Turn a yard sale suitcase into a work of art

These full-sized suitcases were painted with boy friendly themes in hopes of inspiring them to pick up their mess. We can dream, can't we?

These full-sized suitcases were painted with boy friendly themes in hopes of inspiring them to pick up their mess. We can dream, can’t we?

Awhile back — in two posts here and here — we bragged about buying some suitcases for a future craft project. Well, the long winter finally paid off, and we embarked on our crafting extravaganza.

What we came up with are the masterpieces you see above — suitcases painted with boy friendly themes. The purpose? They will be filled with toys, action figures, Nerf guns and games. Once they’re loaded up, the suitcases can be slid underneath a bed for storage. When the kid wants to play, he just pulls out the suitcase and grabs what he wants.

You can do the same for your own organizing effort — whether it be for a boy or a girl or anyone else. We certainly didn’t come up with the idea. We’ve seen suitcases painted with flowers, dolls, farmhouses and other themes. Some are used to brighten up a room as a decoration and others are just to add a little extra touch of creativity to an otherwise boring storage bin.

Ultimately, the point is that you get a less-ugly way to store stuff.

We created this cityscape in four layers. The fiery background, the tallest white cityscape, the blue buildings and finally the smallest white buildings.

We created this cityscape in four layers. The fiery background, the tallest white cityscape, the blue buildings and finally the smallest white buildings.

THE PURCHASE

  • Visit yard sales and thrift stores and keep an eye out for suitcases. You’ll want to buy an old-style plastic “clamshell” suitcase, not the fabric suitcases used nowadays. And remember you don’t have to buy an actual suitcase — any old plastic storage case with a slight grit to it will do. Typerwriter and makeup cases are good examples.
  • If you can avoid it, don’t buy the big suitcases. They’re too big to be practical for this craft.
  • Look for outside damage to the suitcase. Is it cracked? Does the closing mechanism work? Is the handle broken?
  • We’ve seen suitcases go for as little as a dollar. Other people were charging $10.
  • The interior of the suitcase isn’t really important. You’ll be using it for storage, not packing your delicates for a trip to Zanzibar.

BACK HOME

  • Take some hot water and dish soap and scrub down the outside of the suitcase.
  • Open up the suitcase and smell it. Yep, you read it right! Smell it! If it has a musty stink to it, take it outside on a hot day (when there’s no rain in the forecast) and open it up and let the sun burn out the smell.
  • Carefully clip out any unwanted interior pockets or flaps. We keep all of ours, but they do take up room.
  • Think up an idea. What do you want to paint? What room is it going into?
Notice that we didn't include this T-Rex's tale. Doing so would have made him too small. Make your primary image as big as you can.

Notice that we didn’t include this T-Rex’s tale. Doing so would have made him too small. Make your primary image as big as you can.

PAINTING TOOLS

  • Paints — We used acrylic craft paints for ours. We recommend you purchase “opaque” acrylic colors. Typically, the small bottles, no taller than a coffee cup, cost less than $2 each. We used about eight colors.
  • Paint brushes — Buy some really thick ones for applying a big splotch of color and some thin ones for detail work. We bought some sponge brushes too.
  • Newspapers — Spread these out before you begin painting.
  • Mod Podge — This sealant comes in big and little jars. We put four or five layers on our suitcases. It goes on really milky but dries clear.
  • Permanent Markers — You can use these to add additional highlights to your dried paint, but before you apply the Mod Podge.
  • Time — You will need about an hour between applying colors for the paint to dry. You’ll need even more time for the Mod Podge to dry.

PAINTING

  1. Wipe down the suitcase to remove dust and other debris.
  2. Paint a background. We chose a fiery look, which we did by painting a huge swath of yellow, and then added red and orange highlights.
  3. Allow the background paint to dry.
  4. Paint the primary color for the main image. We mostly chose gray for our primary color and stuck to creating a silhouette only. You can base your silhouette on web images or you can wing it.
  5. Allow the primary color to dry.
  6. Paint in a few details. On our dinosaur, we painted teeth. On our superhero, we added his chest emblem, bracelets and belt.
  7. Allow the detail paint to dry.
  8. Paint on the Mod Podge. This glue-like substance goes on very milky colored but dries clear.
  9. Allow Mod Podge to dry.
  10. Paint several more layers of Mod Podge, allowing drying time between each.
  11. You’re done!

