Fabulous Fire Screen

You remember that we bought our house in January 2016. We continue to work on it a little here little there. Last January I started renting the extra room through Airbnb. Both chimneys in the house are closed so you can’t use them as traditional fireplaces. I still want to have the impression of a functioning fireplace in the dining room. So, I decided to use candles in the firebox and make a stained glass look fire screen.

If you would like to make one here is what you need:

  • A wood framed window of the appropriate size;
  • Shelf brackets for feet;
  • Glass paints;
  • Brushes;
  • Ice cube tray;
  • Dry-erase marker;
  • Miscellaneous tools;
  • Wood paint;
  • Wood glue; and,
  • Pattern

I picked up the window at my local ReStore, along with the shelf brackets I used for the feet. The glass paints are from earlier projects. You can find them at Walmart or craft stores.

Clean the frame and the glass. I suggest following up with rubbing alcohol after using traditional window cleaner on the glass.

If you need to paint the window frame, or the brackets, do that prior to beginning to work on the glass. Glass paints need to cure for a good while. You don’t want to risk damaging your work painting or affixing the brackets. Measure, drill pilot holes, and test fit the brackets to the bottom of the window. You should have a slight backward tilt of the window, with the brackets resting flush to the floor, to prevent tipping over forward.

Choose your pattern and enlarge it to fit the window pane. If you can’t do it yourself a quick trip to an office supply store, or any place with a copier will do. Patterns can come from coloring books, magazines, or online sources.

Tape the pattern to the back of the glass. Trace the pattern onto the front with the dry-erase marker. Remove the pattern and place the front side down. You will be painting on the back of the screen, the side closer to the candles.

Pour small amounts of paint into sections of the ice cube tray. Slightly thin all colors with water, except black. Using your black paint, paint all the black outlines first, starting from the top working down. Fill in using the remaining colors. Wipe off marker from the front, check for missed spots.

Allow paint to dry at least one hour before affixing bracket feet.

I do not recommend using this screen in front of a traditional fire. The wooden window frame may ignite. I use candles, or battery powered lights.

Robin’s Upcycle is located in Kanawha County, WV. Open by appointment. Phone 304-460-5NEW (5639). For info, visit facebook.com/robinsupcycle or email robinholstein@gmail.com

Upcycled Snowman Family

Oh! This is a FUN project! It’s easy. It isn’t too messy, and it is quick.

This upcycled snowman family is made of non-dairy creamer containers and pill bottles. What you need:

  1. Non-dairy creamer containers
  2. Pill bottles
  3. Spray paint
  4. Permanent markers
  5. Acrylic paint

Simply remove any labels or stickers from your containers. Non-dairy creamer container labels are primarily shrink-wrap plastics. They tear off pretty easily once you get a small split started. Pill bottles may take a little more work.

Spray the lids black. If you want the females to have different colors knock yourself out. Use some glitter glue and acrylic paints to decorate the hats, or hot glue some accessories on.

snowman, family, upcycle

Since my containers are all white, I don’t need to spray them with white paint. If your containers are not white, test your spray paint to see if it will adhere to your plastics. If not, get some plastic primer at the box store.

Use a variety of permanent markers to draw and color in facial features. I did use a dab of acrylic paints for some highlights and special touches.


By Robin Holstein
Robin’s Upcycle is located in Kanawha County, WV. Open by appointment.
Phone 304-460-5NEW (5639).
For info, visit facebook.com/robinsupcycle

Pill bottle upcycle

Plastic pill bottles. With the Baby Boomers aging, plastic pill bottles are everywhere and end up in landfills by the thousands every month. Here is a little upcycle project you may want to do with the kids.

You will need:

  1. Pill bottles
  2. Permanent markers
  3. Acrylic paints
  4. Plastic primer
  5. Spray paint
  6. Spray sealant

As with most of my upcycle projects, thoroughly wash the bottles, and remove the labels. Dry completely inside and out.

Most slick plastics need primer before painting. This can be purchased in the painting section of most box stores, and particularly home improvement stores. It is a clear spray that makes the plastic receptive to paint. Use according to directions, paying attention to drying times.

To get an even finish, use spray paints as the base colors for the bottles and lids. Be sure to let each coat dry completely before moving on.

A black, permanent marker may be used to outline your holiday design, in this case a selection of Jack-O-Lantern faces. White acrylic paint was used to create the eyes and teeth, and to add a few highlights.

Allow to dry and finish off with sealant. Add your choice of special touches, ribbons, stems, leaves, etc.

pill bottles painted


By Robin Holstein
Robin’s Upcycle is located in Kanawha County, WV. Open by appointment.
Phone 304-460-5NEW (5639).
For info, visit facebook.com/robinsupcycle

Autumn Colors –

This is my column from the September 2015 edition of Two-Lane Livin’ – West Virginia’s Largest Grassroots Magazine.

Autumn Colors

As I write this month’s article home canning season is just about in full swing. Canning jars line the aisles of the box stores, from department, to farm supply, to deep discount. The home canner has a range of choices of bands and rings. Manufacturers offer single colors and cute patterns to adorn your goodies. That is as it should be.

Mason Candy Corn

I make no secret that I do not think using canning jars for decoration or crafting is a good idea. Jars are not cheap, and craft stores inflate the prices. The frugal me sees no sense in wasting them. However, jars do get chipped.

