What made you start recreating vintage plaster chalkware?
The truth is I had searched some time for a reasonably priced set of vintage mermaids. Unfortunately I began my search right after the price of vintage chalkware went through the roof. I remember one day at a local antique and flea market seeing a set at the end of a vendors table. Eager with anticipation I picked up the larger mermaid of the two and immediately fell in love with it. It was in good condition, the colors were neutral and the eyes were quite fetching. Then I found out the price and the affair was over. After a couple years of searching with big eyes and a little budget I thought “There must be a way I can make them myself.”
How long have you been making reproduction chalkware?
I have been creating my own molds since 2009. I quickly discovered after the first several months I would have to start making some pieces to sell to support my hobby. They were so well received I just kept going and going.
Did you learn from someone or are you self taught?
Actually I am a self-taught artist who got lucky enough to consult with a father and son team who have been in the business for over 25 years. One of my best friends called to chat and I told him what I was up to. My supplies were purchased, I had bookmarked several DIY videos and I was about to start making my first Hula Girl mold. Imagine my surprise when he told me a neighbor was in the business! He arranged to “run into” the guy and asked if we could visit the shop. The gentlemen were real gems. We exchanged ideas and they told me to bring my mold over when I was done. Two weeks later they said I didn’t need them anymore because I made a fine mold.
The mythical mermaid can be simply cute or downright alluring. She is a creature little girls dream of being and sailors dream of catching. Sounds romantic doesn’t it.
How long does it take to make a set of 3?
A 3 piece set takes about 5 days to make from the time I hand mix the plaster until the time the piece is sealed and packaged. Generally they take about 6 hours to paint over a 2 day span. I never do assembly line, so although I can sometimes pour the plaster for multiple sets in one day, each set has to be painted one at a time. My philosophy is that each mermaid should be its own special entity, with its own unique “personality” if you will.
What do you like the most and the least about it?
Pity the people I live with can’t be here to tell you themselves how much fun it is picking plaster off the jackets they left lying around or how they have to book time to talk to me once the paintbrush hits my hand. Guess you will just get my side of the story...
Whether I buy a mold or create a mold myself, there is always a payoff. If it went bad, I had a learning experience. If all goes well I have the satisfaction of creating something beautiful to share with others. Regardless of the outcome, my craft provides me with the opportunity to express my creativity and provides a diversion from the stress of everyday life. What I like least is that I have to make time for everything else. In other words: “What social life?” I wouldn’t trade it for the world though. I think about the relationships I have formed with my clients during the creative process. The kicks Kris, Eden & Carly I had making their custom sets and how thrilled they were every time a new one came in the mail. I guess I am one of those people who is happiest when I am doing something that makes other people feel happy.
I know you have an etsy shop Little Shop for Hoarders with vintage clothes and housewares in addition to your chalkware, so what's in store for the future of Barbie K?
My Gemini nature is to flit around, but I don’t think I am quite finished with The Little Shop for Hoarders yet. I may change the name to “Little House of Hoarders” because it seems only a fraction of my vintage finds have made it out of my humble little home. I guess that just the nature of the Hoarder, but the nature of Barbie K is to share- so we shall see.
Working with Cats Like Us is pretty effortless. There are no quotas to meet, Andrew & Julie tolerate my impromptu mermaid drops, and they are very dependable in every way. The only pressure really is the pressure I put on myself: They inspire me to always do my best and always be the best I can. The really fun part about it is I can buy a dress with one hand and pick up a check with the other.
I would like to thank Barbie K for recreating the cutest, kitchiest decor around, and to her customers that have shared pictures of Barbie K artwork in their homes!
Your Mermaid Loving Gal,