POINTERS

  • Don’t let your unprotected paint bump into things. You can see scratches on our T-rex.
  • Use a permanent marker to create bubbly letters for names, paint them and then reapply the markers on the edges. The thicker the marker line the better.
  • Use your background color to fill as much of the “canvas space” as you can. Then fill as much of the background color as you can with your primary image.
  • Acrylic paint is permanent on carpet and cloth, so be careful.
  • If the keys are included in the suitcase, lock it so that’s permanently open and hide the keys. It will still latch, it just won’t lock.

Your completed suitcase is ready for storage, play or display!

Did you try this for yourself? Send us pictures to jsimcoe@yorkdispatch.com and we’ll show them off in a later post.

This image is on the back side of the same suitcase as the Cityscape image. We used permanent markers to outline our hero and our lettering.

This image is on the back side of the same suitcase as the Cityscape image. We used permanent markers to outline our hero and our lettering.

 

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Three helpful (and fun) yard sale articles

Some yard sales stick around for so long that the weeds have time to grow around the tables.

Some yard sales stick around for so long that the weeds have time to grow around the tables. That’s one of the “Worst Yard Sales” that Wanting What You Have complains about in their article.

It’s still a quiet time for people in regard to yard sales, but that doesn’t keep the Yard Sale Secrets team from thinking about yard sales.

Case in point, we were doing some web searches on our favorite topic and wanted to point you to a few excellent articles:

From THE SURVIVAL MOM: This blog post talks about great items to grab at yard sales from a survivalist perspective. But don’t think its some sort of nutty rant about a zombie apocalypse, this is some good advice in general. Find it at “21 Things to Look for Every Time You Go to a Yard Sale”

From WANTING WHAT YOU HAVE: This article delves into some of the most dismal yard sale experiences one skilled shopper has experienced. From creepy people to washed-up Avon reps, we’ve seen a lot of the same. Find it at “The Worst Yard Sales We’ve Ever Been To.”

From THIS OLD HOUSE: Although it’s presented in an annoying slideshow fashion, we like some of the tips offered here, including labeling your sale an “Estate Sale” when it really isn’t and reminding people to try to include building materials in a sale. Plus they hit on some old standbys that we totally agree with: “Price everything” and “Don’t put your stuff on the ground.” Find it at “How to Have a Money-Making Yard Sale.”

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Get a spark from products with lifetime warranties

Zippo lighters and many other products have a lifetime warranty, making them great yard sale purchases. (Photo by liber via flickr.com -- http://www.flickr.com/photos/liberato/)

Zippo lighters and many other products have a lifetime warranty, making them great yard sale purchases. (Photo by liber via flickr.com — http://www.flickr.com/photos/liberato/)

We like the advice offered in this video about shopping at thrift stores. We totally agree with ThriftyTiff’s advice about stuffed animals and over-priced clothes.

http://youtu.be/_Ft6fJU1XVk

But then she surprised us with another idea  — one we had never heard of before: Her tip on hunting down products with a lifetime guarantee. What a great money-saving idea.

She lists a few items that have lifetime warranties, but here are some others:

  • Tupperware
  • Craftsman
  • Pampered Chef cookware
  • Cutco cutlery
  • Ross Reels fishing reels
  • Pelican transport cases
  • Briggs & Riley luggage
  • Camelbak
  • JanSport backpacks
  • Zippo lighters

That’s just a few of the companies that offer some sort of lifetime guarantee (check with the individual companies for more details) on their products. It might be hard to find such items at a yard sale or thrift store, but it wouldn’t be unheard of either.

Anyway, the ultimate idea here is that you find some of these items at a yard sale, haggle the seller down on the price, take it home, contact the company for a replacement and end up with a totally new item that you can keep or resell at a big profit.

(Know of any lifetime guarantees? List them in the comments below!)

 

 

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The monsters inside of every painting

It should go without saying that the yard sale season is over here in central Pennsylvania. It’s early December, after all.

But we’re not discouraged. We can find deals anywhere — and brush up on our artists chops at the same time.

How, you ask? We mix our love of bargain-hunting with some creativity.

While browsing Facebook one day, we saw an interesting link to a site where Chris McMahon, an artist, introduced us to a fun new pastime.

