Her grandmother had three trunks. One that had been her hope chest, one that had been her mothers, and one that was her grandmothers. Every year, she would gather her granddaughters around them and go through the hope chests. She would talk about the items in the chests, showing them plates that represented their last name and salt and pepper shakers from her wedding. It was a mixture of things that they had been given and things that they had purchased. Once, she had paper dolls and allowed her granddaughters to play with the paper dolls. There were shoes and clothes and letters and books in these trunks.
So, every year she would orally pass on the stories and the heirloom history to her granddaughters.
When I went to my grandfather's house and saw a trunk on the front porch - one that I had passed by every day all of my life - I decided that that trunk was the one that I wanted for my own family history. How neat, I thought, it would be for me to go through a trunk with my children and grandchildren one day (in addition to being a beautiful place to store family history). My grandfather had found the trunk in the basement of an old building in town. The man that had owned the building took pictures of soldiers and stored his photography equipment in the trunks.
My trunk was moldy when I first opened it. My grandfather tried as hard as he could to convince me that I could have any other trunk that I wanted, if I just would allow him to throw it away. But, I couldn't bring myself to do it. I told him that that trunk, mold and all, was what I wanted.
I began up-cycling my trunk by getting rid of the mold. I used a bleach mixture and set it unto the sun. I sprayed the lining of the trunk with the mixture, saturating the trunk and allowing the bleach to do its work. Then, I came back and scraped out the lining. It was mostly a weak paper lining, and what hadn't disintegrated with the bleach mixture came right off. I think used gesso as my base paint, going back over the areas that still had paper or visible traces of mold. I removed the canvas from the drawers, and Johnny, my Grandfather's contractor, cut drawer bottoms for me - there hadn't been drawer bottoms, the entire thing was solid canvas.
I moved the trunk to my house. I painted the inside of the trunk butter cream. I used a complementary color - Robins Egg Blue - for the drawers. At the house, we set to work on the drawers themselves. Initially, we wanted to decoupage the trunks (and possibly add ribbon to finish it off). My friend had a pretty good idea how to do this. We tore up pretty, feminine, vintage-inspired scrap-book paper. She used spray adhesive on the drawers, positioned the paper pieces accordingly, and then she used mod-podge to secure everything. For one of the drawers we used old cards that we had purchased from an estate sale. For another we used a copy of a love letter that my paternal grandfather wrote. For me, this makes my trunk even more sentimental - not only does it have a letter from my paternal grandfather, but the trunk was given to me by my maternal grandfather.