Tag Archives: upcycling

Art Journaling By Selectively Covering Text

Sometimes I find and save advertising materials printed on nice paper. I might like part of the imagery, or be attracted to the weight and feel of the paper, or both. It’s sometimes less intimidating to start an art journal page on paper that already has something on it than a blank piece of paper. In this article I’ll show you two ways to creatively alter found papers with text on them.

Tools and Materials
Assorted found papers and scrap papers
Clean scrap paper
Stencils
Markers and other drawing and coloring implements of choice
Painter’s tape or masking tape
Scissors
Glue stick
Burnishing tool

First, select a piece of paper with text on it, and a stencil. Tape the stencil in place over the text. Using the marking implement of your choice, outline the openings in the stencil only in the spots where there is text to cover.

This results in an interesting effect. The text turns into a texture rather than something you read, and the resulting graphic effect might suggest what to do next to finish the composition. You might decide to color in some or all of the outlines you just traced over the text.

In the example above, since I’ve used permanent black Sharpie markers, I can use almost any medium I want to add color if I want to.

There is no need to restrict yourself to using a black marker. My brother got off to a very good start on this page. He took advantage of the pale text to use colored Sharpie markers. If he wants to work on this page more it has a lot of potential.

I have a real weakness for amoeba shapes and any graphics that suggest mid-century modern imagery. I cut these blocks of text from a magazine because of the pretty shapes and colors backing some of the text.

The article I took these cutouts from was about work-life balance. There are some words in these paragraphs that would be good to have in my art journal, which I use as a self-care tool as well as for creative expression. I covered up the words I didn’t want to see with strips of scrap paper and left exposed the words I did want to see. When the glue was dry enough to handle, I trimmed the shapes. Toward the end, I got tired of gluing paper strips and for the last few lines I wanted to cover, I used a yellow opaque paint marker to finish off these pieces.

Some people compose prose or poetry this way, by removing words instead of writing them to make new compositions. In this sample I was mainly interested in making a visual statement, and I treated the words as random elements. But if you wanted to, you could make a carefully considered visual AND literary statement by selectively covering words.

Here is a two-page spread using both techniques from this article together. I think these two pages are almost complete. I’ll think about them for awhile before doing anything else to them, if I decide they need more.

It helps that these two found pages here were already strong graphically, which was part of the reason why I was attracted to them in the first place.

Give a piece of print fabric the look of a “blanket”

Recently I was working on a sleeping bag for a doll, and I was looking around the house for a doll or stuffed animal that I could use to test out the size. I didn’t use it because it was too big, but I did look at a doll of sorts that I made a long time ago in sculpture class when I was working on a B.F.A. degree at SIUE. At the time I had taken the class, I had just been on a trip to Utah and had brought back with me some books on Native American petroglyphs and stone fetishes. I made a throw pillow sized soft wolf fetish with blanket and soft arrowhead for my late friend June for Christmas that year. We both shared an intense interest in Southwest travel and art. For class I made a humanoid stuffed figure with amulet bag, loincloth, and blanket.

While making the soft sculpture, although inspired by ancient Native American art forms, I did not want to refer to any particular culture exactly, rather I wanted to evoke an ancient sense of humanity that many cultures share. Throughout human history there were many ways to wear and use blankets as a part of clothing and outerwear before things like buttons and zippers were invented, and of course people still use and wear blankets in many ways today. For my soft sculpture’s blanket I chose a fabric in a garish early 1990s fabric pattern to suggest a striped blanket but not imitate any particular culture.

While working on my doll sleeping bag, I decided it was a good time to update the look of my soft sculpture. Since teaching at JoAnn Fabrics and Crafts from 2016-early 2020 I’ve been working a lot more with fabric. I decided to start with the blanket. I have a large collection of scrap fabric that I like to sew into strips to use in projects such as art quilts, purse straps, water bottle carrier straps, table runners, headbands, and more. I thought the blanket I made for the soft sculpture would look more attractive with some added strips of scrap fabric so I started piecing and sewing strips in place.

