Big Blue Trunk
It was sometime last year when a friend told me about an artist and wildlife conservationist in Singapore who found a way to combine her two passions to create something beautiful and meaningful. Since then, I’ve had the pleasure to meet with Alpana Ahuja several times and hear about her unique and fascinating work, which lies at the intersection of art and wildlife conservation. Her art has been collected by the likes of Justin Trudeau and Pharrell Williams and has helped raise large amounts of funds for wildlife conservation in India and Singapore.
I’m excited and honoured to share more about Big Blue Trunk’s collaboration with Alpana Ahuja.
(Picture by David Stewart)
At the intersection of art and wildlife conservation.
As an artist, for many years Alpana had painted Lord Ganesha (Indian elephant-headed God, the remover of obstacles), until she discovered the joy of painting actual elephants. It started with a calendar she was creating for Wildlife SOS, and it never stopped. As she spent time with the elephants, she began to learn more about their kind and sensitive hearts, gentle natures and their vast knowledge of the earth. She loved the diversity with which she could characterise them in her art - in bright bold colours or monotones, zoomed into the face or as a large herd, at the forefront or in the background of a painting… she had found her one true muse!
Elephants as co-creators of Art
Alpana felt her connection with these fascinating creatures grow over the years. She was taken by their intelligence, emotional sensitivity and her heart hurt for all the abuse they experienced at human hands. As part of her fundraising efforts, she decided to involve elephants as co-creators in her art - thus emerged a unique collection called “Padhchinh” or “Footprints” in Sanskrit. Elephant footprints are special and tell each tell an individual story. Alpana observed that newly rescued elephants who have just been brought into the Elephant Sanctuary will have smooth pads that are worn out by walking on tarred roads, while those that have spent time at the sanctuary will begin to redevelop natural crevices and grips on their foot pads.
These footprints symbolise the elephants walking away from a miserable existence towards a better future.
A couple of times a year, Alpana visits the Elephant Conservation and Care Centre in Mathura, India and co-creates art with the rescued elephants - their unique footprints on her canvases. Her favourite co-artist is Phoolkali, blind in one eye from abuse before she was rescued and brought to the sanctuary, she is calm, gentle and patient by nature. She enjoys working with Alpana and gives her almost perfect footprints each time. As all the elephants at the Sanctuary are used to being checked by veterinarians for foot problems regularly, lifting their foot is quite a regular activity for them. For Alpana, these footprints symbolise the elephants walking away from a miserable existence towards a better future.
Her newest Padhchinh Collection has been created with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint
For several years now, Alpana has been searching for a natural non-toxic paint to use in her Padchinh Collection, one that isn’t harmful to the elephants or the earth as it’s washed off. And that’s how she found us! Her newest Padhchinh Collection has been created with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint that’s odourless, non-toxic and low on VOCs, completely safe for babies, pregnant women and animals alike. We are delighted that her experiment with using Annie Sloan Chalk Paint was successful and are excited about a long-lasting collaboration with her. All proceeds from the sale of her Padhchinh collection will go directly to Wildlife SOS towards the rehabilitation of rescued elephants.
The famous Raju and sweet Kalpana
For her most recent collection, Alpana worked with 2 elephants - the famous Raju and sweet Kalpana. She says “Raju was very cooperative and gave us some beautiful footprints. Kalpana and Holly, the inseparable duo, were well, inseparable. Holly didn’t like lifting her foot, so we left her alone. Kalpana was happy to do some foot lifting in exchange for treats. But she got bored quickly so back we went to Raju to finish the lot. We also had to contend with a litter of 8 pups running around fearlessly. Hence my art had to dry on a cart! Using Annie Sloan Chalk Paints was a great experience. I was happy that my paint run-offs didn’t pollute the earth at the Elephant Care and Conservation Centre. Being mindful of our daily actions is important for the future of our planet.”
You can support the cause by:
- Purchasing unique art from the Padhchinh Collection online or in-store at Big Blue Trunk
- Attending our “Meet the Artist” event with Alpana on February 22 at 5:00PM at our Studio
- Contributing directly to Wildlife SOS
A few weeks ago, we acquired a cute antique bureau from an auntie who has had it in her family for more than 50 years. Dusty and old but full of character, with hidden compartments and little drawers. We were so excited! Our makeover plan started with a neutral concept - Graphite paired with Duck Egg Blue and a chalkboard table top to keep it interesting. Something that would appeal to everyone and fit into most homes. Maybe even slightly boring, but safe. Well...
It just so happens that all of us at Big Blue Trunk love everything that's happy and bright - neons, unicorns and sunshine. And so our finished piece turned out to be quite different from where we started. Instead of the neutrals, we went with fresh pastels and pops of bright colour. We thought why not give it a fun transformation, something that surprises and delights. And what better way to do that than with neon confetti and Annie Sloan Chalk Paint®? So we went for it >>>
Here is how we transformed this bureau:
Since it was a very old piece, we took some precautionary steps and filled all the holes with wood filler, and treated it with anti-termite oil. We gave it a quick rub down with Annie Sloan Sanding Pads, cleaned it with warm soapy water and then started painting.
