How to make Chalkboard Signs from Old Kitchen Bits

chalkboard sign

chalkboardOur local Habitat for Humanity has a depot for sourcing used building materials, called ReStore. I love to stop in regularly to see what they have that I might up-cycle into something useful, even though we are not  building or remodeling right now.

Last week I went to ReStore specifically to find something I could turn into small chalkboard signs with Ema and Adia and I scored! I found some old white frame and flat panel kitchen cupboard parts that already had that slight shabby-chic look that’s so popular now. I already had a can of chalkboard paint, though if I didn’t I would be writing now about making our own chalkboard paint.

A sign she can hang on her bedroom door, to change at her whim
A sign she can hang on her bedroom door, to change at her whim

The girls painted two drawer fronts to use as signs on their bedroom door. We also made one for my kitchen, and another for Jaime’s office.

chalkboard sign
A little something special for my friend’s office

Here is how we made our chalkboard signs:

Supplies Needed:

  • Something to use for the board. We used drawer-fronts and cupboard doors. You could also use an old mirror, or any flat piece of wood or substrate that will take the chalk paint. 
  • Chalkboard paint (You can  make your own if you want. I found directions here.)
  • Acrylic paint if you want to add decorative designs to the frames
  • Modge Podge (matte or gloss) to seal the decorative paint (don’t use Modge-Podge on the chalk paint, though!)
  • Sponge brushes or a good quality flat bristle brush for painting the chalk paint
  • Smaller brushes for the decorative design
  • Metal hanger or brads, for the back of the board
  • A ribbon, to hang between the brads if you choose


  1. Lightly sand the surface of whatever you are using for your chalkboard, so your paint will adhere
  2. Use acrylic paint to make decorative designs around the frame of the cupboard door or drawer front. Use brushes appropriate to acrylic paints and the size of your frame and strokes.
  3. Use a sponge brush or flat-bristle brush to apply the chalkboard paint — we didn’t worry about getting the edges perfectly even because we wanted a shabby-chic effect. Also, I like the way the brush strokes and imperfections show on the chalkboard part of our signs.
  4. Let dry. Seal with a layer of Modge Podge and again, let dry.
  5. Add brads, metal picture hangers, or good tacks on the back of the frame. Add picture wire, string or a lovely ribbon to hang your sign by.
  6. Enjoy changing the message on your sign whenever you feel like it!
chalkboard sign
A removable red painted hanger gives Jaime something to hang notes on.

Additions we made to Jaime’s sign:  we added a red painted wire clothes hanger and some clips so Jaime can hang notes, photos, whatever. Like it?

Links and Other Chalkboard Ideas:

  • Comparison of homemade chalkboard paints — author also has some good ideas on using chalk paint on salvaged furniture
  • Fun diy magnetic chalkboard idea. Making this next!
  • Paint chalkboard risers on steps and write poetry
  • Pinterest board with tons of chalkboard ideas (just a side note: I really appreciate it when people include the ORIGINAL source with their pins on Pinterest. On the other hand, it irks me greatly when people steal others’ photos by downloading, then pinning to their own Pinterest boards without giving credit where credit is due. Just sayin’)

3 Ways to Have Fun in One Summer Day

Painted Driftwood Sticks

Painted Driftwood Sticks

  1. Attend the Exploration Works/Holter Science of Art Day Camp. Then have french fries and other unmentionable deliciousness.
  2. Head out to Lake Helena Reservoir to collect driftwood sticks of a certain size and smoothness. Take Charlie along for sweetness and chuckles.
  3. Paint your sticks while eating dried seaweed on the porch, all the while enjoying an afternoon thunderstorm.
solar ovens by kids
Teams of kids made solar ovens at Exploration Works

It has been 10 days since Ema and Adia and I spent the day together making art, playing with Charlie and doin other summer kid stuff. I actually missed them. And I think maybe they might have missed playing with me too. When I picked them up at the Exploration Works Science Museum at noon, they both gave Charlie and me big hugs and smiles.

So … we went to a fast food place for lunch (it shall remain unnamed — grin) just to do something totally unexpected and different. The girls liked it. (I remembered why I don’t eat there.)

Lake Helena
After lunch we headed out to the lake to collect sticks for our afternoon art project. Charlie also wanted to get in the water and show us his favorite trail. We could tell there was a thunderstorm brewing over the town.
drill press
Back in town, Tim let us use his shop’s drill press to make holes in our sticks.
painting sticks
Adia stayed absorbed in this activity for a long time — she’s the one who colors outside the lines. 🙂

Thunder and a sweet summer rain kept us company while we painted our sticks. It’s my favorite kind of weather — a warm thunderstorm when you’re nice n’ dry on the porch so you can feel the hairs rising on your skin but you don’t get drenching wet. Welp, that was fun! And definitely something 8 to 10 year olds can handle.

painting stick art
Ema is meticulous … taking her time and considering each brush stroke. Her color choices are fun!
painted stick art
Ema’s finished artful sticks, ready to be threaded and hung tomorrow
Painted Stick Art
Adia’s awesome finished sticks, ready to be threaded and hung as a sculpture tomorrow

Tomorrow it’s time to turn in our Chalk It Up Helena applications. We will have a cooking lesson (Pepperoni Pizza Puffs) and try to finish our stick projects. We’ll show you the finished results next time, okay?

