Category Archives: Paper Crafts

Low Tech Faux Postage: Part 1

stamp sheet collageFaux postage is a really fun mixed media project to make because it’s relatively non-threatening to create tiny works of art in a format that everyone is familiar with. There are lots of craft products you can buy that make it easier to make artwork that looks like postage stamps. A long time ago I designed some rubber stamps for this purpose and some of them are currently for sale in my Etsy shop. You can make this project with any other small stamps that you own also and a selection of paper crafting supplies. Enjoy!

1. Download and print out the two-page PDF file Low Tech Faux Postage. You’ll use the first page for Part 1.

2. Cut out some paper rectangles that are 1 3/4 inches tall and 1 3/8 inches wide from dark paper. You will need at least 16 rectangles.

Cutting rectangles from paper scraps to glue onto faux postage template.
Cutting rectangles from paper scraps to glue onto faux postage template.

3. Trim the edges with a paper edging scissors and arrange on your Low Tech Faux Postage sheet Page 1. You can think of your sheet as one composition made up of 16 tiny compositions if that helps you to get ideas. Glue down your trimmed paper rectangles.

4. Use a 1″ square paper punch and start by punching out one square for each rectangle from a selection of random scrap papers. Arrange until you are satisfied. If you have similar sized paper punches in other shapes such as circles, feel free to try them out. As you look through your scrap papers, you might get inspired to cut out other shapes. If you are moved to do so, go ahead and cut out whatever you like and glue down on your sheet without worrying about whether or not you’re “inside the lines”.

Paper collage on the template sheet
Paper collage on the template sheet. Mine is on the left, my husband Tom’s is on the right.

5. Take some tiny rubber stamps with words, phrases, numbers or symbols that have to do with philatelic stuff like stamps or cancellations. Stamp them in permanent black ink on light colored pieces of scrap paper. When the ink is dry enough to handle, cut or tear out what you have stamped.

6. Glue the torn or cut pieces to the collage work you’ve already done to help make each rectangle suggest a postal stamp design.

Stamped paper bits glued to collage
Stamped paper bits glued to collage.

7. Continue to add embellishments to your stamps until you think they look finished. Here are some suggestions for what you can add:

More cut collage papers, found or commercial
Stickers
Drawing – paint and gel markers are interesting choices to experiment with because you can write with them on slick surfaces and sometimes dark backgrounds as well
Stenciling
Image transfers
Design tape
Rubber stamping

8. When your stamp sheet is done, you can frame the whole thing to display it, cut apart your stamps to make tiny artworks, make color copies then cut apart the color copies, or put the whole thing in an art journal. Your imagination is the only limit and the most important thing is to have fun!

Made From Scraps: Mini Accordion Books

Many years ago, as one of my Mail Art projects, I used to fold two-inch wide pieces of paper into little accordion books and decorate them with rubber stamps and pieces of paper that I cut out from incoming Mail Art and decorated envelopes. I carved a rubber stamp with a little graphic of a Mail Box and the words “Bits of Mail” to stamp on the little book covers. Before sending them out, I dated and numbered them on the back. I saved one example for my archives and made a few color copies to use later as collage inspirations. While I was getting the color copies made, it came up in conversation with the copy center worker that one of the black and white machines had red toner in it. I made a lot of copies with the red toner because I knew I’d find uses for the copies later!

One of my original mini accordion books from 1998 with some color and red ink copies I made at the time for future collage work.
One of my original mini accordion books from 1998 with some color and red ink copies I made at the time for future collage work.

Some of my old collage papers along with my Mail Archives had been in storage unseen for 20 years or more. I’ve been getting some of them out lately as I move stuff. With fresh eyes, I’m getting some new ideas and inspiration for improving old ideas. I decided to take these old copies and make new versions of the mini accordion books.

First I cut up the copies that weren’t already in strips into two inch wide pieces, the same size as the originals. Then I folded them and glued one red ink copy to one color copy back to back to make longer books.

