A Chair That Survived California’s Camp Fire Gets New Life With a Colorful Makeover

On November 8 last year, a lot of people around the world heard the devastating news about a Northern California town, called Paradise, that was completely destroyed by a forest fire named the Camp Fire.  

My family and I were four out of 27,000 people that ran for their lives that November morning. It was the scariest thing I’d ever been through and my kids are just starting to let go of the fear that’s gripped them ever since.

But that’s not what this post is about. It’s about the wooden chair we found when we went dig through the ashes of our old home. The chair had only been charred. My husband and I appreciated it’s survival and so we took it with us for me to give it new life. And that’s what I did - and what I’ll be sharing with you today.

I know i said I wasn’t going to be going into details about the fire. But, I want to share an image of what was left at our address when Cal Fire went through the town to photograph the carnage. They didn’t let us Paradise folk back up there for over a month, so this is how people found out what happened to their home.

If you look at the big rock in the foreground in the picture and then look just past it, you’ll see our statue of the Buddha, still standing admits the destruction of everything else.

Luckily, Buddha wasn’t the only thing that wasn’t completely destroyed.

There also stood our chair:

I decided I had to do something creative with this chair that would also symbolize what it had gone through.

I decided to make a graphic of a phoenix emerging from a camp fire. I’m not too knowledgable of the details, but I know in Greek Mythology, there’s a story of something getting destroyed in a fire and then eventually turns into a phoenix that rises from the ashes of what was burned. So, that’s why I chose the Pheonix. It’s rising from a camp fire because that was the name they called the fire that destroyed Paradise and so much of the surrounding area.

Materials used

Though it mostly survived, our chair didn’t come out of the fire without scars. I added some e600 glue to the charred parts so they’d stay in tact while I worked on the chair.

I wanted the chair to be really colorful, so I prepared to prime it.

I covered the whole chair with a layer of primer. Not only does it give a white background for your colors, it also helps the colors stick to the surface.

I designed the graphic on one of my iPad apps.

I wanted it to have a stained glass feel. Also check out this faux stained glass tutorial.

I sketched out my picture onto the seat of the chair:

I painted it in sections of color until the the entire seat was painted.

Since, I planned to spray paint the rest of the chair to give it an even coat, I needed to mask my picture:

I also wanted the back and legs to have different colors. So I had to tape off sections depending on what part I doing and what color paint I was using:

Here, you can see I sprayed the black paint:

Taking the tape off was fun and it had worked well to keep the paints where they were supposed to be.

Once the whole chair had been painted like I wanted, I got to start what I felt was the funnest part of the project.

Since I was going for a stained glass effect, I used black puffy paint as my faux leading:

For the last step I wanted to cover the chair in epoxy resin. Doing that would give it a glassy look, making my stained glass more realistic.

I mixed the resin and hardener per instructions:

After doing the appropriate stirring, I poured the mixed resin over the seat of my chair:

I evened the resin out using a palette knife:

I decided not to use the epoxy resin for the rest of the chair because I didn’t want drip marks forming in the resin.

So, I sprayed on some ultra thick clear glaze:

I sprayed an extra amount on the part that had been charred and following apart the most:

And then I was done. I now have a chair to help me remember that we survived and to be grateful about that.

Do any of you have a piece of furniture you now want to commemorate through art?

To end this post, a Buddhist teaching on transformation:

Learn more about Thich Nhat Hanh and his community at Plum Village

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