Sunday, March 17, 2013

Even the Professionals Make Mistakes

The title says it all. As I said in my last post about the tin ceiling jobs, I would be sharing my experience working on an order for a Copper Patina Finish for a restaurant in Sweden.  Most of my other jobs that I get are usually not a rush, they have to have the painters come in, prep, sometimes wood work has to be built, etc. There is always a delay. It is never, "You have to start tomorrow."

The orders for Hollister and Sweden came in at the same time. I had about a week and a half to get ready before we would begin, and as I said in the last post, what worried me the most was the shelving. Not once did I ever consider the paint to be an issue. I went online to the paint manufacturers site and was surprised I didn't see the color of the Metallic I needed.  Hmmmm, how odd.  It is a California company, but thankfully someone was there a bit early that day.

CA:  "Harvest Gold has been discontinued."
Me: "WHAAATTT???? When?"
CA: "Two years ago."

Oh my God!! I think I literally had a heart attack. Holy, holy, holy! What was I going to do? And at this time, I did ask the person I was speaking with if they had any left over that they could sell me.  I was told no.

This was the original tile sample I did, but Sweden's order would have no black patina.
I told myself, this has to work out. I had time to find some, I will just call every paint store in NY, NJ, and CT and see what is left.  I found dribs and drabs, 6 oz. here, 18 oz. there. The biggest score I got was at store in Long Island City who had eight 16 oz. jars. I will take them all!! I posted on a few forums such as Faux Forum, MuralsPlus, and Linkedin. But the biggest break I actually got was being given the ok to do Hollister first and then Sweden. This gave me time to look for more paint.  A few artists in CA had bottle unopened and I paid them for the product and to ship it. A fantastic man from Florida told me he had the rep's name for the paint company and to call him.  I spoke to representative, and he called the company direct and told me they had cases of the paint in 6 oz. jars.  The paint was old and I would just have to pay for the shipping since they couldn't tell whether or not the paint would be any good.  It was a chance I was going to have to take.  I actually had to call the woman who told me they had none, who then said, well how much do you need? How much do you have? Oh cases ... (really you had just told me none last week! )  I ordered about 9 gallons worth in 6 oz. jars. I figured I should stock up. LOL!  In the meantime, I had to prep for whether or not this paint would be good.  I had to make a color close enough to the original. I could do that by mixing copper, bronze and a ton of mica gold into it. It could work.

So now I had just finished dropping off Hollister's order, my assistant is back at the studio getting the second set of shelving all done and the tile owner shows me my pallet of tiles.

I looked at it and said, "That's not for me."
Him:  "Yes it is, those are the 1 by 1's, 1 by 2's and 2 by 2's".
Me: "But they aren't flat, these are raised. I have shelving for flat tiles. We never talked about raised tiles!"

PANIC!! These tiles sitting in front of me are for a coffered ceiling, meaning they have an indentation of 4 inches. My shelving is for 1 inch. I can't roll these tiles either. What the hell was I going to do? I think after that I didn't hear a word, as I was so upset that I signed up for something and I never even asked to see what it looked like. I had assumed that all the tiles were flat. I was never told otherwise.

Clearly not flat.

I  ended up buying a sprayer, since the tiles couldn't be rolled. The sprayer worked wonders, and the shelving was re-adjusted. We had to remove 3 pieces in-between to make up for the height difference, and this meant that fewer could be drying. It really meant my sons were going to lose their playroom for awhile.

New spacing to accommodate height.
Monday we started spraying. We took turns as holding the gun got tiring, awkward and caused a lot of pain in our forearm. Basically using muscles we normally don't use.  By the end of the day we were doing ok, and started to clean up. And that's when it happened. We had been wearing gloves all day handling the tiles, and had taken them off to put some away. My assistant wasn't carrying any, but happened to turn and her hand hit a tile that was leaning on the chair. She grabbed her hand, and turned as white as a ghost. "I cut my hand. I saw the bone. I have no insurance, you need to do a butterfly stitch."   I told her, "There is no way in hell I am giving you a butterfly stitch, I am taking you to get stitches."  She panicked, she was about to throw up and pass out.  I guided her upstairs, put a cold rag on her head and went to look for bandages.  I remembered the emergency service place around the block, called them, asked if they can do stitches and if it was crowded! It's got to be better then the ER.

