Through paint and patience, this craftsman gives furniture a second life

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Through paint and patience, this craftsman gives furniture a second life

Antoinette stood there for days before Jim Connelly picked her out.

He saw beyond the dark circles staining the once-porcelain skin. He knew that his paint and his patience could bring back her soul and her grace.

The vintage side table has since been renewed by the craftsman, just one of the pieces he's restored since signing on to the Furniture Bank's latest project: the studio.

Connelly found Antoinette — he bestows a name upon all his pieces — on the floor of the Furniture Bank. While most pieces are picked up by families in need within three days of being donated, some of the more timeworn pieces stay behind and might otherwise end up in the landfill.

"The furniture really speaks to me when I go onto the floor to choose the pieces," he said. "They take on, it sounds a bit wacky, but they have a bit of a personality to me."

Connelly and other decorative artists will turn some of the overlooked furniture into unique pieces, which will be sold online to raise funds for the charity. 

"I feel like I'm a doctor and this is a little hospital," he said of his craft. "I'm fixing something that's broken and it gives me great pleasure."

"It gives me a really beautiful feeling of purpose and giving back instead of just taking."

Connelly and other artisans provide a second life for the castoff furniture — classic pieces around which others have gathered to share stories or sustenance.

A family craft

The artisan, who came to Canada from Scotland in 1967 for the Expo, said he inherited his skill.

His grandfather crafted store signs — "all hand-painted, beautiful calligraphy" — before neon lights were in fashion.

"It's something that's there, and if you don't use it, it frustrates me," Connelly said. "For me to be painting and doing decorative work, it feeds my soul and it keeps me grounded."

But it's never easy letting go of his creations, especially one as lovely as Antoinette.

"She had coffee cup rings on the top and she was all scratched and I just thought to myself, 'She's the one for me,'" he said. "But I think she's ready for the runway now."