Old copies with color ink and red ink cut into two-inch strips, folded and glued to make mini accordion books.
Old copies with color ink and red ink cut into two-inch strips, folded and glued to make mini accordion books.

I had a large paper crafting stash by 1998 already because I started making collages in 1985 in my first college design class and I’ve been collecting interesting papers for collages ever since. In the intervening years, there are a lot more paper crafting supplies available and some of them are a lot more to my taste than what was available in the late 1990s. Back in the day I would have said I was a “weird” stamper not a “cute” stamper. I also enjoy sophisticated antique imagery and have a lot of papers from two of my favorite brands, Tim Holtz and 7 Gypsies, in my stash. I decided that the Tim Holtz idea-ology Correspondence paper pad was a good fit for this project and I glued some of the postal themed textures onto a selection of the blank pages of my books. The dominant colors in this series are red white and blue which looks good with the red toner ink on some of my papers and the postal motifs fit the “Bits of Mail” theme.

Next I went through I box of paper scraps that I keep for teaching a card class that I run from time to time on how to make greeting cards from little scraps, rubber stamps and stencils. I took out a selection of papers that I thought would make good backgrounds and glued them in a random fashion to every other page, leaving some blank.

Mini accordion books ready for adding content.
Mini accordion books ready for adding content.

There is an old trick that I learned in drawing class long ago to help get unstuck if you are facing a blank piece of paper with no ideas – draw a quick frame around your drawing area before you start. This helps because it’s less daunting to start drawing on a paper that you’ve made some marks on than a blank surface. I get the same creative boost from using scrap papers for perhaps a similar reason – there is already some content there, however sparse and random, and that is often all I need to get me going in a creative direction.

The little accordion books I’ve made are pictured above ready to add content. What kind of content would that be? There are lots of things I could do with these little books. I could write, draw, stamp or paste in words and/or images to make a finished artistic statement. I could use them as a storage and display folio for tiny works of art such as postage stamps, faux postage stamps or tiny photos and images. I could send them off into the Mail Art network as an “add and pass on” project. What would you make?

tiny books made by various artistsFor additional inspiration, here are some samples of tiny books made by other people that I’ve received through the mail over the years. People of any age and ability level can make tiny books. Why not try one?

Speaking of the Lime Green News and studying other cultures…

Collage made with paper and rubber stamps
Collage made with paper and rubber stamps

I made this collage right at the time I stopped publishing the Lime Green News in paper form. I’m pretty sure I have a draft written on some floppy disc somewhere about how I made this collage and some others using outlines of black paper that I cut out with paper edging scissors to make compositions that look like postage stamps. I was going to publish the tutorial and a copy of the background for people to make their own stamps. I made several stamp sheets using this background as I recall. Such stamps are also known in the art and stamp collecting world as “Cinderella Stamps”, “Postoids” and “Artistamps”.

I never went back to the idea with this pseudo-postal background because I assumed that with computers and desktop publishing becoming more prominent people would not be interested in making faux postage stamps the “analog” way any more. But looking at this collage now that more than 20 years have passed since I made it I actually like it a lot. After going to that Gauguin show that I wrote about in my last blog post I’m reminded of how much I loved studying other cultures and abstracting some elements from them into and combining them with Mid-Century Modern type of abstraction. A lot of the black line work was made by rubber stamps. The Egyptian hieroglyphics stamp is a commercial rubber art stamp, but I carved all the others.

The above collage rearranged and with the colors inverted to use as a Facebook header
The above collage rearranged and with the colors inverted to use as a Facebook header

For some reason if I scan a collage and invert the colors in Photoshop, the results are often better than the original. I needed a new Facebook header so I rearranged the above collage and did a quick inversion. Fun!

Here is another collage I made using the same background
Here is another collage I made using the same background

Make Nautical Thank You Cards

thankyoucards_nautical_finished

While making items for my wedding last summer I used a lot of nautical themed papers made by Canvas Corp. I saved a lot of the paper scraps to use in one of my favorite card-making techniques. I like to glue paper scraps onto narrow strips of scrap cardstock then apply rubber stamping ink to the edges to unify the strips. They make interesting parts to use in all kinds of paper crafts. I’ve previously written other articles that show this technique in action.