Thankfully she was able to move her fingers, she only needed 6 stitches, but my concern was really no nerve or muscle damage. Phew! Sooo scary.  Those tiles can sever your hand, or a finger. Now what was I going to do for help? I called my friend a painter, who had also helped with the Hollister tiles, and he was free that week. He came to spray, and was he a master! He flew threw them, and at times so fast, we were running around like a chicken, trying to copper patina them, dry them, store them, put wax paper between them.  I also didn't account for cleaning the tiles, why would I know that some would be caked in oil, like a bottle of EVOO had tipped over on them.  One set was covered in oil that we lost almost a whole day cleaning them with Mineral Spirits.  Even with cleaning the tiles, and my assistants hand limiting her, we were still ahead of schedule due to the efficiency of the sprayer.

This is great! Then I emailed the owner a picture of the tile to make sure that the patina was a good amount before we varnished.  He was also away on vacation, and I didn't hear back until late Thursday night.  It went something like this "Looks great, but you aren't painting the backs are you, because you don't have to."  I replied, "Noooo, why would I paint the backs?"

The picture I sent him.   
The next day we went about spraying the next round of 1 by 2's, and about 1 pm, I thought about his email again, and said, why would he say that? That's weird.  I spoke to the crew and said, "Weird right?" "Let me call to find out, don't spray any more!"  I called the warehouse and tried to explain. The emails with the photos I was sending them weren't going through, the owner was out of the country and unable to get calls, the man I was speaking to was describing the tile all wrong. I had thought the side I was spraying was the side he said to do when  I picked them up. Apparently I was so overwhelmed that day, I didn't get it right! In fact, all week we sprayed the backs of 700 something plus tiles! I wanted to cry. I was so mad, I just couldn't.  The only saving grace was that we hadn't gotten to putting the copper on the 300 1 by1's.  I looked at the crew and said "What am I going to do?" And very simply they said "Start over. We will work all weekend. We will fix it and make it right."

The correct side! 

I love that each one is individual in its patina pattern.
And we did. We still finished on time, picked up the next set and finished those on time without a hitch.

We even had to build a custom shelf to hold the moldings when being sprayed.

Waiting for the patina and copper.


And this was the only FLAT tile, 2 by 2. 
Never again will I ever take an order without knowing what it looks like, what side is up, down.  This is something totally new to me, and I am learning. That week was the most expensive, painful learning experience of my career. We overcame a discontinued paint, injury, painting the wrong sides, but they came out amazing. I can't wait to see them installed in the restaurant in Sweden. They should fly me in!


  1. OMG! What a story! What lessons have been learned! You have an amazing and dedicated crew working with you!

  2. Your clients are so lucky to have such a dedicated artist beautifying their homes / restaurants. Book me a seat, I'd love to explore Sweden.

  3. Oh my goodness! My heart was breaking for you while reading was even racing! I am so happy that you were able to hop over those hurdles for a BEAUTIFUL finished result. Thank goodness you didn't throw in the towel. I have been right where you are. When I worked as an account executive for a marketing firm, my client wanted little white bows tied on 1,000 plastic wine glasses with the boating club logo on them. Well, I thought I'd go the extra mile and use some clear 3M sticky squares to keep the bows from sliding down the glasses. So two days and 1,000 glasses later with the help of my intern, the president of my agency walks into the conference room and asks if I had the client approve them first. I thought to myself, "Why would I need approval for tying a white bow around a plastic glass stem?" Well, I take one over for my client's approval thinking he is just going to a) love my clever little idea to keep the bows from sliding or b) not care, but NOPE!...He didn't like the idea of the sticky square (which was completely hidden, mind you). He thought it 'cheapened' the (PLASTIC) glasses. LESSON LEARNED! Get approval for everything. I spent my weekend sitting in my living room cutting ribbon & redoing all of those bows! I was practically in tears and that's probably why my heart broke when I read your post! I hope your assistant's hand is healing okay! xo

    1. Jami,
      Thank you so much for reading my post....long one right? They loved the tiles and ended up ordering another 180 after they started installing. The coffered was their favorite, so they ended up ordering more to replace the flat ones. My assistants hand is doing much better, thank god. The scar gets in her way, and not used to watching out for it.

      I cannot believe you had to redo those bows, I would be in tears too! Some people are picky! I have been in business for so long, it just didn't occur to me to double check the sides to be painted. Ugh.

      Thank you again for swinging by!