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Interview: The Artisan Painter

January 23, 2014


Ever wonder who the mastermind is behind all those gorgeous artisan colors? Master painter Brian McQuillan has been working with American Tin Ceiling Co. for over 10 years. We caught up with him to discuss his inspirations and the process he undergoes for handpainting the artisan tin ceilings panels.

Where are you from?
Originally New York.

How long have you worked with American Tin Ceilings?
About 10 years — I was one of the first installers for them.

Can you describe what you do for American Tin Ceilings?
Painting — we started probably about eight years ago because they knew I painted cars. I saw a couple of old tin ceiling panels, and tried adding a green accent. A lady in California saw it and liked it. Key West colors like turquoise and green are becoming more and more popular.

What is the process like?
We first powder coat the panels as the base (powder coating is a process when the paint is applied as a dust and then baked on), then we hand paint the top coat (often metallic). After they are dry, we use polishing cloths to rub off some areas to show the underlying powder and make it look more aged. I hand-paint them and we polish them with different materials.

How did you find out about tin as a material?
I went to a few painting schools just to learn about the new metallic paints. A lot of it was trial and error.

What colors do you think are the most popular?
Bronze right now, but we’ll do a ton of one thing and then all the sudden the next month it’s something new. The oil-rubbed gold or silver washed white was popular last month, but it changes all the time.

How do you come up with the color combinations?
I look for inspiration everywhere. One ceiling I saw was in a Irish pub in Manhattan, which was a really old silver that got painted white some years back and was peeling off and showing the silver — it just looked great with the old brick walls and wood floors. We added the silver washed white, and it has been a great seller. The silver washed pewter artisan tin ceiling panels look amazing as a back splash pattern for a kitchens.

The pewter color was from a metal door in Key West, Florida, that had been painted so many times it faded from the sun. I actually pulled off a chip of paint from the door and brought it home, took it to Sherwin Williams, and they custom matched it. I still use that color today for the silver washed pewter. The oil rubbed bronze was a customer call-in to see if we had anything to match her old rubbed bronze sink fixtures. I bought a switch plate that was old rubbed bronze and had the color matched. It’s one of my favorites for a kitchen backsplash.

What are the paint trends?
A lot of our styles have old-world appeal. Now the new thing is really clean coastal colors. A Key West look is really getting popular.

What else do you paint or create?
90% of my work is for American Tin Ceilings Co. because I want to focus on painting, but I do have a stainless steel cutter that I make some art with.

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