Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Arts & Crafts For Free!

Hello you!

I know you can't tell from reading this but I've been sat here with a blank post screen for half an hour because I chose some background music to type to and ended up being whisked away as always by its awesomeness and beauty, the sounds creating a whirl of colour in my brain that just has me grinning like a complete eedjit whilst getting absolutely NOTHING done! *sigh*  If you want to know what I'm listening to, it's Mendelssohn's violin concerto in E minor, played exquisitely by Janine Jansen and the BBC Symphony Orchestra....and if you wanna listen, please feel free to click the pic below which will take you to the Youtube video -

Aaaah.... So lovely..... unlike YESterday, which was a Bon Jovi day..... Don't judge me!!

So - few posts over the past few days, and you have my apologies - I've been mahoosively busy again with not much time for blogness, but this will be a post with many piccies for you to look at in order to make up for my abandoning you for so long!

I did that thing again... you know - that thing where you have NO money AT ALL but you still go looking at all the lovely new releases from the craft companies and create a 'wish list' so big that you'd have to harvest kidneys in back alleys for at least a month to drum up the revenue to cover it? Yeah.... *Pffff*... That can leave you pretty glum, I can tell you. However - there are two excellent antidotes to this paper-withdrawal malaise. Well, three, if you include a huge glass of wine! First one is to get up, go to your paper stash, and hug it. Properly hug it. Any craft stash is bound to be hoarded and neglected and I guarantee we all forget how much lovely we have collected in piles on shelves or ferreted away in boxes. Of course, in reaching your cherished stack of paper awesomeness, it helps if you can actually see the floor or carve a path through the untidy heap that your studio/craft room has become. Let's face it, no matter HOW conscientious you are, all it takes is half an hour's quick card-making, or paper cutting or some such activity, and the room will look like you've just set off a bomb in there, creating an arty apocalypse that requires heavy-duty climbing gear and three dedicated sherpas just to find where you put the scissors. I KNOW it's not just me....admit it, we all exist within a delicately balanced and fragile paper-based eco system, prone to collapse at any time. So yes, I did some tidying. And some re-organising. And the odd tiny-yet-painful errant glass bead embedded in the sole of my foot. But there's some signs of organisation - and ALMOST....ALMOST a clear space on the table!

See? Shelfy neatness! Old gift bags are a pretty and easily-accessible storage method. Boxes can be such a pain sometimes. I much prefer the bags, or the stackable, click-top stackable boxes as they're cheap and don't keep toppling over.  Notice there are no long shots of the whole room....we're not there yet. Curb your ideas of efficiency and decisiveness as they seldom make an appearance at times like this. Lots of faffing about and being pernickety. Lots of that. Lots.

Righty then - now I've got space, a modicum of some semblance of order, and some reassurance that I DO have a whole heap of carefully hoarded crafty stuff that will at the very least tide me over for the next three hundred years OR until I win the lottery and buy a castle, fill it with art and craft supplies and install a bell-jar with a floating rose in it in the west wing and pretend I'm a Disney princess. Or a talking wardrobe.... Depends on the mood.

Now for antidote #2: Make something pretty and useful out of very little to reinforce the idea that it's CREATIVITY that's important, not mass-produced over-priced hype. And is it my imagination, or have all the prices gone up AGAIN, especially on embellishments and such? Maybe it's just here in the UK...things always seem so cheap over in the States as they have those cool stores like Michael's and the like.  Here's an example: I noticed that a UK seller on ebay is selling the 12"x12" K&Co Engraved Garden paper pad for £35!  Seriously? They're on clearance in the States at the moment! And there are a number of DCWV stacks listed at £50!! I mean - how desperate would you have to be? Surely that's immoral? It's PAPER - PAPER! There are people in the world who can't pay for food or clothing.... (ha - me for one!) ...and £50? For PAPER?  Enough.....

I've said it before and I will again...and again - you can make something beautiful and satisfyingly arty from pretty much nothing if you just think outside the box and don't get caught up in following all the 'must-have' gimmicky mass-produced STUFF that's out there. And I'll prove it. Now.

