Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Week 17: Paper Casting with Kleenex

You've probably found plenty of uses for Kleenex. Nose blower, makeup remover, spill wiper - but how about art material?

The finished piece, with embossed suns created with . . . Kleenex.

Paper casting involves making dimensional forms with paper pulp and molds. We're going to do faux casting here, with Kleenex and rubber stamps. Much easier, less messy, and uses materials you already have around the house! The smooshiness of the Kleenex lends itself perfectly to embedding in the grooves of a rubber stamp. Using multiple layers of tissue, you end up with a 3-D, embossed image that you can then affix to paper and seal with a medium. Painting over it with metallic paint gives it a look similar to pressed-tin ceiling tiles.

This project is based on techniques learned in Teach Yourself Visually: Collage and Altered Art by Roni Johnson.

What you need

  • Kleenex
  • spray bottle
  • rubber stamp
  • pigment inks
  • polymer medium (Golden)
  • paintbrush
  • acrylic paints of your choice (I used antique bronze metallic paint, alizarin crimson, and hansa yellow)
  • cardstock

What you need, clockwise from left: spray bottle, polymer medium, Kleenex, paintbrush, acrylic paints, rubber stamp, pigment inks

Start by turning your rubber stamp face up and inking it thoroughly. The darker or more saturated the ink you use, the clearer your final image will be.
Cut pieces of Kleenex so that they overhang the edges of the stamp. Then press down a piece of tissue over the stamp and mist it thoroughly with the spray bottle.
Add another piece of Kleenex, mist it, and press down (don't rub; it'll tear the tissue). Keep pressing over the entire image; you'll see the stamped image start to show through. Continue adding tissue, misting, and pressing, using five tissues altogether. 
Pull up the wad of tissues. Your image will be clearly inked and embossed. Here, I inked the same image with four different inks. Clean your stamp pad with baby wipes in between colors, and let it dry.
Let the tissues dry for a while till they're damp but not soaking wet anymore. If you let them dry completely, then the tissues will separate, and your nice thick impression will be lost.
Once the tissues are damp to the touch, brush polymer medium on a piece of cardstock and press the casting down onto the cardstock. Then brush carefully over the top of the casting, sealing it down onto the paper. The medium acts as a sealant for the casting so that it doesn't separate, and it also enables you to paint over it later.
The sealed casting should dry overnight. The next day, you're ready to proceed.

Here are the sealed castings after drying. They're looking pretty good but they still have that "Kleenex-y" look around the edges. Time to fix that.
Using watered-down acrylic paint, start painting over your castings. Here I mixed alizarin crimson with metallic antique bronze. The metallic works particularly well on the castings, really highlighting the embossed texture.
At this point the casting is just about ready. I added some yellow to the castings after taking the preceding photo; as you can see in the finished picture below, the yellow was that missing touch that really helps the images pop out and gives the stamped suns some warmth.

When you're happy with the look of your casting, you can cut it out and use it for card-making or mixed media projects. I turned the castings into a little art piece here, using some leftover bits from other projects: a fused glass oblong and an art metal frame that's embossed and inked with alcohol inks (read more about that technique in Week 13).
The finished piece, using leftovers from other projects.
You can do paper casting with other materials besides Kleenex, but the few other options I tried - tissue paper and gampi paper - just don't have the pulpiness of facial tissue, and didn't come out as three-dimensional.

Besides, this is probably the prettiest Kleenex ever gets. Have fun!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Week 16: Lei Making - Haku Style

In Week 15, we strung leis on thread. This week, we'll do a different style of lei making: a traditional braided lei, called haku style. Before thread and needles were introduced to Hawaii, one way to make leis was to braid the flowers into dampened ti leaves, creating a beautiful natural necklace or hair ornament. Ti leaves aren't as easily available as old bedsheets, though. So feel free to rip up some soft old sheets to long, thin lengths and use those instead.

Here's a flowered hair "scrunchy," woven with ti leaves and carnations:
You can attach this pretty braided hair ornament with bobby pins or tie underneath.
What You Need

  • carnation heads or flowers of your choice
  • damp ti leaves or long fabric strips (old bedsheets or light, soft fabric)
  • optional: hook and block of wood, for leverage

Start out by tearing your fabric, either long enough for a necklace length or shorter if you're going the flowered hairpiece route. Then tie one end, leaving a couple inches extra at the end.

It helps if you have something to use for leverage as you braid. In the class I took at the Kaanapali Beach Hotel, we used a block of wood with hooks screwed into it. We stuck the tied end over the hook, as seen here:

Ti leaves hooked onto a block of wood, for leverage
Then we could stand up and pull hard on the leaves, helping to pull each braid tight. If you don't have a block of wood set up, don't worry. Just go ahead and braid, making sure to pull each braid as tight as possible.

Start by braiding four braids. Then, on the fifth braid, start adding flowers. Add a flower for each left and right braid that you make. The bottom of the flower head should be pushed below the braid, and the top should be above.

Braid four times, then start braiding in the flowers to the left and to the right.
The only thing holding in the flowers is the tightness of the braid. Pull hard on each braid to make sure it's really tight after you add in each flower.

