Wednesday, March 14, 2012

DIY Subway Art (Partial Fail)

When Reed and I aren't picking up garbage or wasting away our days at Menard's/Home Depot, we can be found window shopping at Restoration Hardware.  A few months ago while wandering through RH, we noticed a gorgeous subway art sign. It was an enormously tall (like 6 inches taller than Reed tall), stunning, statement piece of art towering over us.  We stood there, eyes wide open, in awe at its simple beauty. And then we looked at the price tag- at a mere (ha) $850, it was about $800 more than we were willing to spend. We quickly scurried away, but the thought of that sign never left us.

[image found here]

A few days later I suggested we make our own subway art. One minor dilemma- we had never been to NYC. And, as much as we love Glen Ellyn, it seemed like a pretty hilarious idea to make a sign out of GE words (Glen Ellyn Public Library, Main Street, Einstein Bagels, Prairie Path... On second thought, maybe a GE Subway sign would be semi-charming?).

Thankfully Reed pulled out all the creative stops ("train stop" pun intended) and put an end to my brainstorming.  He proposed using the Illinois Zephyr Amtrak line stops between Galesburg (his hometown) and Chicago (near mine).  We rode this train line a few times during our college days, so it was personal and unique. "PERFECT!" I exclaimed as I hurried to the internet to figure out how I could make this possible.

Without much research (I blame all of the excitement), I decided I would use a big piece of canvas (24x48 inches to be exact) with vinyl letters. Part of having a DIY blog is letting you all know when one of our projects is an epic fail. This is one of those times.


I have a serious addiction to spray painting. Its so quick and easy, barely any set up or clean up involved.  Which brings me to mistake #1 - don't spray paint canvas without some sort of primer.  Seems like the pros on the internet recommend a product called Gesso or even a basic primer.  Without primer, the canvas soaks up the paint so quickly, making it nearly impossible to get an evenly distributed coat of color. Painting this canvas took my entire bottle of green spray paint.


After my 28 layers (kidding...sorta) of spray paint dried, it was time to apply the vinyl (again, custom ordered from Becky @ Vinyl Crafts). This vinyl on canvas option brings me to fail #2.  Have you ever tried to apply vinyl on a fabric surface? The stretch/give of the canvas was just enough flexibility for the vinyl to refuse to stick to the surface.  So I recruited Reed for some crafting assistance.  Don't be fooled by my smile, we weren't having fun individually peeling away each of the letters and trying not to move them.


Once we had all of the letters removed from the vinyl backing, we had only a few minutes before we needed to Mod Podge the heck out of those babies.  Right in front of our eyes the vinyl was peeling and bubbling up from the canvas.  It was nerve wrecking.  We Mod Podged the canvas twice and managed to salvage our nifty little sign.  Don't get me wrong, this is most definitely our favorite piece of art in our house- but I want to make it clear you should not try this one at home (better yet, learn from our mistakes!).


If you are interested in making some subway art, I would recommended using a hard surface especially if you are going to use vinyl.  A piece of sanded plywood would work well (primed and painted, of course).  I would also suggest ordering your vinyl as a stencil like Shelley @ House of Smiths.  The advantage of actually painting the letters versus using vinyl letters is that you have the option to sand them down and make your sign look distressed (bonus!).



When all is said and done, we are very happy with our final little subway art project.  It's a perfect reminder that things don't always work in our favor.  Its also a perfect reminder that there are 8 stops on the Amtrak line between Chicago and Galesburg, and that, my friends, is an invaluable (and semi-useless) little tid bit of information. ;)

[Note: This project is linked up to the "Winter Pinterest Challenge" on YHL (click to see the other projects: Katie’s, Cassie’s, Erin’s, and Sherry's)!]

6 comments:

  1. I love the fact that you made it personal with the text. What a shame that it didn't hold on the canvas.

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    1. Yes we were a little frustrated, but happy we were able to make it work! And a great lessons learned :)

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  2. I LOVE it!! My parents live in Princeton:)

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    1. Thank you! What a small world! We love your stationary shop! :)

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  3. It turned out so nicely! I love that shade of green. I really appreciate that you were honest about how the process went. So many times I see awesome projects and wonder if they were really as "easy" as the blogger says they were. ;) Visiting From Centsational Girl's Spring Party. I hope you'll stop by my blog to see my craft too. :)

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    1. Thanks Amanda! Your blog is great- I'm a new follower :) Love the chalkboard too!

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