by Brandon Mayer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Winchester artist and furniture restorer, Julie Bissell, has a unique outlook on items that a lot of others see simply as garbage. Julie spoke to the Times about how people often resort to bringing their beloved furniture items straight to the landfill, without first considering other options.
“They have no idea that, maybe, the piece of furniture that they’re going to throw out, that does have some family meaning, could be restored back to its original form, or something that meets their today’s-needs décor,” she said. “A lot of people go and spend the money on really expensive, yet really cheap, furniture.”
Julie is originally from Ottawa, but moved to Winchester about three years ago. She has lots of experience, both with creative artwork, and in working with youth. She was Program Coordinator at the Youth Services Bureau of Ottawa for many years, but has been off work during the pandemic and has been focusing on her art. Her Winchester business, Chalk it up to Julie, has many facets, including art, restoration, retailing, and teaching. Her Facebook page is filled with photos of commissioned furniture projects, for which she uses chalk paint.
Doing custom work for customers means getting to know their personalities in order to be able to do the best job. Now, Julie is hoping to get into teaching classes, and she recently offered many classes for free. The classes were not just about the art – she has also made it her goal to help people through mental health struggles, by combining her experience in the field with the therapeutic nature of art itself. Julie is still developing ideas in terms of how she will teach others her craft, but she knows there will be many different options.
For example, she is hoping to be able to provide a heated shop to work in, and, for those who want to work more independently but have a guide, Julie would be happy to be that person. When asked whether she had any ties to environmental or zero-waste-life movements, Julie had a unique way of answering in the affirmative.
“I’ve taken bits and pieces off different furniture and built stuff,” she said. “I won’t throw anything away!” She discussed many of the unique pieces of furniture in her home that have been created by repurposing old things. Those interested in learning more about Julie’s work, or getting in touch with her, can visit her Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Chalkituptojulie.