Pretty Packaging for Mason Jar Candles
http://blog.canvascorpbrands.com/quick-easy-pretty-packaging-mason-jar-candles/

Making Greeting Cards From Scrap Papers
http://www.chasenfratz.com/wp/making-greeting-cards-from-scrap-papers/

Materials and Tools
Canvas Corp paper sheet Sand & Sea Art Pages on Kraft CCP2883
Assorted paper scraps with a nautical theme, mostly from collections by Canvas Corp
Scrap cardstock
Black permanent rubber stamping ink
Permanent rubber stamping ink in colors that complement the project
Strips of light colored scrap paper that harmonize with the chosen paper scraps
Pieces of cardstock that harmonize with the chosen paper scraps
Clean scrap paper
Scissors
Glue stick
Paper cutter
Computer with scanner and graphics software
Eraser for stamping the edges of the paper

materials_1

These very detailed strips tend to look good in designs next to areas with less detail. To make thank you cards to acknowledge wedding gifts and other help people generously gave us for the wedding, I made some scrap paper strips edged in red and scanned them for use in a digital file which I had printed on cardstock at a copy shop. I spelled out the word “THANKS” in nautical flags by making little flag collages with Canvas Corp nautical themed papers and scanning those as well. After digitally manipulating the scanned paper pieces, this is the digital card design I came up with.

thankyoucard2_web

The red-edged strips that I scanned were now free to use in actual handmade cards and not just the digital design. I decided to combine the strips with imagery from the Canvas Corp paper sheet Sand & Sea Art Pages on Kraft CCP2883. The six images on the paper sheet are just about the size of the cards I want to make and the subtlety of the designs will really set off my paper strips. I decided to make six 5.25″ x 4.25″ cards. I selected six pieces of cardstock and cut them to 5.25″ wide and 8.5″ long then folded them in half to make the cards. Next I selected strips of light colored paper in colors that harmonized with my color scheme and stamped the sentiments “just a note” and “thank you” with black permanent ink. I made more strips than I thought I would need so that I would have lots of options. Also, I can use the extras for making other cards and for the card making classes that I teach.

stamped_paper_strips_web

To begin assembling the front of the cards, I cut each of the six images on the sheet Sand & Sea Art Pages on Kraft to just a little bigger than the card front. I cut the image in two then I inserted a strip with the words “just a note” then a scrap strip edged in red between the two pieces of the image. I glued the parts to the front of the card with a glue stick then trimmed away the excess. Then I glued the circular paper punched out piece with the stamped words “Thank You” onto the front of the card.

assembling_card_front

Make An Adult Coloring Book From Scrap Paper and Stencils

Do you like adult coloring but don’t feel completely satisfied coloring someone else’s designs? Here is how you can use scrap papers and cardstock along with stencils to make custom homemade coloring books that reflect your own creative point of view.

adult_coloring_book

What you will need:

Pencil
Scissors
Glue stick
Paper cutter
White or off-white card stock
Hole puncher
Black ball-point pen
Black Twin Tip Sharpie Permanent Marker – Fine/Ultra Fine
Tape
Bone folder or burnishing tool
Clean scrap paper
Metal ruler
Metal binding rings
Assorted found papers that relate to coloring (pictures from magazines, old books, catalogs, etc.)
Assorted black and white images on paper (scrapbooking papers, found images)
Assorted stencils (hand-cut from your own designs, commercial crafting stencils, or a combination)

Instructions:

1. Cut out two pieces of cardstock 8 1/2 x 6 inches for covers. Select some found images that have to do with coloring and make collages on the front and back covers by gluing these images down with a glue stick. Put a clean piece of scrap paper over your collage and rub well with a bone folder or burnisher to make sure the papers are glued down flat.

