Although I’ve had some turquoise painted tins planted up in my garden for about ten years, I’ve never gotten around to decorating them. I just touch them up with a bit more paint each spring. Fouli’s – our local taverna (where I painted the bougainvillia/window mural) has a few fancy tins decorated by an Athenian artist. When some customers asked her where they could get some, Fouli referred them to me, as my shop’s just a few doors up the road from the taverna. I think she rather enjoyed conducting the negotiation. And so began the current spate of tin sourcing, cleaning, preparation and decoration.
Two shops in the village now pass on their used feta tins to me for re-cycling. I’ve actually had to put a pause on it as they supply way more tins than I can deal with. Painting the tins is a rather labour intensive process and the good people of Charakopio do seem to consume rather a large quantity of feta cheese. The tins usually come complete with a few inches of brine and little bits of cheese still floating around in them. So stage one is to hose out the tins in the garden.
After a secondary, soapy clean in the studio, they’re dried off and treated to 2-3 coats of metal primer. Then comes 2-3 coats of topcoat for metal. When I started, I naively thought I could use up all my bits and bobs of household paint. I quickly realised I can only work with water based paint inside the studio – oil based paint is just way too smelly and messy. So I’ve now had a couple of colours of my favourite water-based metal paint mixed up at the local hardware shop. The design detail, which is painted with acrylic paints, can also need 2-3 coats to get good coverage on the doors and shutters.
For my first tins, I drew up two different templates on paper and copied the designs onto the tins. This meant the design process took me absolutely ages and it got a little repetative after a while. I’ve now moved on to ‘making up‘ the design of each tin as I go along, varying each ‘house’, so no two are alike. In the beginning I used a rather thin drawn line – like on the three tins below. I’ve graduated to using thicker paint pens now to purposefully give a more naive look. Improvising is much more fun and it makes for a more interesting collection when they’re all displayed together.
Some of the tins have gone to new homes in Germany, Denmark and… well, just down the road. The current feta tin village contains five one story houses – two of which are shops, plus three two-storey houses – one of which is a greengrocers. No two tins are alike. Although I used a couple of oil tins in the beginning, I now use only feta tins – they’re much easier to clean out plus they have a nice, handy handle on the top.
Both small and large tins make great indoor plant pots. Holes can be made in the bottom for drainage if required. The large tins are great for storing beach mats, umbrellas, walking sticks etc. The small size can be used to store kitchen implements or paintbrushes… just use your imagination. A customer who took a large one one back to Denmark at the end of the summer was planning on making a lamp with his… I look forward to seeing photos…
Although each tin has had several coats of paint, its still not a great idea to leave them outside in the garden. Strong sun and rain would eventually take their toll on the painted design and the tin would of course eventually rust. Instead, treat them rather like you would an original painting – keep them inside or in a covered spot, out of the rain!
Feta tins are currently available to purchase direct from the studio and are not really suitable for shipping. I fear that by the time they were adequately packaged to protect them during transportation, the cost of shipping would be greater than the cost of the decorated tin! They’re also available in very limited numbers as they are so labour intensive I can’t produce many at a time. If you fall in love with them and would like to purchase just contact me and I can send you photos of the current stock.