I have a bedside table that I bought from a co-worker more than 25 years ago. It was part of an undistinguished set that included a mattress and bed frame. When I got the set, the finish was tired and worn.
Initially, I painted it a pretty violet shade, a colour chosen from my quilt. Then I moved to another house and bedroom and repainted the set a soft green to complement the floral print of a new duvet cover.
Somewhere along the line, I parted company with the bed. Perhaps it left home with one of my children – I can’t remember. But I still have the night table, which is one of those small flexible pieces that can be tucked into any room. It’s a keeper.
About ten years ago, I repainted it again with a finish that I will probably keep for as long as I own the piece. The finish looks perennially fresh and fits as an accent with any style of décor.
The source of my inspiration was (and is) a lovely old book in our collection at Central: The tiger rugs of Tibet by Mimi Lipton (Thames and Hudson, c1988).
According to Lipton, the origin of Tiger rugs is speculative and their history may date back more than 1000 years. Tigers enjoy a prominent place in Tibetan art and culture.
Tiger rugs have distinct types. Some depict one or two tigers; others are abstracted designs from the markings on the pelts. The finish on my night stand is based on the latter type.
Although tiger rugs are still being made and sold, I have not often seen them in Calgary. I recently spotted a small one at Tibetan Trom in the Eau Claire market. The shop had a copy of Lipton's book on hand as a resource for shoppers. You can also find tiger rugs online.
To create the finish for my night stand, I used water-base enamel paint. After painting the background colour, I drew the pattern on lightly with a marker and wrapped it around the edges of the drawers onto the sides – a pleasing effect. Then, I painted the stripes with black enamel. The casters were added many years ago to improve height and mobility. Recently, I replaced the handles with spiffy new ones from Lee Valley.
The powerful tiger continues to inspire contemporary artists. Check out the enchanting table in cast bronze by Judy Kensley McKie. I saw it first in American Craft magazine at the Central Library (November/December issue, p 30) and followed the trail online.