Ocean Mandalas Use Found Natural Materials

Ocean Mandala with natural objects
Ocean Mandala with natural objects
Making mandalas from natural objects you find on-site can be a playful or a quiet meditative activity.

At our family reunion on Vancouver Island this past weekend, some of us made mandalas of shore materials we found in the forest and on the beach. Natural object mandalas are– by their very nature — ephemeral, and will be destroyed by the tides, wind, wildlife and time. Yet the making of these circular designs gives so much pleasure it doesn’t really matter that they won’t last long.

Mandala of Natural Objects
Tom and Kat made this mandala using a barnacle-covered cinder block monolith, red seaweed, driftwood sticks, oyster shells on-edge, and some wild mustard.
Ocean Mandala of natural objects
Martina’s mandala has bilateral symmetry, and includes a border of seaweed, and in the center, she used driftwood, grasses and shells

As the evening cooled, we walked around admiring the mandalas … then later watched as Tom and Kat’s mandala was washed away by the incoming tide. I love thinking of beach-walkers stumbling across our mandalas and wondering about the makers. I hope these photos inspire you to make your own mandalas, no matter where you are.

Ocean Mandala of natural objects
Amy and her family made this sweet circle filled with offerings from the sea… tiny crabs, shore plants, seed pods, flower petals, shells and little bits of driftwood.
Ocean Mandala of natural objects
Margie and daughters created this wonderful mandala with concentric rings of seashells, plus driftwood, stone towers, flowers and leaves.
Ocean Mandala of natural objects
Tim and Maureen created their mandala with oyster shells, douglas fir cones, ivy leaves, foxglove, yarrow, driftwood, fir and cedar boughs.
Ocean mandala of natural objects
Moira and Brian worked side by side to creaste this stony mandala on a bed of beach stones… they chose lighter colored stones to contrast with the dark shore, and added shells, seed pods, and grasses tied in bundles as a circular boundary.
Ocean Mandala of natural objects
Marybeth and Sons …. played and worked together to create the most subtle of all the mandalas. They used stones, driftwood, shells, yarrow and shoreline grasses.




Paint Sample Art — Butterflies Celebrate Summer Solstice

butterfly art project

Butterfly wall artOne of the projects I did with the girls this week was to create this piece of wall art for their mom’s office wall. (Her office is so totally in need of bright beautiful art to cheer up the grayness. heh.)

Butterflies-impWe used the paint samples you can get at hardware stores. Home Depot was kind enough to let us have a big handful of samples for free. The girls picked out the colors, punched the shapes with paper punches and bent the wings to make the butterflies look three dimensional. We also used some leftover pieces of printed papers I had lying around, to add variety.

Next we worked together to come up with the swoosh shape and I glued them onto a large piece of foam core. I wanted to use a large stretched canvas, painted white, but my supply budget for the summer wouldn’t stretch quite that far and I didn’t feel like stretching my own canvas. You could also use a piece of nice 1/4 inch birch plywood with sanded edges … maybe leave the natural wood color, or paint with white acrylic or indoor wall paint.

IMG_0191-impWe used Craft Glue to attach the butterflies to the foam core. I thought about using hot glue but decided it would be too messy and overkill, since the little butterflies are so lightweight.

butterfly art projectWe have a rainbow thing goin’ on in this butterfly swarm, but we could as easily have chosen to use a different color scheme. You could even do an “ombre” design — the great thing about paint samples — there are so many colors, and if you get the sample cards that have 4 or 5 shades of color on each, well that would be just easy!

Glue or stick some hangers on the back and voila! You have a colorful work of happy art. Total cost for this project: $3.00  (I already owned the paper punches. These are expensive, but maybe find someone who would lend you theirs … or plan to spend many evenings hand cutting hundreds of shapes.)

Supply List: craft glue, foam core (stretched canvas or 1/4 inch plywood panel may also be used), lots of paint sample chips, paper punches, one or two picture hangers for the back


Kid’s Art: DIY Painted Tiles, written by Ema and Adia

painted tile
Summer Fun with painted tiles
Adia using her invented tile painting technique, “Strawmania.”

Ema and Adia are spending lots of time with me this summer, just chillin, havin fun, learnin some stuff and makin some art.  So far, I think we are using this first week to get used to each other, test limits, and figure out what we want to do for the rest of the summer. It’s been interesting and … I am very tired each evening. I think they might be too. I think that is a good thing.

I promised the girls I would teach them how to make blog posts, so every once in awhile Ema and/or Adia will be a guest blogger here on Water::Earth::Wind::Fire.  I hope you enjoy their posts.  At first, I will take dictation, typing pretty much exactly what they tell me to type.  At some point, I will let them do the entire post.  So, here goes, with the girls’ first ever blog post….

Head of little girl making painted tiles

Ema writes:

We wanted to make something nice for my mom’s office, so we made these tiles. We saw these on Pinterest, and we saved them to our summer fun Pinterest board and this is one of the projects my sister and I both wanted to do this summer. This was a creative and fun project. I would recommend this to children and their parents. To do one tile it takes about 5 minutes. Well, after you get everything set up, it goes really fast.

