Spirit House – Memory Shrine Part 1

The best part of Winter for me is when the snow’s falling and I’m trapped inside.  The way I see it – there’s nothing else to do but spend hours and hours in my craft room. Darn.


I found this little house structure at a 2nd hand store for $1.50 but you can find similar types at your local craft store for just a few dollars more.


These raw wood craft pieces are generally made of a soft wood which, if left untreated, can soak up product such as paints or stains like a sponge leaving very poor results for your efforts.


First up, I’m going to give it an all-over coat of white gesso.  I usually dilute my gesso primer with a bit of water.


Then I just grab an old brush and start slopping on the gesso, making sure to cover all the areas inside and out.  Let dry.


Gesso Primer also gives surfaces a bit of ‘tooth’ for other mediums to adhere to.  Whether you’re painting or gluing, this will help keep your next added product where you want it.


While I was prepping this house I was going through ideas for the look/direction I wanted to take with this piece, but nothing was forming.  Weird.


And then I realized why I wasn’t going anywhere with my ideas – I needed to make that solid door into a window.  I wanted this to be more like a shadow box display and if I left the door solid it would mean the door would have to be left ‘open’.


This would be a very awkward and unbalanced look.  The answer:  I removed the panel in the door (I just carefully broke it out in pieces), leaving the frame.  So now I have the best of both worlds – a window and a still functioning door which, as it remains shut, is the perfect showcase for the interior display.

Don’t be afraid to adjust your craft supplies to fit a need.  If something’s just not flowing then take a moment, or even a day, and see if you can put a finger on what it is you don’t like about your project and then BOING the answer will just pop into your head on how to fix it and you’ll be off and crafting again.


Time to add some color.  I chose Tim Holtz’s Distress Paint in Aged Mahogany and painted the roof and eves.


More TH product but this time I mixed a couple of colors because neither was exactly what I wanted on its own.


I know, this looks a bit too much at the moment.  These colors a very blunt and overpowering, but they need to start out that way as  I’m about to add another layer that’s going to seriously tone them down.


This is Ranger’s Texture Paste in Opaque Crackle.  I’ve not used this product prior to this project but I know that if it says ‘opaque’ then it’s going to have quite a bit of covering capability.  If you’re ever in doubt about a product use the wonder of the world wide web.  Just Google a video or two and you’ll be an expert on its use in no time.


This paste is cool in that you can color it prior to its application.  I added a good dropper full of Distress re-inker in Antique Linen and stirred it in.


I went pretty thick with a brush for the application purposely leaving it extra thick in some areas like the edges and place where wood joined to other pieces.  Careful you don’t load the areas such as door hinges if you want them to open properly again.


I left the door ajar when I finished and left it to dry.  The ‘crackle’ look happens as the paste dries.  I never try to hurry this process along with a heat tool.  For the best results always let it air dry (usually overnight).


Yum!  I love a good crackle finish and this product did not disappoint.  Look at all those wonderful cracks and chips!


The next step is using some sanding paper and just lightly go over (all) the surfaces, hitting some areas just a bit harder then others.  Go easy here until you see how easy or hard it is to go down through the layers.  What you want for a result is some spots that are down to the raw wood, some that show the deeper original colors before the texture paste and to smooth out some of the ‘chippy-ness’.


This is Tim Holtz’s Distress Stain in Aged Mahogany.  I just smeared a bunch on my craft mat and using a wet brush, let the watery stain go into the cracks as I painted over the roof area.


Two other stains were mixed together for the main body of the house.


It looks good but not great.  I want more signs of grungy age on this piece.  Archival ink in a reddish brown is the answer.  I used a craft sponge for this.  I like buying the round craft sponges and then cutting them into quarters.  This way I get four craft sponges for the price of one and it’s much easier to work with the quartered size and I get a nice wide area on the rounded ‘face’ side of the sponge to cover a lot of area quickly as well as some sharper narrower edges to work with when I need to get ink into a tighter area.


That’s what I was looking for.  The watery stain gave me some nice color but the archival ink really went into the cracks and made them sharply defined so you can see each and every one.  I also hit all the edges with extra rubbings to bring out all the great angles on this piece.


I chose a Coffee color for the body.  Same procedure paying special attention to areas like the gingerbread work in the upper portion.  I also used a small angled brush that I rubbed on the ink pad to load up and then worked ink into all the edges and seams.  This really makes a difference on how the background area is perceived.  Instead of a soft blurry blending back there – you now have a ‘frame’ installed behind your (to be added) decor as well as everything you’ve done to the front seams and edges to frame your work.



I’m very pleased with my results.  And though the “stain” portion was too thin and light to give me the finish I wanted, it was still another layer of color and really, that’s the trick to getting that authentic old Vintage patina – just layers and layers.


I frequently make projects such as apothecary cabinets and jewelry boxes and I usually like to raise things up a bit.  I just think, in general, things present better when they’re raised off the ground.

These are a set of molded pot metal legs I had in my craft stash.  I know, they’re pretty large and kind of gaudy, right?  But I think they’re going to be perfect for this piece.

I want to give you an FYI here:  For this kind of item I love shopping with my fellow Etsy shop owners.  Etsy has a large variety of shops that offer page after page of different styles, sizes and colors of these types of additions.  For me, local store selections are extremely poor (and getting worse all the time) and I like adding accent pieces that are going to be a bit different from what every one else is using.  So, shopping online is the answer.

Now, warning:  usually, the shops carrying the largest/best selection of these goodies are overseas and the shipping might take a little time to get to me.  But, that’s okay ’cause I’m going to make it worth my while.  I just spend a fun hour or so going through one of my favorite shops and really stock up selecting two or three sets of ‘feet’ that cover lots of sizes, styles, colors and mounting preferences so that my order is usually a dozen or so sets in all.  Though at first I thought I’d never work my way through all those decorative feet sets, but I did and have order many such ‘bulk’ buys since.  Believe me, it’s great to have a good selection on hand and sooner or later – you’ll use them all.

Back to the project and the picture above:  I used another Distress Paint in Weathered Wood to ‘age’ the metal feet.  This is so easy to do with such a huge difference to the look of the item.  This works great on anything metal.  Just paint on some acrylic paint and then wipe back off as much or as little as you like to achieve the look you want.  The longer you leave the paint on and drying, the harder it is to wipe off and consequently the more will stay on the metal.  Choosing the color paint to your metal can achieve any number of results for a patina that includes Subtle, Extra Thick, Antique, Vintage, Distressed, Verdigris or anything in between.


The ‘feet’ look great and the curved shape of them goes well with the gingerbread at the top of the house.

Well, that’s it for getting that raw little craft house magically turned into a custom made, rich with the patina of age, altered art piece.

Part 2 is going to be filling the piece with treasures that please the eye and capture a fleeting memory of old.

And of course – we need a cameo appearance of Smokey the photo bomber.  I’ll tell ya, tortoiseshell cats are the queens of camouflage that apparently works just about everywhere.


Thanks for following along and keep watching – part 2 will be up shortly!

And THANK YOU SO MUCH for all of those who follow my blog and leave likes and lovely comments – we artists are an insecure lot and without these ‘hugs’ we’re lost and our blogs wither and blow away.



5 thoughts on “Spirit House – Memory Shrine Part 1

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