Decorating The Sewing Room – My Introduction to Annie Sloan Chalk Paint

ASCP workshop board & paint tins

Friends…right off the bat I KNOW you’re thinking, ‘what the heck has chalk paint got to do with sewing?’…well there is a correlation; I’ve been thinking about how I am going to decorate the sewing room now that the ‘Great Sewing Room Project’ is getting to the pointy end of business. When I began the GSRP I wanted a really functional sewing room that looked great too. Along the journey, as I trolled through Pinterest, I discovered Annie Sloan Chalk Paint and knew instantly that it was what I was going to use. I also, very pleasantly, discovered a stockist in South Australia…one hour north of me in my favourite part of the state, The Barossa Valley. Brocante in the Barossa, the ASCP stockist, is located in Angaston. It’s a gorgeous little design store that focusses on ASCP and offers different workshops to help people get the best out of their ASCP purchase.

Over the weekend, (16 Nov) I did the ‘Introductory Chalk Paint Decorative Paint Workshop’ at Brocante in the Barossa run by the friendly, Kim and assisted by her equally friendly husband, Ian. It was a fabulous afternoon. I learned a lot and came away with a level of confidence that I could tackle my first painting project knowing it would be successful. The two key words here are: “confidence” and “successful”. More on that later.

Friends, as an educator whose Honours research project was about learning environment management styles and their correlation to student engagement and learning, I am naturally critically reflective about learning environments. During any type of workshop/demonstration/lecture etc, I am, silently in my mind, critically assessing things like, organisation, modes of delivery, complexity of language, teacher management style and the physical environment and its suitability to facilitate learning etc I really can’t help myself.

workshop paraphernalia

It’s not often that I come away from a non-formal learning experience with all of my boxes ticked, but I did yesterday! Kim, is a really good instructor. I don’t know whether the Annie Sloan workshop structure has been organised by someone else in the Annie Sloan organisation, but I do know that Kim’s delivery of the workshop is very very good. Here’s why:

A. Research shows that if you give students some control of what they’re learning they are more likely to engage with the material and gain skills of independence. Student’s cannot gain any measure of control of a learning situation unless the teacher/instructor has a democratic style of leadership. Kim was a democratic instructor. Kim gave her students choices about the colours they wanted to use in the workshop. Some students will come to the workshop with a purpose of wanting to experience specific colours and Kim facilitates this…and that action facilitates student engagement.

B.  Kim makes sure her physical learning environment is organised. The workshop learning area was totally set-up so that Kim was focussed on delivering her learning material rather than focussed on running about getting things. There’s no such thing as perfect and of course teachers/instructors are going to need to get things at some point, but Kim had Ian there to support her with this. When brush cleaning jars needed refilling and brushes needed cleaning, Ian supported Kim. I know this sounds such a little thing, but from an educator’s perspective it isn’t. When a teacher/instructor is off doing prep jobs, the students are left, delivery of learning is suspended and engagement can and often does, cease. The ‘flow’ of the lesson is disrupted and it often has negative consequences in terms of student engagement in turn impacts learning.  A good teacher/instructor is aware of how important sustained engagement is.

C. Kim’s ‘mode of delivery’ is a workshop…the workshop is a delivery mode where a student would be expected to have ‘hands-on’ learning tasks. It is very different to a lecture or a demonstration. I can’t tell you how many demonstrations I’ve come across that have been listed as workshops. A workshop is a fabulous way to learn because the best learning is attained by: watching, doing, experimenting, making mistakes, redoing etc.

D. The workshop was well structured and the pace was perfect. If an instructor rushes through the material and modelling techniques and guiding students then this also impacts learning. Techniques were presented and attempted in an order that was logical and after Kim had modelled each technique she continually checked out attempts giving suggestions and encouragement to guide us toward independence.

E. Kim utilised a number of delivery techniques: She told us about what we were going to do and how we were going to do it, she modelled how to do it and then she supervised while we attempted each technique ourselves. This kind of delivery is guiding the student from what they cannot do/know unaided, toward independence and it comes from Vygotsky’s theory concerning the Zone of Proximal Development.

F: Kim engaged with her students and also gave ‘meaningful praise’ during the workshop. Meaningful praise is constructive criticism that is delivered positively eg. ‘That looks really effective, but to achieve a crackle effect with the paint, I think you might need to apply the paint a little thicker.” Empty praise is: “good work.” It’s empty because it gives no feedback to the student so they can attain better next time. If you’re happy with how a student is progressing then meaningful praise can be issued in a way that also gives the teacher/instructor feedback as well: “I’m really happy with your brush strokes and paint coverage; you look to really be getting a handle on this. How do you feel about it?” Getting feedback from students gives the teacher/instructor an opportunity to give personalised instruction to individual students when required. Kim engaged with each of her students when she gave meaningful praise, but equally as important, she checked back with students after giving constructive criticism. She was very consciously aware of making sure students were achieving successful outcomes – I noticed this when she was talking about past workshop attendees who were not achieving results they were happy with and how she dealt with those situations. Kim wants her students to experience success.

G: Kim was a relaxed instructor and she really knew her product: its best application processes and its limitations. Because Kim was relaxed and knew her topic inside out, she created a calm learning environment. The climate in a learning environment can and does impact student learning – an unhappy teacher/instructor creates unhappy students who are not in an optimal situation to learn.

Remember at the start of the post when I told you we’d discuss confidence and success later? We’ve arrived at ‘later’. All of the things I’ve been talking about are directly related to a student feeling confidence in what they’re attempting. If a student feels confident enough to attempt a technique and their attempts are guided by meaningful praise, a student is much more likely to have a successful experience. A successful experience is paramount to students to have another go and keep on engaging with what is being taught when they’re at home etc

Each student came away with a set of brushes, the Annie Sloan workbook, an envelope to hold the ‘tip sheet’ and other paper materials Kim gave us and a board with all the painting techniques we learned how to achieve. We got lots of fabulous advice, but I’m kinda liking this advice the best:

 AS workbook chalk paint brush page

Of course, I couldn’t do an Annie Sloan workshop and not get some of the products! Toward the end of the workshop, Kim gave us the opportunity to use an Annie Sloan paint brush and it really is nice and easy to use; it really picks up a lot of paint and spreads it with ease. There was a definite difference between using a regular paint brush and the ASCP brush.

 ASCP workshop board & paint tins & CP brush

The ASCP is really lovely to use and that I don’t have to use a primer is a huge advantage in my opinion. But I’ve got to say, what I REALLY loved was the AS wax.

The clear wax over the painted surface, when buffed, gave a beautiful understated sheen…But the queen of the wax is the dark wax which allows you to give the single painted surface a sense depth and mood. Given that I’m a veritable ASCP virgin, I’m fairly certain I have yet to even scratch the surface of the ways I can use dark wax to create techniques!

 wax paraphernalia

Friends, if you’re interested in Annie Sloan Chalk Paint, firstly, find a stockist and then, invest in one or more of the workshops. They’re worth every cent. I can’t guarantee that your instructor will be as good as mine; Kim was very very good.

I’m seriously thinking of doing the either the ‘bring your own furniture’ workshop next month or waiting until next year to do an advanced techniques workshop…or I might just do all of them because I really enjoyed Kim’s instructing style.

I had a fabulous four hour workshop on Saturday and I’m keen to go back and experience more!

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