2. Cut a bunch of 8 x 5 1/2 inch pieces out of white or off-white card stock or paper. I’ll walk you through using a combination of found papers and stencils to create black and white designs to color in later on these pages. It’s intimidating to have a bunch of blank pieces of paper staring you in the face, so to begin tear some papers with black and white designs or printing on them into strips using a metal ruler a guide. Glue some of these pieces on several of your blank pages in random places and directions.

3. Further build up your designs by using a variety of stencils to draw shapes randomly on your pages. Add black and white collaged images or textures to further enhance the pages.

Coloring pages are very appealing when you use different line weights to outline areas to color. I suggest you proceed by marking some areas with a heavier line first then progressively moving down in line weight as you add more detail.

A. Outline some areas from bold stencil designs using the “Fine” tip on the Sharpie marker.

B. Go back through your pages again and add more stencil designs outlined with the “Ultra Fine” tip on the Sharpie marker.

C. Go through the pages a third time and use yet more detailed stencils to draw on the pages with the black ball-point pen.

As you build your compositions, I suggest laying pairs of pages down on your work surface that will be opposite each other in your finished book. See if you get any ideas from how they look together. Here are some examples of pairs I made to complement each other.

pairing_1

pairing_2

pairing_3

4. If any of your pages are made of thin enough paper to let some of the marker lines bleed through, don’t get discouraged. Redraw the design in reverse on the other side of the paper to disguise the bleed-through and create some accidental compositions that could be very appealing and lots of fun to color.

four_finished

5. Punch a top and bottom hole in the cover pieces and each page and connect with binding rings to make into a book. In order to get the holes to line up correctly, you can trace the holes in the first page you punch onto subsequent pages, or make yourself a template out of scrap chipboard.

6. Have fun coloring your pages. I like to use a combination of colored ball point pens, gel pens, markers and colored pencils. If you experiment with a lot of different media and practice you will develop your own style of mark making. If you would like some inspiration for coloring styles and techniques, I have examples on an Art Journaling Pinterest board that should help you out. The most important things to remember while coloring are to have fun and don’t let expectations of how your work is supposed to look be a damper on your creativity and expression.

My husband Tom and I each colored a page.
My husband Tom and I each colored one of these pages.

Art Journaling With Stencils and Image Transfers

Art Journaling With Stencils and Image Transfers

Last fall during the Old Webster Fall Art Walk, I demonstrated making pages for an art journal with paper collage work and stencils at Schnarr’s Hardware. I added in some paint samples to pay tribute to the hardware store atmosphere and remind me to have fun with colors. Later on I added some image transfers I made with clear packing tape. Learn how to make image transfers and add them to your art journal pages on the Schnarr’s blog:

Art Journaling With Stencils and Image Transfers

Celebrating Love As A Verb With Wedding Greeting Cards

Tom and I will be celebrating our sixth month anniversary of being married in less than a week! We renewed our marriage vows for the first time at mass this past weekend as part of World Marriage Day. Also Valentine’s Day is in two days and I’m planning the home cooked meal that Tom requested for his Valentine gift as I work on my projects this week. Love is definitely in the air!

Renewing our vows is a good reminder that love is a verb and marriage is something we celebrate and practice every day…so I don’t feel too bad that I’m still working on a couple of projects that incorporate greeting cards that we received for our showers and wedding. (Cards are still trickling in, actually, so I’m really not behind!)

The number of cards we received is astonishing. My Mom kept her wedding cards in a scrapbook. I like to scrapbook, and working cards into scrapbooks and journals is something I’ve been doing for awhile. I love to make handmade books and journals of all kinds and I’ll use almost any excuse to make one. I wanted a guestbook to use at our picnic wedding reception so I naturally made my own. I decided to work greeting cards from our showers (we’re spoiled, between the two of us we had three!) into the guestbook pages. At one of our couples showers there was a fun activity where the other shower guests wrote marriage advice on pieces of paper and we read them out loud. I put those paper pieces in the guestbook also. I intended for the unfilled parts of the guestbook to function as a photo album too, so whenever we look at our wedding photos (which I haven’t even gotten printed yet) we will remember greetings and wishes of happiness from our loved ones.