In my self-tormenting trawl through craft sites, I found myself drooling over some of the newly released stencil designs. Some of them are so lovely. I only have four or five stencils - all of which I picked up cheaply from an ebay seller who cut them himself ....£1.25 each for a 5"x5" stencil instead of the £5 for a comparable branded version. But I think stencils ARE worth the have...they are versatile and fun and you can get a hell of a lot of use out of them. But when you can't BUY one...? Well - the answer is to MAKE one! Not hard to do. All you need is some decent quality plastic or acetate, a sharpie marker, a pair of scissors (I highly recommend investing in a pair of Tim Holtz's craft scissors from Ranger - well worth it) and a sharp craft knife. Oh - and a little patience! Simply draw (or copy or trace) out the design you want on the plastic/acetate and start cutting - slowly and patiently.  I used an old plastic photo sleeve (a floppy but high-grade soft plastic) and in under an hour I'd cut these stencils:

...shown here in the process of cutting them.... and these:

These are a bit painty, as when I took a non-painty photo you couldn't see them!  Honestly not hard to do. If you have trouble gripping craft tools, or cutting precisely, you could try using any punches you have to make stencil patterns, or keeping an eye out for packaging or other items that could be used to create stencilled designs.

Once made, I wanted to play with them. To prove my point to myself about not NEEDING pre-printed product to make something I like, I decided to use discarded or waste items only - earlier posts will tell you how much I like doing that - to make a little journal/art book. For the cover, I picked out the back cover of an old DCWV stack and a piece of paper there for using up excess paint and stuff when I'm working - 

This sheet had these lovely stencilled raised patterns made with excess tinted modelling paste- yummy! I cut the cover so that when closed the booklet would measure 18cm x 12cm and covered the card using a glue stick to adhere the paper:

Quick and easy.  The pages I made from glossy junk mail pages cut to size:

Not bothered that some are crumpled - more texture!   I picked out some acrylic paint tubes that I had from a store here in the UK called 'Wilkinson's' (or 'Wilko's') - about £1 each. It's a very glossy, sticky acrylic, so not my favourite, but when it dries it has a latex-like feel to it and can produce some nice texture effects. I added a few chalky cheap craft acrylics that needed to be used up and picked two ink pads for variety. Tools used were a 3/4" paint brush, an old plastic gift card as a scraper, a cut-off piece of old bath sponge and a make-up sponge:

I also added some of the lovely lovely LOVELY Treasure Gold gilding wax, which is fabulous!  Obviously, if you're going to make a similar project, pick out whatever you have from the supplies you have available. 

I covered the junk mail pages with colours using a variety of techniques - brush-painting, finger-painting, scraping and stippling, dried them with a heat tool (or *ahem* hair-dryer) then used the sponge to stencil designs on almost all the pages in contrasting colours:

For projects like this, I'm not really bothered whether the paint completely covers the original page image. It's not everyone's cup of tea, but I really like to see layers - I think it adds a lot of interest to the final design. 

Just for fun I chose to cut one of the pages into a leaf shape. I made it a bit of a stretched leaf shape so that when bound it would give space to journal or decorate.

Once the pages were all finished and dry, I stacked them together and bound them inside the cover with a simple three-hole pamphlet stitch, using waxed cotton thread - easy-peasy!

I didn't spend much time planning colours - just had fun slappin' them on the pages! I wanted a truly free and organic feel to the booklet once it was done and I was happy with the result:

As for the cover - I made some leaf embellishments from stencilled paper and added a layered flower I'd made from scraps a while ago :

...added a simple tie fastening and a few recycled glass beads and paper beads to embellish and: book! Nifty little booklet all pre-painted ready for photos, journaling, embellishment, or whatever!

A happy, happy project. It took roughly four hours to make the book from start to finish and was completely relaxing and fun. At the end of it I had, once again, completely exorcised my hankering for shiny new craft stuff and reinstated my arty mojo.

As an artist, it's not always possible to just draw or paint or make whatever you want - if you're working to a brief or commission it's restrictive a lot of the time. Now and again I need to just make something just for the sheer hell of it! I think because my main body of commercial work is in black and white, it explains why my 'fun' art and my art journaling is so bold, with bright, strong colours. It's an antidote. To pretty much everything!

Project - fun! Cost - nothing! Eco-friendly happiness.

Ok - time for me to head back to work stuff and maybe buy a lottery ticket !  Hope you're all inspired by something awesome this week - may the muses be with you! Love and hugs as always - Shroo:)xxx


  1. Another interesting post . It seems that sometimes when looking at the ( expensive ) eye candy its easy to feel that without it art cant be " real " , and for some it becomes a competition to see who has the most " stuff " . Art can be enjoyed for very little with imagination and enthusiasm . I love this little book and that it cost virtually nothing to make - except time and ingenuity . I love the colours and use of just a few self made stencils . Thanks also for the music clip . ( This should also encourage nervous ' beginners ! )

  2. Oh-so-fabulous! Love the stenciling and your colours are fantastical!