I Bought a Zoo: Create Your Own Brass Animals

In a recent Martha Stewart article about starting collections, she suggested that we start gathering brass animals. Well, Martha, you’re about 3 years too late for me! My daughters and I have been building a zoo filled with solid brass animals for quite some time now. It started because they have great character and we were finding truly fabulous ones like a pair of pelicans, a cheeky frog, and a very large mama duck with her ducklings. We’ve gathered them during all of our travels around the U.S., picked them up at estate sales, thrift stores, and antique shops and friends have been on the lookout too. The largest score came from a friend in Missouri – a two-foot-tall camel who speaks for himself!

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This quest has grown our collection to somewhere around 100 brass animals that will be used for a very special event, my daughter’s wedding. You will have to wait to see her incredible vision until after the wedding, but I can share with you that we do not have enough animals to round out each group, so we decided to transform non-brass friends into faux brass friends.

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Supplies to Make Your Own Brass Animals

  • A variety of non-brass critters – wood, ceramic, metal, plastic, etc.
  • Brass, antique brass or gold spray paint
  • A variety of brass paints, gilding waxes and distressing sprays. I used these:
    • Debi’s Design Diary DIY Golden Ticket Sold at www.oohilovethat.com
    • Jacquard Pinata Alcohol Ink – Brass
    • Modern Masters Metallic Paint Collection Satin – Brass (Semi-Opaque)
    • DecoArt Extreme Sheen – Vintage Brass
    • Cire A Dorer Gilding Wax – Brass
    • Tim Holtz Distress Spray Stain – Walnut Stain
    • Tim Holtz Distress Foundry Wax – Gilded and Statue
    • Tim Holtz Distress Paint – Tarnished Brass
    • Art Alchemy Metallique Wax – Aged Brass
    • Debi’s Design Diary DIY White Wax – Sold at www.oohilovethat.com
    • Stiff bristled brushes – stencil brushes and natural bristle smaller brushes (I liked the fan brush)

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We found that the non-brass animals that had a lot of detail worked the best when creating the faux brass finishes. When selecting different animals, mostly at thrift stores, we made choices based on their size, uniqueness, and what we needed for the groupings. Real vintage brass animals have traditionally been made in Korea and India. The simpler, less detailed animals were created in Korea and the more intricate and realistic critters usually came from India. Painting the non-brass animals has been fun. Experimenting with the different products and techniques on the textures has helped to pretty much perfect the finishes.

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The technique is pretty straight forward and all you need to do is play with the different products until you achieve the color and texture that you are looking for.

Create Your Own ‘Brass Animals’

  1. Clean your surface to remove any dirt and oils
  2. Base coat the piece with 2 coats of metallic spray paint
  3. Once dry, start to stipple on a mixture of the paints and distress spray to create texture and texture
  4. Add in waxes to create more texture and get a variation in the color
  5. Once dry, apply gilding waxes in random areas
  6. If you want to achieve a more vintage look and feel, add little bits of white wax into textured areas and wipe back with a shop towel. If you look at vintage brass pieces, they have some white substance in different spots
  7. Seal with a light coat of satin or glossy spray to add shine to the finish

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For some of the animals, if you didn’t know they were painted and put them in a grouping of other brass friends, you wouldn’t know that they weren’t brass. In our case, they will be in a pretty dimly lit party space with flowers, moss, and candlelight around them and no one will ever know the difference. Many of the ones in the photos below are still works in progress and others are complete. They look fantastic, and it was such a satisfying and cost-effective process to work on. Solid brass figures can be very pricey!! We have paid anywhere from a few dollars to $100 depending on how special a piece is and are thrilled with our collection. Once the wedding day has passed, we will sort through all of the pieces and decide which to keep and which ones to sell in my shop. If you are interested, they should be posted at www.oohilovethat.com after May 1, 2024.

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To see more of Patty’s vision, visit her profile here. Subscribe to The Turquoise Iris Journal to join our growing creative community.

Patty Levine
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Patty Levine

Other artists tell Patty Levine, artist and owner of Ooh! I LoveThat, that she brings a calming presence to any space she enters, but as someone who tests cars while constantly traveling for her full-time job and runs Ooh! I Love That on the side, her life is anything but calm! View Patty’s Full Bio

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