I was able to incorporate nearly every card we received prior to the wedding day into the wedding guestbook/scrapbook which is at the right side of the photo above. I made the covers from scrap mat board which I covered with map patterned paper to fit our nautical theme. The picnic reception was at a lake and Tom and I brought our kayaks. I made nautical themed collages for the front and back covers of the guestbook, protected them with a layer of transparency film, then attached them with decorative metal brads. I used metal binding rings made by 7gypsies to hold the book together at the spine. Before I fastened the collages in place, I scanned them for use as background graphics on our wedding web site. Papers for the collages came from Canvas Corp, their brand 7gypsies and other sources that I’ve collected over the years.

Here are three examples of 8.5 x 11 inch pages from the guestbook. On some pages I covered nearly the whole page with cards, notes and assorted embellishments. Other pages had blank areas for messages and later photo mounting and journaling. I used a lot of nautical themed paper from Canvas Corp, assorted goodies from my extensive paper stash and added in a little traditional wedding related imagery to blend with the greeting cards. My new Mother In Law is very talented, she painted the card with the two kayaks. She also gave us a great watercolor painting with nautical flags spelling out “Love Lives Here”. A most thoughtful and personal gift that we will always treasure!

At the wedding and since the wedding, we have received many times more cards and if I did what my Mom did and mounted them all on scrapbook pages, I would be making several huge books that would take up a lot of space. I very much wanted to keep all the cards. So I started thinking – several sides of these cards are either blank or have minimal content. What if the cards were not mounted into a book, but instead became the book? Then I could use empty space on the cards to write or mount photos or other memorabilia and embellishments. The cards could become a memory book for reminders, experiences, meditations, thoughts and much more.

I had in my stash some clear tag shapes for making handmade books that were about the size of the cards, so I used one of the plastic tags as a template and I started tracing around important sections of the cards to make tag-shaped book pages.

On sides that had something I wanted to cover up such as card manufacturer information on the back, I laminated with glue some paper with lines printed on it to make a good journaling surface. The example below left is paper from Canvas Corp. I bought a bunch of that design because I make a lot of journals. Some card backs like the seashore themed example below right are good for writing on or adding small photos just as they are.

I have not done a lot of reading yet on Love Languages, but I’m aware of what they are enough to know that one of my ways of giving love and feeling like I am loved is gift giving on special occasions. The gifts don’t have to be expensive, they can be handmade or simple. A good gift for me or Tom could be an experience like a Birthday hike. Tom and I also both think acts of service are a way to give love and to feel love, so when giving gifts to Tom I try to work that in there somehow. The image below shows an example of that on the left – Tom is sporty and we both like to participate in fitness activities so I made him a set of two-sided “coupon” cards good for a workout with me. The idea is to put a date on the cards as they are redeemed and put them in little pockets in my initial tag book. On the right below is an example of a tag page that I have treated like a scrapbook or journal page by using graphics from card parts, scrapbooking-type embellishments and patterned translucent vellum paper so that the cards are visible after they go into a pocket.

Realizing I would end up with enough tag shapes to make several books, I noticed a card with a graphic of a piece of toast on it. I decided it would be cute to cut the toast shape out and use it as a template to cut some of the cards into pages for one or two toast shaped books.

I’m going to keep our wedding memories alive for years as I use these little books to document and journal about our marriage. Happy Valentine’s Day and Anniversary Tom! I love you!

 

Make letter charms from paper collages

Letter charms made by making a paper collage then adding letter stickers and jewelry parts.
Letter charms made by making a paper collage then adding letter stickers and jewelry parts.

I love to make mixed media charms and beads to use in jewelry making. Recently I participated in a charm swap and made some initial necklaces for friends at JoAnn Fabrics and Crafts where I am a teacher. Learn how to make these charms by reading my tutorial on the Canvas Corp Products blog!

