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Ask the Crafts Dept. : Milk Paint

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Marilyn writes:

On Martha's show last week, she showed how to decorate a clay pot.

I found all but one of the materials necessary to do it. I am having trouble finding Milk Paint. Do you have any suggestions as to where I can locate this? I have tried all the paint stores, craft stores, Home Depot, no one sells it.

The project is a lovely way to do over old clay pots, and I am anxious to start it.

Your help is greatly appreciated.

Thank you,
Marilyn in Florida

Blake passed this reader question on to me because I happen to love milk paint and know a bit about it. Milk paint is a type of water-based paint sold in powdered form that is made using traditional techniques and pigments, without petrochemicals or toxic bases, so it is biodegradable and nontoxic. It is so "pure" in fact that once mixed it lasts only for a short time (overnight) and needs to be freshly mixed with each application. Once dry, however, it has a beautiful very long-lasting color and a distinctive velvety, or depending on the mixture, chalklike finish.

I buy it from a company called Old Fashioned Milk Paint, which sells 20 colors and provides detailed instructions for using it. It is often used in the restotration of historic interiors and furniture and for reproduction work. From its website, "Our Old Fashioned Milk Paint is a re-creation of the ancient milk paint formula used for centuries before the sale of commercially made paints." They also sell a beautiful hand-painted color card for reference, which I used to keep up on our wall in the crafts room but sadly could not be located at press time!

I used milk paint to paint the oval shaker boxes below for a story on making jewelry boxes a few years ago.

And here is a recipe for a type of homemade milk paint, which I've never tried but I'd like to!

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