To start off, he visited his local Salvation Army and Goodwill stores and bought up a variety of old paintings. But he wasn’t just going to hang them up on his wall as a kitschy testament to people’s awful taste and failed aspirations. Instead, he added something to each painting.

He added monsters!

 

"Throat Shark is Just Looking for a Good Time" is an involuntary collaboration completed by Chris McMahon

“Throat Shark is Just Looking for a Good Time” is an involuntary collaboration completed by Chris McMahon

"Untitled" is an involuntary collaboration completed by Christopher McMahon.

“Untitled” is an involuntary collaboration completed by Christopher McMahon.

"The Thing by the Boats" an involuntary collaboration completed by Chris McMahon.

“The Thing by the Boats” an involuntary collaboration completed by Chris McMahon.

You can do the same with illustrations you find at thrift stores. It appears McMahon uses only actual paintings, but it’s easier to find old prints at thrift stores. Either works.

Once you’ve made your purchase, you’ll need to:

  • Buy a selection of opaque acrylic craft paints. You’ll want to buy colors with a tint that matches you painting.
  • Buy a variety of paint brushes.
  • Wipe dust off the painting with a damp cloth.
  • Paint the main color of your add-in first.
  • Add highlights for depth.
  • Paint in some simple details.
  • Let it dry.
  • Add a sealant like Mod Podge.

A few additional points worth noting:

  • Assuming you’re willing to sacrifice a Salvo purchase, this project will be fun for kids.
  • You don’t have to get stuck on monsters — you can add flowers, clowns, Mickey Mouse, kitty cats or whatever you choose.
  • If you don’t think you’ve got the art skills to pull it off, don’t worry. Half the fun is making your art and the other art not match.
  • If you’re still worried about not being able to paint things well, then just have fun making the painting look different. Add mustaches to people. Stick some graffiti on a building. Paint a tree an entirely different color.

Visit Christopher McMahon’s Deviant Art page! Buy his prints too, even if you don’t get a discount.

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Kickstart (or empty out) your collection at a yard sale

Got a collecting bug? Then you're sure to find some must-haves if you scout out the yard sales in your area.

Got a collecting bug? Then you’re sure to find some must-haves if you scout out the yard sales in your area.

Yard sales are the perfect hunting ground for collectors. If you’re into accumulating owl statues, for example, you’d have been thrilled at the above display from a few months back.

From knickknacks to baseball cards, just about every yard sale has something that can intrigue collectors. The real problem for sellers is getting the right collectors to your yard sale. Likewise, it’s tough for collectors to read between the lines of yard sale advertising to know just what’s being offered.

Both groups — the collectors and the sellers — should consider a few things before the big sale arrives:

FOR SELLERS

  • BE SPECIFIC: In your advertising, don’t just say “collectibles” or “comics” or “old records,” give collectors something to go on. You can list brand names, production dates of the collectible or some other identifier.
  • BE REALISTIC: People come to yard sales for bargains. And you? You’re trying to get rid of some of your clutter. That means you should try to meet people half way with your prices. Cut your prices to about 1/3 to 1/2 of the “collectible” price.  Just remember that selling off your back porch cuts out shipping, listing and other fees that you’d pay if you sold your items online. And lets not discount how simply inconvenient it is to sell online.
  • BE WILLING TO SELL PIECEMEAL: A lot of sellers want to unload their whole collection at once. For a person who’s bargain hunting at a yard sale, that’s not going to entice them to buy. Maybe you could offer a buy three, get one free deal.

FOR BUYERS

  • DON’T NITPICK: As you look over someone else’s unwanted collection, don’t nitpick about the quality of items. The reason they’re selling them is because they don’t want them. You can be choosy and not buy them, but don’t try to bargain them down because of some flaws. They’re probably getting rid of them because of those very flaws.
  • DON’T RUSH: If you specifically sought out this yard sale for its awesome collectibles, take your time and look through the pieces. Check out every aspect of the collection up for sale. Chances are this will be your only opportunity to see it, and your only opportunity to buy it. Take you time and sort through things appropriately.
  • DON’T STAY QUIET: Assuming the host of the yard sale is also the owner of the collection you’re eyeballing, take some time to talk with them about their collection. You might learn a few things, you might strike up a friendship and, most importantly, you might get a glimpse of what else they have!

 

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