Read More:
Combine Collage and Letter Stickers to Make Initial Letter Charms

My Entry For the Canvas Corp Brands 12 x 12 Envelope Challenge

As I member of the Canvas Corp Brands Creative Crew I was invited to enter a challenge using one of their 12 x 12 kraft paper envelopes. They wanted to see how many creative ways we could transform the envelope.

The C stands for Carolyn and the T stands for Tom, my fiance.
The C stands for Carolyn and the T stands for Tom, my fiance.

As you can see I didn’t transform mine very much because I wanted to use it as an envelope to carry around papers that I’m using in wedding planning. We are having a picnic reception by a lake and I’m making some nautical themed decor. When I’m done using this as an envelope I plan to use it as a background in a shadow box for wedding memorabilia.

I cut through the front of the envelope with an X-acto knife and sponged rubber stamping ink around the cutouts for emphasis. I put decorative paper behind the letters and clear transparency sheets in front of them to protect the cut work and add an interesting effect. The nautical themed papers are from the 7gypsies and Canvas Corp brands and I mixed in some papers from other companies plus some Tim Holtz Design Tape and metal brads.

See more examples:
IT IS ALL ABOUT THE 12×12 KRAFT ENVELOPE – A CREW CHALLENGE

Making Signage From Letter Stencils: Part 1

As a member of the “gig economy” I do contract and part-time consulting, marketing and customer service work for various clients. Two retailers I work with recently had need of some in-store signage. One is a hardware store and one is a craft supply store and they both sell stencils. I’ve been experimenting with letter stencils to make signage that gets the message across and at the same time demonstrates how to use some of the products that the stores sell.

JoAnn Fabrics and Crafts in Maplewood, MO has a teaching department of which I am a member. The education coordinator asked each teacher to make a sign or two for the classroom samples display to highlight the categories of classes we teach. I was assigned “Kid’s Crafts” and “Jewelry”. I was given two blank pieces of foamcore already cut to size and access to the classroom supply cabinet. Fun!

I like the look of cut-out letters layered over a background. To help me visualize how to arrange the letters on the foamcore board, I cut out some pieces of scrap chipboard and used a letter stencil to trace the outline of each letter in position. Then I decided what colors to use in the actual sign. Since it’s spelling out “Kid’s Crafts” that’s a good excuse to use some really bright colors!

Planning the placement and colors of cutout letters on a sign

I traced the letters again onto the colorful cardstock pieces I selected then cut the letters out with an X-acto knife. I’ll save the cutout letters in case another suitable project comes up.
Cut out letters

Next I selected papers to use as backgrounds for each letter. I marked the foamcore as a rough guide to where I would place the background for each letter.

Selecting backgrounds for the cutout letters

A little black and white in a design is a great way to add visual interest. Some of the background papers already have some white in the pattern. To get some black in the design, I outlined each cut letter with a black Sharpie marker and drew some faux sewing stitch lines to help convey the hand crafts theme. The black outline also covered up my pen lines from when I traced the letters. Black Sharpie markers are such an essential part of my tool kit (like glue sticks) that I buy them wholesale because I go through so many!

Adding details with a black Sharpie marker

In order to read well from a distance, I thought some of the letters needed an improvement in the contrast. I added high contrast solid paper behind the letters that needed to pop a bit more. Then I added a strip of black and white paper tape (also known as design tape and washi tape) to the top and bottom edges for a more finished look.

Assembled sign with paper tape

The final finishing touch was to glue on a few colorful buttons here and there. I used a similar design idea to make my sign for Jewelry. That was fun to make because it gave me a chance to use some “shiny” supplies that are appealing but hard to find a use for that is tasteful and appropriate – metallic papers, silver ribbon, glitter papers and plastic jewels! I outlined the letters in the Jewelry sign with a metallic gold Sharpie paint marker that looks good with the jewel-toned papers and theme. The paint marker also has good enough coverage to conceal my pen lines.

Finished signs for the Jewelry and Kid's Crafts classroom display signs.

These signs were fun to make and also stretched me creatively because I used a few materials and colors that I don’t design with very often. That’s good exercise for any designer!