Artist Nancy Pfeiffer of Manlius turns the past into now
By Laura McLoughlin
Nancy Pfeiffer loves to use her hands, and at 59 years old, she’s not afraid to try something new.
Her resume includes owning a restaurant, decorative blacksmithing and learning to play the cello. She also quilts, oil paints and is dedicated to keeping a vintage Airstream RV — and its accents — in the period of the 1970s.
“You got to do what you love. And I allow myself the luxury to know that I might not do something forever,” she said. “But, my God, I just want to learn how things work. That’s how I got into the cello.”
Pfeiffer, of Manlius, took some time and learned the cello as part of the Salt City New Horizons adult orchestra, based in Chittenango.
“Now, I might repurpose it into something else,” she said about the instrument.
Which is exactly what she does now. She gives old things — mostly furniture — a new purpose.
And she’s self-taught. Looking back, she said her father was a woodworker, and her mother enjoyed refinishing furniture. Pfeiffer watched them as a child and picked up the basics.
“But, it’s also amazing what you can learn from the internet,” she said. “And mistakes. The best way to learn is from mistakes. The happy accidents — thank you, [American painter and television host] Bob Ross.”
She started refinishing furniture at home. “I found that I really like chalk painting,” Pfeiffer said. Soon, a hobby became a business, and she opened Tipplers Teacup.
Tipplers Teacup is a booth in the multi-vendor shop Eclectic Chic, in Oneida Castle, where she sells the furniture she repurposed. She is also a vendor of Country Chic paint, her favorite line of eco-friendly chalk paint from Canada.
Her shop name, Tipplers Teacup, is a play on words.
“A tippler is a drinker. The name implies there’s probably not tea in the teacup,” Pfeiffer said. “Meaning, I may look one way, but I’m always doing something different. I love to craft, build, and sing, so I picked a name that shows that I’m kind of unpredictable.”
The pieces she refinishes are unpredictable, too. She loves it because she can do anything.
“You can decoupage, and you can paint something any color,” she said. She took a photo of an Ombre sky at dusk that she keeps on her phone with plans to recreate the pinks, purples and blues on a piece of furniture.
Source of inspiration
“You can take inspiration from anything,” she said. “And, if you don’t like it, just repaint it.”
Which, admittedly, is why she loves chalk paint — it’s easy to work with.
“Although, your finish is only as good as your prep work,” Pfeiffer said. Applying chalk paint requires a clean, smooth surface, but sanding is unnecessary.
Before Pfeiffer applies a layer of paint, the surface must be repaired — if needed — and completely clean. Then she can apply the paint.
Also, she wants to teach and inspire people how to do this themselves at classes and demonstrations. At the BYOP (bring your own piece) event, people are given the approximate size of the item to bring and Tipplers Teacup supplies the materials. From there, she walks her students through the process.
“It isn’t just painting a piece of furniture,” Pfeiffer said. “I want people to not have to go out and buy a new piece of furniture.”
Soon, she plans to expand her business venture to include studio space at The Yard in Manlius. This space will be used to work on custom furniture commissions as well as pieces to sell at her booth.
She also wants to teach in this new space and invite other artists to do the same in a variety of mediums.
As she looked through before-and-after photos of the furniture she’s refinished, her excitement grew talking about the pieces she wants to do next.
But as someone who truly appreciates artistry and creativity of all kinds, she gets talking about any of her accomplishments over the years.
“I just want to learn something new every year. I’m filling my bucket list,” she said. “I have a few things left to go on my bucket list.”
Which means at 59, she’s not slowing down any time soon.
“I haven’t picked my foreign language yet. I still have to learn a language,” she said.
Learn more about Tipplers Teacup at tipplersteacup.com.