We chose a combination of fresh pastels - Lem Lem mixed with a bit of Pure White and Antoinette for the outside, and Pure White for the inside. The Lem Lem and Antoinette took two coats of paint while the Pure White took three coats as the wood was very dark. Since we wanted a textured look and had a lot of corners/carvings to paint, we used the Pure Bristle Brush. Once the paint was dry we sealed it using the Chalk Paint Clear Wax applied with the Wax Brush.
Then came the fun part....I had leftover Meri Meri confetti from my daughter's first birthday and it was gorgeous - gold, pink, neon yellow and green. We used Annie Sloan's Image Medium to decoupage the confetti all over the inside of the bureau. Pure White was the perfect background for the confetti circles to really pop. A couple of hours, 5 coats of image medium later and there it was - yes, we did go a little crazy with the confetti!
For the last few touches - did you know that any of the colours in the Chalk Paint® range can be used to make a chalkboard surface on furniture or walls? With the right technique, its very easy to do! We applied 4 very thin watered down coats of Antoinette on the door of the bureau with half an hour drying time between each coat. Once dry, we conditioned the surface by rolling a piece of chalk across it and then wiped it clean with a damp rag. And just like that - the chalkboard was ready! Hello there :)
It still felt like something was missing... a touch of gold, perhaps? The carvings and metal knobs looked very flat against the pastels and bright confetti. Annie Sloan Bright Gold Gilding Wax to the rescue! We applied the gilding wax using our fingers and a fine brush as a border for the chalkboard, to cover the metal knobs on the doors and to highlight the wood carvings.
Finally... we were done. From an old dark bureau to a fresh and fun piece of furniture!
If you would like to learn the Annie Sloan Chalk Paint® method and upcycle your furniture, register for one of our creative Workshops.
If you read Our Story, you'll recall meeting a little girl who loved making stuff; a DIYer at heart she was always looking for ways to bring beauty to everyday life...she grew up, and after several years in corporate life and many fun adventures, she's now living her dream with the Big Blue Trunk.
'Big Blue Trunk' because her favourite colour is blue, and she does have a soft spot for trunks of all kinds, especially those filled with treasure. And Big sounded nice in front of Blue Trunk - so there you have it. Big Blue Trunk.
It was fitting that her brand mascot would be an actual Big Blue Trunk. So the hunt for a trunk began - something old, with a story to tell. She chanced upon a young woman who was selling her grandmother's vintage trunk from the '50s. It was perfect!
She wanted the trunk to represent the ocean - smell the salty breeze, hear the crashing waves and feel the wet sand. All shades of blue, some of green and a touch of gold. A few hours of work with the fantastic Annie Sloan Chalk Paint® range, and her Big Blue Trunk was ready!
Here is how she and her team refurbished the trunk:
- The varnish and wood on the trunk was chipping in places, so they used the Annie Sloan sanding pads to take off all the flaking bits and smoothen the surfaces.
- They filled the cracks and holes with wood filler and then sanded it down.
- Since the trunk was very old, they gave it a quick coat of water-based primer to prevent stains from coming through the paint in the future.
- Then it was time to paint - and Annie Sloan Chalk Paint® range offered the most beautiful shades of blues and greens. A coat of Napoleonic blue on the outside, followed by dry brushing Greek Blue, Louis Blue and Provence on top. All the colours were blended together with water. Once this base coat dried, they did another layer of dry brushing with Greek Blue and Provence.
- The inside was painted a bright and happy English Yellow.
- To give the trunk a textured finish with brush stroked and ridges, they used the Annie Sloan Pure Bristle Brush Small.
- To seal the paint, they used Annie Sloan Clear Chalk Paint, applied with the Annie Sloan Wax Brush.
- The final finish was given by dry brushing Annie Sloan Gilding Wax in Bright Gold on all the metal fittings, corners and edges of the trunk.
If you would like to learn the Annie Sloan Chalk Paint® method, register for one of our Workshops.
What is happening?
- Flower Girl is now Big Blue Trunk!
- A whole new brand, exciting product launches & creative artist collaborations coming up
- Improved online presence to bring the products you love to your home, faster and easier
- Flower Girl was called that because it started as a florist in 2013. As our customers know, we no longer have a flower business, but a lot of other offerings.
- Big Blue Trunk offers everything that Flower Girl did, along with an expanded range of products and workshops... making everyday beautiful!
- You need to change our website link to www.bigbluetrunk.sg on your favourites tab :)
- It means all the products you love are now accessible to you faster, easier and at the click of a button
- It means you can now stay updated with regular, fresh content on our social media and online channels. Watch out for our new social media handles - Flower Girl will be Big Blue Trunk across Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest. The handles will be updated over the next few days.
- Finally, it also means that we will now be open 6 days a week 10am to 6pm Monday to Friday, and 10am to 3pm Saturdays