Sunday, March 15, 2009

Being Resourceful in a Down Economy

By Chris O'Brien of Christine Marie Art

The cost of art materials has become something I think about in this economy. So on the advice of Bonny Lhotka, from her wonderful DVD Inkjet Transfer Techniques, I decided to try using medium density fiberboard (MDF) as a more economical substrate for my digital collage transfers. Since I had never seen MDF anywhere in my daily life, I knew it would be somewhat of an adventure.

"Where do I find MDF?", I asked myself. After looking online and in the phone book, I chose to drive Moynihan Lumber, a wonderful family-owned lumberyard in North Reading, very close to my home. So there I was with all the contractors driving in and out, picking up giant sheets of lumber, and wondering what on earth to do next. This experience was completely different than going to my favorite art store (Art Supplies Wholesale in Beverly, MA) and I felt totally out of place.

I went into the office and explained what I was looking for, and that it would need to be cut down somewhat in order to fit into my SUV. The man behind the counter looked at me kind of funny and I'm sure I turned beet red, thinking I was really in the wrong place. So I began with the nervous chatter..."I'm an artist...looking for different materials to use...watched this DVD...gelatin frescoes...etc., etc." and I was sure by the time I finished I would be in a puddle of my own sweat.

But, the coolest thing happened. It turns out the man I was speaking with had gone to art school, had previously been a graphic designer, and was interested in my process and my background. He apologized that there had been layoffs at the lumberyard and because they were short-handed, asked if I could come back later in the day to pick up a 4' x 8' sheet, which they cut in half for me.

The next thing I needed was a saw to cut the MDF down further, so I purchased a circular saw and some saw horses. Again, completely foreign to me, but there are some great YouTube videos about how to safely use all of my new toys.

It took some practice, but now I am cutting my own MDF in shapes and sizes of my own choosing, and am able to texture the surface in a variety of ways depending on what I want to do with the artwork. It was definitely an adventure, but worth the time and effort.


  1. That is very cool Chris - I have used MDF for projects before.. it is very heavy isn't it? BTW - love that art store in Beverly!

  2. Loved reading about your adventure with MDF and feeling like a fish out of water. I had a similar experience when I started my business casting cement and the boys at Gove lumber in Beverly totally hooked me up with the right materials. They were really interested in what I was doing and very supportive. You never know where you will find kindered spirits! Love the finished piece and the fact that you were willing to take a chance. Great job!

  3. Gotta love those power tools and lumberyards! I often cruise the aisles at Home Depot - the copper stuff in the plumbing section is awesome! And I'm sure they wondered why the heck I needed those 12 PVC toilet couplings...(risers for my tables).


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