April Slater has come a long way from using her spare time practicing techniques and creating samples in the corner of a cramped one-car garage. Well over a decade after her first class at Faux Effects International Inc. ™, she has a full studio and a team who works with her at April Slater Studios. They are thrilled to be going into their fifteenth year making both homes and commercial spaces along the Space Coast of Florida something special.
The best part is April hasn't done one bit of advertising. Word-of-mouth has opened the door to every environment she's transformed with the skill of a tradesman and the eye of an artist. As a matter of fact, word-of-mouth is what got her into the business in the first place.
Looking for a way to spice up her home, she hired a couple of decorative artists she met through her day job as a teacher. Their work inspired her to look into the field for herself, so she made the trip to Faux Effects® a few hours south of her Florida hometown. What started out as some classes that piqued her interest quickly turned into a career she loves.
Her favorite products are, of course, Faux Effects, and not just for nostalgic reasons. "I find their products innovative," she said. "They strive to offer artists a wide variety of the highest quality, and are intentional about making them both user and environmentally friendly. They consistently check all the boxes!"
The field has changed drastically since DIY kits were all the rage and weekend warriors covered every accent wall within reach. As mass design moved on to other trends, April was frustrated to realize that the average consumer assumed faux finishing was a passing fad relegated to the early 2000's. An artistic technique practiced for thousands of years needed to be re-introduced so customers understood they had a vast array of options instead of rotating between traditional paint and wallpaper or settling for changing fixtures and hardware. Especially when it came to one of the most expensive items to replace when dated: kitchen and bathroom cabinets.
As April found herself being referred more and more for cabinet refinishing, she knew she'd found a niche in her area. Not something on her radar at first, she found great satisfaction in filling the need for completely transforming someone's home at a fraction of the cost. Faux Effects products like FX Thinner™mixed with Stain & Seal™, and Varnish Plus™- Satin have allowed April to breathe fresh life into older spaces.
While cabinets are her bread and butter, art is where her heart is. April's creative background allows her to connect well with designers and directors, bringing their visions to life. Those relationships have led to some amazing opportunities.
One of April's favorite recent projects was aging newly-installed pine flooring in an historic home to match a small section of original, 120-year-old pine flooring left intact. AquaThane™ was the Faux Effects product of choice, layered in several applications, including one with the dull finish tinted with a drop of FauxCreme Color Concentrate™ in Black, and another tinted with Van Dyke Brown. The floor was finished with a special blend of AquaThane’s dull and satin finishes together, creating a custom sheen that yielded impressive results.
Last year, April was the local artist selected to create the finish for a massive piece mounted in the ceiling of the VIP area of the port terminal where Carnival® Cruise Lines docks its new ship. She was tasked with making 1600SF of aluminum beams, shaped like a 10ft-high wagon wheel, look like a seamless piece of aged, nautical wood.
"What made it so interesting," April explained, "is that you can't just paint aluminum. They wanted it to look like one continuous piece, so I had to make the seams disappear before I could do color."
TextureFil™ was used to float the surface prior to starting. Once the custom mix of Faux Effects AquaGlaze® and latex paint was applied, April's crew pulled her around on scaffolding so she could run the tool through the glaze while wet to create a continuous wood grain look. There could be no stop-start. The secret sauce that put it over the top was SoSlow®, which gave her margin to work with excellence instead of racing the clock. The challenge was exhilarating, and the project was deemed a huge success!
April approaches every project with the same creative drive that brought her success in her former life as an ice skater. She excelled both in individual competitions and as a performing cast member of Disney on Ice. Now, regular training with the latest Faux Effects finishes and techniques keeps her skills sharp, while collaborating with fellow artisans allows her to hone her craft and grow her portfolio.
"The thing I like about our business is that artisans are so willing to share," she said, especially ones I've met through Faux Effects. At the end of the day, even if you give someone your formula, it's always going to be different because we, as artists, are different. I love that we're helpful that way. We learn and grow together because there's plenty of work."
Next month, April heads to Faux Design Studio in Chicago, a premier Faux Effects licensed distributor and training studio, to add some new wall and ceiling finishes to her portfolio, after which she's off to this year's IDAL convention for more training. Though her bucket list trip to Spain to study high-end wood and marble finishes became a casualty of COVID, word-of-mouth has, once again, paved the way to something in its place.
As fate would have it, COVID conditions brought home, for a long visit, an old friend who is now a San Francisco-based artist. Making the most of the extended stay, they decided to team up for some fun projects during which he has agreed to train her in classic art styles that will take her work to the next “master” level. Their upcoming project together, while it won't be Spain, will be one of April's most unique projects to date.
"We are creating a “man cave” for a gentleman who is a banker," April explained. "When we are finished, an elevator door will look like the entrance to a vault. The "concrete" walls will have hand-lettered favorite sayings in honor of his friend who recently passed. The best part is the vintage safe from the 1900's, which will be gilded in real gold…We can’t order extra product for that one; we have to get it right the first time!"
And that's what keeps April hooked - projects that ensure she'll never be bored. She says that the flip side of those is that she doesn't always get a second chance to apply lessons learned. Sometimes, though, she does. What has been one of the most valuable lessons April has learned along the way? "Mix enough!" she laughed. "We're artists so we don't always measure, just like in cooking. So, when you're mixing custom colors or especially when color matching an existing piece, I've learned the hard way to mix more than I think I need."
April's philosophy is that art has many faces, and there's a place for it everywhere. If you're interested in something unique for your home but you're not sure what to do, talk to a decorative artist. They can see what isn't yet there and bring to life a space you'll love.
DECORATIVE ART BY: APRIL SLATER
PHOTOGRAPHY BY: MALCOLM DENEMARK AND APRIL SLATER
WRITTEN BY: KIM WOLFE
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