Nevada couple is growing closer, one disaster at a time

Marlys Barker Nevada
Journal Editor
Chris and Michelle Boor of Nevada have been working together on projects, many of them for sale to the public, under the name Disaster Designs. To learn why they call it that, you’ll have to read the story. Photo by Marlys Barker

A Nevada couple has found the secret to lasting happiness — at least for them.

Most every night, when they get home from a full day’s stress-filled work environment — she in a health care clinic and he in sales, Michelle and Chris Boor head to their garage and work on art pieces that they have created together.

Chris admits he kind of married into the hobby, which has now become a “hobby business” for the couple, called Disaster Designs. It was Michelle who had the background in painting and creating, something she carried with her from a young age.

Over the years, she’s worked on numerous things with her painting, a natural artistic talent that she perfected when her two girls, now adults, were babies. It was then that she signed up for private art classes from an instructor in Ottumwa, where she used to live.

“I was always artistic and that’s was probably why I went to beauty school (back when she was young and trying to determine her career path),” she said.

She didn’t stick with a beautician career, but she has certainly stuck with her painting.

Over the years she’s done a lot of work on things she could do inside, making painted light bulb ornaments to give as Christmas-time gifts to many people. “The teachers at the elementary who had my girls probably remember them,” she said.

She has also done a lot of painting on canvas in recent years and still sees that as a good project for the cold weather season when she can start painting in her basement.

She and Chris moved into their own house this summer in Nevada, and home ownership has given Michelle a basement studio, but more importantly, it’s given the pair a garage where they can take on projects that are a little more “pallet”able for both.

They call it “pallet art” and it’s become a favorite thing for them.

They got started last year on working with pallets, and before getting their own garage, they thank their good friend, Patty Valline, for letting them use hers to get started on some projects. They made a number of pallet art pieces for family and co-workers as gifts last year. Basically, what the couple is doing is painting on pallets, which are then treated so they can sit outside. Their go-to ones so far have had the U.S. flag on them.

They decided to share what they were doing on Facebook, so they came up with the name, Disaster Designs, for their page. Chris created the name, and he explains how he decided on it.

“It’s one disaster at a time,” he said. “That relates to the artwork and to life in general…nothing’s ever perfect in either. But, we can hide ourselves and forget our problems in the artwork.”

Chris said it honestly “surprised” him at how “crafty” he has found himself to be. He’s even surprised his wife, he said.

“I’m a plumber, so I’m kind of good at working with tools.” He made a set of big stencils for Michelle to use in painting words and elements on the pallets. “She was blown away by how accurate the measuring was,” he said.

When it comes to this thing they do together, Chris said, “we just kind of feed off each other.”

He jokes that he’d like Michelle to spend a little less time on Pinterest, because she keeps finding more ideas of things they could do there. But there are some really good ideas that they hope will add more variety to what they have to offer.

Right now, the flag pallets have been a big thing for them, as they’ve sold at least 20 that are out and about in the community, most at the average size of 48 x 40 inches, some smaller.

Last week, they were starting work on some new pallet designs. Sports team ones for the Iowa Hawkeyes, Iowa State Cyclones and the Nevada Cubs are on their list, as well as ones for a “house divided,” which will show two teams on it. They are also working on a police tribute pallet that will be done in black, blue and white to honor those in law enforcement. They’ve dabbled, too, in creating pallet furniture, like a pallet table they made for their own front deck. They’d like to make more small pallet furniture items. They’re also working on a pallet jewelry wall hanging piece, which will be something you can hang on the wall that will have places for all your jewelry on it, and look like a piece of art.

Their son, Sam, 7, will also be the recipient of one of their projects soon. The two are planning to build him a pallet outdoor clubhouse, where he and his friends can hang out.

The two say they’ve had as much fun giving their work away as selling it. They were making a piece to give to a local benefit auction; they also recently “ding dong ditched” a flag pallet to Coach Kellogg in Nevada, hoping to make “the tree” where all his signs hang. They made it there, as well as bringing a big smile to Coach with their little card that went along with the artwork.

“We even drove two (flag pallet pieces) down to Mississippi (a few weeks back),” Chris said. “I have a friend down there and she shares everything we do on our (Facebook) page, so we ding dong ditched her.” For those who don’t know what that is, they left the piece at her door, rang her doorbell and left before she saw them.

Chris said they get a lot of pallets from where he works in Ames, and they also received an entire truckload from Nevada friend Tim Hadley this summer.

It’s interesting, they say, to go over the pallets and determine which ones are usable for their art. “They have to have the right wood and no breakage, unless that breakage is in a cool spot,” which will add charm to the piece, she said.

The two are hooked on art projects, they admit. “It’s our therapy,” Michelle said. “It gives us a chance to bond over something, and helps us stay positive when we come home,” Chris said. It doesn’t hurt, he added, that it’s usually done over a cold beer.

For those who’d like to look at what the Boors are working on, visit their page, Disaster Designs, on Facebook. If you are interested in having them make something, they will respond to messages left for them on that page.


Making pallet art

Michelle Boor said the first night of a pallet art project usually consists of sanding and cleaning the paint surface. The next night will be painting everything on the pallet, but the stars and/or words (which some people want).

The details — stars and words — are painted on with a brush by Michelle. Learning from a great painter, she said, she knows that the brush used is everything when painting. “The brush holds the paint and the paint flows from it,” and, she added, paint off a $30 brush looks very different from paint off a $15 brush. “The brush will overcome paint quality too,” she said.

Because the Boors are on a budget for their art hobby, they stick with middle of the road paint — not the most expensive, but definitely not the cheapest. A good brush, Michelle notes, makes middle of the road paint look like the most expensive paint.

After all the painting is finished, Chris adds the top coat.

With some projects, Chris is also responsible for giving them a weathered or rustic look by using a blow torch during the process.

The Boors note that all their finished pallet art pieces that are done for the outdoors are heat-treated and insecticide-treated, so they are absolutely NOT to be placed indoors.