Experimental projects using fabric scraps.
Experimental projects using fabric scraps. From left to right: what will become part of Experimental Art Quilt #2 (still in progress), a table runner that I have used in many art and craft shows, and a purse with strap that I made for a niece as a graduation gift. The purse folds out so that it can be used as either a little clutch purse or a water bottle carrier. The strap is removeable and can be used in different ways.
Old blanket piece with new scrap strips held up against it to see if the colors and patterns look good together.
Left: old blanket piece with new scrap strips held up against it to see if the colors and patterns look good together. Right: an endcap I put together for Schnarr’s Hardware in Webster Groves, MO to showcase some supplies for fun summer craft and home decor projects. I used my refreshed blanket a backdrop for some blank wood succulent shapes ready for painting and decorating. On the other half, I draped a piece of nautical themed fabric. Over both backdrops are hung nautical themed flags that I sewed last summer.
Here is how to start a scrap strip.

Here is how to start a scrap strip. Decide on a color scheme and lay out pieces of fabric to use. Here I decided on a neutral scheme for a future project.

Place fabric pieces good side together, and pin along one edge. Keep going until you have pinned enough pieces to make a strip as long as you need for your project. The first two photos show the same strip from the front first, and then the back, after pinning.

Using a washable fabric marking pen and a ruler, draw a line along one edge, leaving a small seam allowance. Drawing the lines will help you keep your seams straight.

Sew all the pieces together and you’ll have a strip that you can use for many projects.

Temporarily pinned stripes in place on print fabric to see how the colors and patterns look together.
Temporarily pinned stripes in place on print fabric to see how the colors and patterns look together. A fabric pattern that has some kind of stripes or regularly spaced shapes that you can use to line up your stripes will save you a little time measuring and drawing lines on your fabric, but of course any fabric that looks good as a background would work.

I finally finished “Experimental Art Quilt #1!”

A little over two years ago, I was sick for quite awhile with an awful sinus problem. I didn’t have much energy, so to prevent too much boredom I looked for some simple tasks to do. First I sorted all my small fabric scraps by color and organized them into containers. While doing that, I thought it would be fun to challenge myself to see how small a fabric scrap could get before I couldn’t make something out of it. I wanted to upgrade my hand-sewing skills and learn the rudiments of piecing for quilt making.

I started sewing fabric pieces into strips to combine into a scrap quilt later, after seeing some beautiful examples on Pinterest. As I accumulated strips, I combined them with other leftover fabrics such as a jean pocket, a waistband from some corduroy pants, a seam from blue jeans, old clothing tags, ribbon, binding strips, selvage pieces and some rather primitive embroidered panels I made a long time ago for use on a tote bag which has since been retired.

Over the last couple of years, every once in awhile I’d add a little bit more on. Then I finished it with blanket seam binding from JoAnn Fabrics and Crafts where I taught classes in hand sewing, general crafts and jewelry making before the pandemic.

Following are some close-ups of sections of the quilt.

At the top is part of a waistband from some Lime Green corduroy pants.
Here is the top seen a little closer.
Here is a close-up of some stitching. I had some fun adding on some pieces with raw edges and treating some of my stitches like I was drawing on abstract collages in one of my art journals.
On some sections I used the pattern on the fabric as inspiration for how to do the quilting stitching. There are fabrics in this section from one of my old sheets and even a couple of pieces that I printed on with rubber stamps of my own design.
Here is the pocket. The jeans they came from were not mine – I’ve had them in my fabric stash for so long I’m not sure where they came from. The light colored denim pieces tie-dyed with black are from a pair of jeans I dyed and wore in college.
Here is the bottom end. There are fabrics in this section from sewn items my late Mom made in the early 1980s, some more fabric I printed and fabric from the ties and table runners from my wedding! My quilting friend Kate also gave me a lot of beautiful scraps I used in this section.

“Experimental Art Quilt #1” is for sale on Etsy. Here is a link to the listing:

Experimental Art Quilt #1 – Green, Aqua, Blue

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?

Fun With Silk Flowers

Painting silk daisies with Color Wash paint by Tattered Angels.
Painting silk daisies with Color Wash paint by Tattered Angels.

