demonstrating value (historic or commercial) in items that some people would throw away, so John’s gift was a challenge.

This random collection of antique and vintage tins contains a couple of Canadian tins that will join my collection and the rest I’m going to use for gift-giving.

Mid-summer gardens are flower-filled and blogland is full of posts of unconventional items to use as vases.  Second nature to this junkaholic.

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A “welcome to the neighbourhood” gift for a new neighbor who has a potted garden, a few thank yous for dinners and drinks and garden plants, and in no time I’ve checked off a number of names on that perpetual gift list I keep in my head.

I’ll be honest. A couple I’m going to de-plant and send off to friends and contacts who might enjoy additions to their own collections.  Thoughtfulness, ingenuity or collect-it-forward sooo  outrank a price tag when it comes to gift-giving.




Smoking Hot Collectibles

James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, the Marlborough Man – even the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley. Each one of the hottest icons of the 1950s and an icon for cigarette smoking.

Small wonder that smoking prevalence in the 1950s approached 60% of  US  adult males (Center for Disease Control) and nearly 80% of the UK adult population.

Sixty years of public health education and anti-smoking laws governing restaurants and workplaces have seen smoking population rates plummet from to less than 20% by 2010 (CDC).

We may have given up the bad breath, stinky clothes and chronic coughs, but a robust trade in smoking memorabilia  in the antique industry indicates that we have not surrendered our fond memories of the time when cigarettes were not just socially acceptable, they were downright cool and sexy.

In my Graniteware Garden post I repurposed a combination ashtray/fireplace tool smoke stand as a birdfeeder stand.

Recently a prominent local antique dealer bought this mint 1950s smoke stand we consigned to my uncle’s auction.

It is in truly mint condition and offers  covered ashtrays, cup or glass holder,  pipe holder (the orange and green marble part), as well as the clock. The ornate metalwork perfectly chromed offset by the warm marble sections. The only thing missing is the lighter which would have sat in the indented base of the handle.

Whatever your opinion on tobacco smoking, you gotta admire the elegant, sophisticated design of this piece.

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Canuck Junk

Getting ready for July 1st.  Polishing up my Canuck Pride.

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This is the antique window my uncle rescued for me from his friend and client, Herda.Graniteware Garden

I needed a Canada Day (July 1st for my American pals) porch greeting – and quick. So I just printed off the words, taped the pages in place on the back side of the window and then used black and red Sharpies to trace the lettering onto the window.

The Maple Leaf I drew by hand (obviously – lol).


This antique doll comes from the East Coast of Canada. The clothing (including the sou’wester hat) is traditional fisherman attire. The red hair – well, our maritimes are heavily populated with the descendants of Irish immigrants.



Child’s Play

Don’t you just love arriving for a party to find a specially decorated porch or entrance? I do.

I learned to do this as a fundraiser at BC’s Children’s Hospital Foundation. We hosted donor stewardship events for the biggest (wealthiest) donors, and it was always a priority to make the reception area beautifu

But with house parties, hosts and hostesses are usually up to their backsides getting the inside of the house cleaned and decorated.

I’ve discovered that creating a greeting porch/station is a very welcome gift I can give to my hosts. And if you use props you already own this job can be fast and virtually free. Your real gift is your time and creativity.

When a friend’s youngest turned three, I pulled together (and borrowed one of the rocking chairs) some antique children’s furniture and décor. All the plants were from the garden, so there was no cash expense.


AiJ followers will be familiar with this seatless antique Canadian pine child’s rocker. I use a kitchen strainer as a planter. I got it from a curbside “Free” box a couple of years ago. It’s perfect for the purpose.

I borrowed this scroll wood child’s rocker and added a large teddy bear (a curbside rescue from a couple of years ago – I reserve it for outdoor decorating.











I pulled a planter from another location and added the Garden Angel I made last week.




and an antique doll I’ve had for 20 years…




It’s a weekend. No mail delivery so the mailbox gets pulled into action, too.


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