We made practice tiles first and my favorite one turned out to be my practice tile (that’s my practice tile, below.) It was my favorite because it had a lot of bright, different colors. I would describe the design as 3 different colored wax seals (like the ones on old envelopes) laying on top of each other. I really like that.

painted tile

Here are the three tiles Ema made to go together as a triptych:

painted tile triptych

Editor’s note: Ema’s sister, Adia, made the list of supplies and wrote the instructions below: 

How to Make Strawmania Painted Tiles

Supplies You Need:

  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Alcohol inks
  • Ceramic tiles
  • Paint brushes
  • Bendy straws (or any kind of straw, but Adia says they should be bendy)
  • Q-Tips (cotton swabs)
  • Newspapers
  • Modge Podge
  • Felt circles
  • Hanger thingamajigs
  • Permanent glue


  1. Put down newspapers so you won’t get ink all over the place  

    tile painting
    Brush rubbing alcohol onto the tile. Use a lot.
  2. Take your tile and paint rubbing alcohol all over it. Use alot because it dries up fast

    Painted Tile in Progress
    Drip little drops on ink on the tile right into the rubbing alcohol
  3. Drip ink on the tile in little drops  

    Painted Tile - blowing with a straw
    Blow the colors around with a straw or just let them do their thing
  4. Use your straw and blow to make the dots expand.You can play around with the straw blowing to make really cool designs in the ink. (editor’s note: Adia and Ema invented this technique and Adia named the technique, “Strawmania.”)
  5. You can use a qtip to make shapes
  6. You can add more colors
    tile painting in progress
    You can add more colors to your tile, blow them around or just let them mix

    painted tile
    Add more colors and blow them around
  7. You can drip more rubbing alcohol to make really cool effects in the inks
  8. Next, let your tile dry
  9. After it’s dry you can add more ink colors, or you can add more alcohol and play around with it.
  10. When it’s all done and totally dry, you paint it with Modge Podge so the inks don’t disappear. Also to make it shiny. Also to protect the ink design
  11. When the ModgePodge is dry, you turn the tile over and put the felt circles on the corners (you need these so it won’t scratch your wall or your tables or tile)
  12. Then, glue on the hanger thingamajig with really good glue


Above is Adia’s finished triptych of tiles for her mom’s office. Adia writes:

My favorite part of making the tiles was Strawmania. That is what you do with a bendy straw when you blow through it onto the tile. It expands the ink blobs. You can blow colors together and mix them. Sometimes the color goes wherever it wants to go, which looks cool sometimes and other times it makes a big grey blob. If you get a gray blob, you can always add more alcohol and then add another color to make it colorful. That fixes it. This is something I will probably want to do again. Next time I will use less colors so my tiles don’t get big gray blobs. Here is my favorite tile (below). I am squirting the ink on it:

painted tile



Homestyle Art Fun: Ink Painted Tiles

painted tile

painted tile

Well, today was Jaime’s first day at her new job — and my first full day with Ema and Adia. And whoah! did we ever pack alot of fun stuff into one day! We started out by choosing a couple of projects from our Summer Fun Pinterest board, then running around town for an hour or so gathering supplies.

Our first project was to make ink painted tiles inspired by this link … we had to do a little googling to figure out exactly how to do it and which supplies we needed, plus we added our own spin (Adia named our technique “Straw-mania.”) I will let Adia and Ema write a blog post later this week with details on how they made their tiles.

painted tile triptych
Ema Terry’s Triptych of Painted Tiles
painted tiles
Adia Terry’s Triptych of Painted Tiles


SummerFunMonday01-imp Paint Sample Memory GameWhile we waited for our tiles to dry, we made smoothies (strawberry-peach-banana-amond) and sandwiches and ate lunch while playing “Memory.” We made our own Memory game with paint samples. That was a hit. I think we’ll keep the deck for other days. Then we walked down to Johns’ house to play with Tuffy for a few minutes, water Jaime’s garden a little and, oh yeah — get the marshmallows for the Rice Krispie Treats.

After lunch, we made krispie treats, then snuggled on the sofa and watched “The Lorax” on our Netflix instant-play. Sun tea and krispie treats during the movie… the girls had never made krispie treats. They got to do the whole thing themselves. (Confession: we ate almost half the pan — big grin)

We filled the rest of the afternoon with quiet activities: I taught them to make a campfire in the back yard, and the girls showed me how to make friendship bracelets . I am now wearing the one Ema made for me and she is wearing mine. I have a prediction: we’ll be making lots of friendship bracelets this summer. It’s easy, cheap, and something you can do for an hour while you are waiting for your mom to come home from work. 🙂 Besides I need to make one for Adia!

Tomorrow: make Charlie’s dog food. Get goldfish for the pond. Take Charlie out to play along the irrigation canal … make some silly videos and check out the classic cars at the Montana Dept. of Transportation 100th Birthday Celebration. Another non-boring day. 😉

I am having a glass of wine with my dinner tonight…