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French folk art at the Lille Christmas market

Its always nice travelling during the festive season. One year we were in France on a road trip and we stopped at a Christmas market in Lille. It was very cold yet when we stumbled on the market, I didn’t mind taking my time walking around looking at the Christmassy wares on sale.

One of the stalls I found was a peinture d’art folklorique stall. The artist had put up for sale a large collection of painted work, every one of them painted simply on an off-white background.

Christmas market at Lille 2

Many of them were painted with various fruits motifs – apples, cherries, lemons. Some were painted with lavender and others with more rustic motifs such as chicken! Christmas market at Lille 1

There were also pansies and I saw a nice teapot painted with a lavender garden. Very quaint!

Christmas market at Lille 4

The artist had painted on various types of surfaces too. Many of them were enamel or other metal objects and they were everyday kitchen items like teapots and coffee pots, jugs and colanders.

Christmas market at Lille 5

This ordinary metal colander has been painted with pansies and turned into a lamp shade!

The artist was very creative with these everyday kitchen items turning them into clocks and light shades! This jelly bowl clock for example, was decorated with cherries and Roman numerals!

Christmas market at Lille 6

And how about this great kitchen clock?

The artist was obviously very talented at turning everyday objects into useful items for a rustic kitchen as she also took a simple garden shovel and turned it into a clock!Christmas market at Lille 3

There were other items like letter boxes, organisers and bread boxes which were made of wood and I loved every single one of them! Unfortunately I had to stop myself buying any because I simply did not have space in our luggage… :-(

The folk art paintings I saw at this Christmas market stall just goes to show that decorative painting is a very simple and rewarding pursuit – you don’t need to do anything complicated to turn simple everyday items into beautiful items to treasure.

Just pick a colour scheme, a simple motif and paint away!

Painting on alternative backgrounds

Most decorative painting projects look amazing even on a plain background but sometimes its nice to do something to the background BEFORE painting on it.

There are many alternatives to a plain background. You can create a faux finish such as a marbled background or a smoked background. You can even crackle the background and then paint on it.

There is only one rule. You must base-coat the item you want to paint and leave it to cure for at least a week. In fact, the longer the better safer.


If we work on it immediately after basecoating there is a chance that the still drying basecoat paint will lift-off as we do our special effects. Its not so risky if you’re creating a smoked background but its very risky if you’re creating a background that requires you use masking tape, for example, to create stripes.

And, depending on the kind of background you create, you should again leave it to cure for another week.

A crackled background, for example, is very delicate to paint on unless the crackle has been allowed to dry thoroughly. Once I wanted to paint on a background I had crackled and I left it to cure for almost a month.

Recently I wanted to paint a gift for a friend who was leaving Kuwait and I thought I had a lot of time. I wanted to paint her a dainty plaque of roses on a striped background and had also decided to write “Home is where the heart is” on it. Suddenly her departure date was brought forward almost three weeks and I had to hurry to paint her something. I panicked and wondered if I had to cancel my idea because I would not have time to basecoat a plaque and let it cure before striping it.

Thankfully, I discovered I had a few base-coated items among my hoard which included two plaques. They have probably been there a year…obviously I never got round to painting them. Sometimes procrastination does pay! LOL

So I was able to stripe the background without any mishaps! I completed one plaque for my friend and I liked it so much, especially since the quotation was poignant for me too, that I decided to paint another for myself.

Two striped plaques

Striping is easy – the only meticulous part is the preparation. The part where you measure and mask the areas to create the stripes. But that time is an investment.

Masking for stripes

Once that is done, and you’ve made sure there will be no seepage, you paint the stripes, and that part is easy.

Its important not to use a hairdryer when you finish painting the stripes. Firstly, the hairdryer “melts” the masking tape glue which can be messy to remove from your basecoat, and secondly, its better to slowly and carefully remove the masking tape immediately after you paint the stripes because you can use a damp flat brush and clean up any seepage.

Which way to stripe? Paint the coloured basecoat first then paint the white stripes? Or paint a white basecoat then paint the coloured stripes?

I have done it both ways and I have to say, I prefer the first method – paint a coloured basecoat then stripe it white because the stripe looks “softer”. You should try both ways and see which suits you. There is no wrong or right here.

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