HOW many coats does it take (to repaint a Pop-Up Play Shop)

Rusty Keeler asked me “how many coats of paint will the play shop need?!” when I told him I was repainting.  This naturally sent Lil’ Kim and Sisqo buzzing around my head for the rest of the day.

The answer turns out to be “far far more than you had possibly imagined”.  As a reference for future generations of wall-painters, here are some tips:

Give the kids REAL PAINT.  Turns out that paint manufacturers expect people to be painting over actual paint, and not any of the following:

– felt tip pens, which lurk creepily below the surface.  They completely refuse to be covered and instead reappear instantly, perkily, as if from a lightening game of hide and seek saying “here I am!  AGAIN!”

– face paints, which can be washed off, yes.  But if you don’t know which bits are face paint ahead of time then they merge with the white paint you’re applying and before you know it you’ve carefully rollered a whole wall in mauve

– fluorescent finger paints, which have turned out to be the hardest of all to cover.  On the big painty wall of handprints the ones in fluorescent orange, blue, pink and yellow have emerged alone of the mess, glowing beneath the 137 layers of white primer and emulsion as if a gaudy ghost is reaching out from the sheetrock from somewhere in the early nineties.

After many many coats it seems the only way to cover the really tricky parts is to engage in some reverse graffiti by spray painting them white first.  That’s why I’m in the library now, blogging and taking deep breaths of non-poisonous air.  Also, a coffee and almond croissant.

I had been thinking of this repainting work as an erasure of the Pop-Up Play Shop (in its initial, physical form at least) but one of the volunteers changed my perspective.  She told me that a teenager had said “I like it, knowing that if this place is a clothes shop or whatever this will be there underneath”, pointing at the flower she’d drawn, signed and dated.  Of course, since she did it in marker pen it’s still bloody there now if she fancies a visit.

When Suzanna and Katie were here helping out, we talked a little about what future generations of archaeologists might make of these weird marks.  I looked around at the giant minotaurs that loomed on two walls – one with HAVE FUN written to one side.  All those little hand prints.

“They’ll think it’s religious,” I said.  “They always say it’s religious when they don’t know what else to say.”

“Do you think they’ll know it’s kids?” asked Suzanna.  “Do you think they’ll be able to tell it’s play?”

I hope so.  I hope that by then the signs of children’s play are so obvious, so omnipresent, that archaeologists will see these marks above and below layers of bright tidy shop and say “oh, look!  Look how ahead of their time this place is, creating all those years ago what we now take absolutely for granted.”

Of course, because this is in the future I also hope that they’ll be saying this using only their minds, while floating in silver suits and commuting by hoverboard.

For anyone who missed the videos that Suzanna posted, here are some reminders of why all this repainting thing is totally, totally worth it.

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