Here's how the lei looks from underneath. You can see how the bottoms of the flower heads poke out underneath each braid.
Finish the lei by braiding four times at the end (without flowers). Then tuck the middle piece of braid underneath and tie the left and right ends together, again leaving a couple inches of leaf or fabric at the ends. You can use these loose pieces to tie the lei together, or to attach to your head with bobby pins.
The finished lei hair "scrunchy." You can't see the braids from the top, as the flowers fan out over the braided areas.
It's beautiful and fragile; to prolong the life of your lei, put it in a paper bag in the fridge. And then spend one evening with the prettiest hair scrunchy you'll ever wear.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Week 15: Lei Making - Kui Style

Fresh from a trip to Hawaii, our projects this week and next week will revolve around lei making. While in Maui, I learned to make two different kinds of leis: a threaded kind, called kui style, and a braided kind, called haku style. This week's project is a kui-style lei. Here's how it looks:

Okay, it would be more authentic-looking with plumeria blossoms, and in fact, stringing the carnations wasn't so easy, because they have so many petals they tended to fall apart. But this carnation lei proves that you can make a lei from just about any flower you can string a needle through.

What you need

  • lei needle
  • 36 flowers of your choice - carnation heads, plumeria blossoms, or whatever you may have available
  • strong thread or dental floss 

What you need, from top to bottom: thread, lei needle, carnation heads
Here's a closer look at the lei needle. It's a long needle with a hook at the end that you hook the thread through. Leave a few inches of thread hanging after hooking it onto the needle.
Push the needle through the bottom of the flower and out the top. Then gently push the flower down the needle and onto the thread. Once it's off the needle, pull on the thread rather than the needle to push it down till it's a couple inches from the bottom.
Continue threading and pushing the flowers down the thread, pushing them close together. 
If the thread frays, as it tends to do when hooked onto the needle, cut off the frayed part and re-thread - cut an extra long piece of thread for your lei to leave room for fraying. When you're done, double-knot the ends and cut off the excess thread. And, as the instructor at the Kaanapali Beach Hotel told us, think good thoughts while making your lei, and the lei will come out as smooth and beautiful as your thoughts.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Week 14: Seven Sunflowers

This week's project: seven sunflowers, ready to grow.

April 3: small sunflower seedlings

There's not much to this project, because I didn't do this the old-fashioned way, planting sunflower seeds, watering them, waiting, and watching them sprout. Instead, I bought seven sunflower seedlings at the wonderful annual Spring Garden Market here in San Jose, a gardener's dream veggie-and-flower market on the first Saturday of April every year.

I planted them in one of the few empty spots in my small backyard, and tied them to stakes with plastic gardening twine to help them grow straight. It's dry all summer here in San Jose, so I also ran drip tubing to each sunflower to water them automatically every few days.

Let's watch them grow over the next few months. They're so tiny now, but they hold the promise of summer already.

Here are our sunflowers on April 24 - wow - a couple feet high already. The yarrow plants they were planted around grew too. We'll check in again in a few weeks . . .

On May 20, the sunflowers are now higher than the fence. In fact, they got so top-heavy yesterday that some of them fell over and I had to tie them back up to their stakes. The yarrow is blooming underneath them (those are the yellow flowers to the right) and the pink roses are blooming to the left. Soon they'll be blooming!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Week 13: Metal Mermaid

There's something so compelling about metal - it's shiny, it's smooth, and with lightweight art metal, you can do just about anything you'd like with it. You can cut it with scissors, distress it, emboss it, punch holes in it - and for this week, create a piece of (somewhat) outdoor-safe art. Building on the sea themes of the last few weeks, we'll create a mermaid, and as a bonus, a little fishy friend for her.

Mermaid made of embossed, inked metal

What you need

  • paper, pencil, eraser, and scissors
  • colored art metal (Ten Seconds Studio)
  • medium weight pewter-colored art metal (Amaco ArtEmboss)
  • 1/8 inch hole punch
  • brads (Tim Holtz Idea-ology mini fasteners)
  • paper stump, fine-point stylus
  • sanding block
  • art metal mold (Ten Seconds Studio) 
  • alcohol inks and alcohol ink applicatr (Ranger Adirondack)
  • glue dots (Zots)
  • popsicle sticks
  • seashells

Some of the items you need, clockwise from left: art metal, art metal mold, scissors, sanding block, paper stump, glue dots, popsicle sticks, seasehlls, brads, alcohol inks and alcohol ink applicator
Here's how to create the mermaid:
Sketch out your mermaid on a large sheet of paper. Note where the jointed parts will be: neck, elbows, hand, tail.
Place the pewter art metal underneath the paper. Using a fine-point wood stylus (or any sharp-pointed tool), trace over each part of the mermaid. The impression will transfer to the metal.
Cut out the pieces, punching holes for the jointed parts.
Put the mermaid together with brads and, using scissors, make any adjustments needed to the shapes. Then take the tail parts off so you can emboss and color them later.
Using a gold piece of art metal and the wood stylus, draw stylized shapes for the hair and cut them out.
Time to emboss! Using the paper stump, rub some embossed patterns into the hair and tail.
Use the sanding block to rub over the raised areas, removing the color from the raised spots. Wipe down the metal with a damp paper towel.
Here are all the embossed pieces, ready for coloring.
Add alcohol ink drop by drop onto the applicator felt in your chosen colors, then use the applicator to stamp the colors all over the embossed pieces. The more times you stamp with the ink, the more saturated the colors will look.
Apply glue dots to the hair pieces and stick them on in a wild and wavy pattern. The glue dots are quite strong; you'll only need one per piece of hair.
Put the mermaid pieces back together with brads, turn her over, and using glue dots, apply the popsicle sticks to the back of the body parts to give the girl some structure so she doesn't flop around.

Add embellishments: small seashells on the tail, a seashell belly button, and shell bikini, hair piece, and bracelet.

The 8-year-old got into the sea theme and made a fishy friend for our mermaid.
I'm planning to hang the mermaid outside, on a protected wall. She should do fine during the dry season; the glue dots and alcohol inks might not hold up in the rain. The best part: because she's poseable, and the metal is soft and bendable, you can change her position depending on your mood. Interactive art indeed.