the happygirl guide: how to patina anything



One of the charms of an older town like Nantucket or Rome is the architecture, the rich patina that seems to radiate history.  It's impossible to walk a hundred feet in a historic city without admiring the grey shingled cottages that have withstood the years of battering by the sea or the green-hued copper fountains which have hosted hundreds of years of coins and wishes.


Several weeks ago I was in a small shop in Sandwich, Massachusetts. It's a sweet town, the oldest on Cape Cod. I collect mermaids and when I saw this dusty, dark green cast iron mermaid, I knew just where she belonged. On that sunny, warm, summer day as the shopkeeper carefully bundled my purchase for her long trip to Seattle, we talked of summer wind, mermaids and history.

Last Wednesday I looked at her on the mantle and she was beautiful but too new.  I wanted her to look as if she had lazed on the back deck looking out at the sea for years. Since I didn't want to wait for her to weather on her own, I did some research on how to patina, how to give an item an aged rough aqua hued surface. It turns out there are dozens of ways, really, to do this and after a trip to Michael's, I was able to turn this former one dimensional sea creature into a piece of art that now sits on our mantle, surrounded by sea glass and starfish. She looks happy here, don't you think?

If you'd like to add a patina, a glow to something, here's how you do it:

The Happygirl Guide to Patina

For your first project, choose something solid like wood or metal. This project uses chemicals and is best done outside. Prepare your work area to cover anything you don't want painted!

Here are the items you'll also need: 


- Copper Gilding (Martha Stewart brand)
- Aqua metallic paint (I used a shade called Dark Patina by DecoArt)
- Rub n' Buff Patina
- Sea sponge
- Sandpaper
- Rubber gloves
(All products from Michael's)

Step 1
Clean item of any dirt or dust. 


Step 2
Put on rubber gloves. Shake (closed) Gilding bottle. Open and dab a small amount of Copper Gilding onto sea sponge. (A little goes a long way.) Begin applying copper gilding. It doesn't have to be applied perfectly. In fact, in can be imperfect. I dabbed and rubbed it in. It didn't make a difference in the application. Gild entire item, being sure to get in the crevices. It's OK if some of the original color peeks through. 

Let dry.


Step 3
Shake (closed) bottle of aqua metallic paint and using the same method as step 2, apply aqua metallic paint. Again, it isn't important that the entire piece is evenly covered. It can look rough.

Let dry. 


Step 4
This tube of patina is VERY strong both in odor and performance. To begin, you need a very small dab  (less than a pea size) on the sea sponge. You'll want to work swiftly here before the paste dries. It comes out of the tube a sky blue color but as you rub the paste in, it becomes various shades from white to blue to green.  Apply patina all over, rubbing it in. You can be rough here. It doesn't need to be perfect. It's OK if some of the other colors come through. Be sure to work the paste into the crevices. If you notice antiqued pieces, this is where patina collects. 

Let dry. 

Step 5
Use a fine grain sandpaper to rough the piece up, letting some other colors come through. Dust off before placing it inside. 

You're done! It's pretty easy, isn't it? If you try this project, we'd love to see it!