Chipped jars are not safe for home canning and possibly will not properly seal. These jars may make good upcyling project jars. For this project, I took canning jars with small chips along the lips and made autumn themed vases.

What you will need:

  • Jars
  • Sandpaper – 80, 120, 200 grit
  • Rotary tool with sanding drums (optional)
  • Spray paint – white, yellow, orange
  • Spray sealant
  • Safety goggles, dust mask

Any jar will do. You do not specifically need canning jars. In fact, using a variety of jars, alternating color patterns and sizes, can make a lovely display of your fall flowers. Make sure jars are not cracked. Cracked jars should be saved for the recycling center, unless the jars are colored. Colored glass can be used for later projects.

The chips should not be large. You want to smooth them with wet sanding. I suggest starting with 80 grit, then 120, and finish with 200 grit sandpaper. You may choose to use a rotary tool, such as a Dremel, with sanding drums. Eliminate any sharp or jagged areas that may cut a finger or palm when handling the jar.

Always wear safety goggles when working with glass. Hand sanding will not guarantee a shard does not fly off. Wear a dust mask especially when using a rotary tool and sanding drum. Once the glass is smooth, wash the jar in soapy water and dry completely.

Gather together your trusty, quality spray paint. I would be careful about using generic paint on this project. Not all spray paint will adhere to glass, and there is no sense wasting the money. You may choose any combination of colors for your jar. Here, I chose white, yellow, and orange to mimic candy corn. Spray in thirds, allowing a small bit of overlap to make the transition smooth. Spray with sealant after all the paint is dry.

Garnish with your favorite autumn flowers, fresh or artificial, and enjoy!

I would love to hear your thoughts. Visit the Facebook page for Robin’s Upcycle and leave a comment.

Robin’s Upcycle is located in Kanawha County, WV. Open by appointment. Phone 304-460-5NEW (5639). For info, visit facebook.com/robinsupcycle

The Headboard Bench –

This is my column from the August 2015 issue of Two-Lane Livin’ WV’s Largest Grassroots Magazine!

The Headboard Bench

The heat of summer is upon us. After a long hot day, finding a comfy spot in the shade is a great evening treat. It is even better if you made the seat yourself.

Benches made from old head and foot boards are in fashion right now. They are not difficult to make, but they do take a bit of time and planning.

Bench 2


An old headboard or foot board is needed for the basic frame of the bench. You also need lumber to complete the frame and provide support for the seat. Wood screws are preferred over nails, but nails are fine. A piece of plywood for the seat, and paint will complete the project.

Basic Process

Stripping the paint is optional for your bench, it a matter of preference. The headboard and footboard I used had many layers of paint. The topmost layer was a shade of blue somewhere between navy and periwinkle. Underneath was a dark brown covering the original dark stain popular in furniture back in the 1980’s.

I opted to strip the wood as much as possible. This took a lot of time because of the spindles, and knobs. The finished white bench is a testament to the effort invested.

The width of the headboard will set the width of the bench. You will need to decide the depth of the seat. I measured a porch swing seat for size. Then cut the plywood to fit.

For this particular bench I turned the footboard upside down. This was due to the shape. With the footboard is in the normal position there is a hump that would hurt the legs. The only other way to address that problem is to cut off the bottoms of the posts. This creates another challenge of the seat being positioned above the footboard, destroying the look.

With the footboard upside down, I only needed to remove a small portion of the top spindle and smooth the ball by sanding. A little filler in the new top spindle hides the fact it was previously the bottom.

Screwing boards on the back of the footboard and front of the headboard provides the support for the plywood seat. Cut the lumber to the desired size and build the bench sides. Two boards on each side, one at the seat and one at the feet, create stability and additional support.

Painting the bench is a matter of choice. My bench is exposed to the elements, on an uncovered porch, so I wanted a paint made for the outdoors. Adding a cushion gives a bit more flare and comfort.

Head and footboards can be found at yard sales, flea markets, and used furniture stores. In true upcycle fashion mine came from the trash, discarded by someone moving out of a rental unit.


By Robin Holstein
Robin’s Upcycle is located in Kanawha County, WV. Open by appointment.
Phone 304-460-5NEW (5639).
For info, visit facebook.com/robinsupcycle


Earlier this year, I decided to move away from my long time profession in administration. I have a small creative bone that is itching to be scratched.

The problem is multi-fold. I want to write. I want to create/craft. I want to photograph. I want to sing.

The writing I want to do is both non-fiction, and poetry. I want to write about how I got through the struggles with my younger son, and his suicide. I want to get the truth out there about what he went through. I want to offer a little bit of hope to other parents in a position like mine.

The poetry, so far, has been related to Bryan’s death. I almost have enough pieces for a basic chapbook. I want to publish it and continue writing. Then, there is that creative, hands-on bone.

I really enjoy taking discarded things and transforming them into usable pieces or new art. The rush I got transforming the broken coffee table into the coat rack was addictive! I also have another piece I’m trying to work on.

I do some very basic photography, primarily landscape and florals. I love it, too. I am “jonesing” for a short trip to grab new photos.

I probably have six weeks to put in with my current contract, before I can shutter the administrative consulting work and move on. I want to develop a desk manual for whomever comes in after me. I have to clear out and do some work on the replacement office space. That shouldn’t take too long. But, it keeps me from working on the other things I want to do so badly! LOL

Ah – it is a great problem to have, in the end.

Something different to look at.

Something different to look at.