Recently I went to Leftovers, Etc., a teachers resource recycling center, to stock up on donated silk flowers to upcycle. There were several items I wanted to make for my upcoming wedding so I bought up what donated silk flowers I could find in my color scheme of white, navy, lime green, and red/coral. I purchased extra white flowers so that I could experiment with painting some of them lime green. I added some flowers from JoAnn Fabrics and Crafts to supplement the supplies available at Leftovers, Etc.

Painting faux flowers with Color Wash paint by Tattered Angels

Painting some of the silk flowers and faux flower clusters made with little white stryrofoam balls was easy. I pushed the stems into chunks of scrap styrofoam from product packaging then made a 50/50 mix of Tattered Angels Color Wash Paint in the colors of Lime Cordial and Lemonade. I painted this mixture onto the faux flowers that I wanted to turn lime green. The results were fantastic – the paint is designed to tint and stain surfaces and it flowed and wicked it’s way into and over the faux flowers in a way which tended to give a natural appearance. That effect really shows up well on the lapel flowers below – I didn’t have to do anything special to get the paint to pool at the tips of the faux rosebud petals and give extra depth to the color application. If you enjoy silk flower arranging Color Wash paints can give you lots of additional creative options.

Lapel flowers - I made six of these.
Lapel flowers – I made six of these.

Finished flower girl head wreath and basket
Finished flower girl head wreath and basket.

Small wreath with upcycled flowers and foliage and purchased lovebird ornaments.
Small wreath with upcycled flowers and foliage and purchased lovebird ornaments.

These floral accessories are only a sampling of the items I’m making for my wedding. It’s going to be a real DIY event! A good friend of mine even made my dress and the ties for the male members of the wedding party (I’m not practiced enough at machine sewing yet to do those myself). As the wedding approaches and for some time afterward probably, I’ll be posting the finished DIY projects on my wedding Pinterest board – check it out!

Link to Pinterest board – Wedding

Tutorial – Make a Shadow Box From An Old Drawer

Make a Shadow Box From An Old Drawer

It’s a lot of fun to salvage an old drawer and turn it into an attractive and functional shadow box. Last week I taught a class at Schnarr’s Hardware in Webster Groves to show people some creative possibilities for old drawers and give them some ideas for displaying memorabilia. The day after the class we published a tutorial and some video of the class so you can try the project at home.

Read more on the Schnarr’s blog

Come see me at the Fall Art Walk in Old Webster – October 6-15, 2017

Old Webster Fall Art Walk

Stamping and Printing with Found Objects

I hope you can visit Schnarr’s Hardware in Webster Groves Missouri between October 6 and 15th to see my display for the Old Webster Art Walk!

The theme of my show will be things made from recycled materials. If you’re into upcycling and repurposing, you’ll get a lot of ideas! On Saturday October 7 and 14th, I’ll also be doing a demo in the store from 12-4 pm. On the 7th, see how to make art prints with recycled and found materials. On the 14th, I’ll show you how to make fun fall greeting cards.

Come join us for a self-guided tour of many different area businesses in Webster Groves, all with a different artist and art display. For more information: https://oldwebsterartwalk.com/

Upcycled Tool Belt

A friend of mine gave me two unused canvas tool belts that advertise a hardware store that I don’t work for. I decided to cover up the advertisement and create a more robust belt loop by sewing on some recycled upholstery material. I used recycled trim, a recycled belt and some thread to make something that turned out really comfortable to wear. I’ll test the functionality today when I wear it to hold my hand tools while I work on the garden at a client’s house. Going to work is a lot more fun when you can express your personality with your tools!

Fun at Perennial – a place, not a plant

Mary with two of her jewelry display boards that she built
Mary with two of her jewelry display boards that she built

Perennial is a non-profit community workshop and store with the mission of building a creative culture of sustainability and turning discarded items into valuable resources. As an artist and craftsperson who already is enthusiastic about using recycled materials, I was delighted when my friend Mary (pictured at top left) invited me to meet her there and try out one of the community workshop sessions.

I met Mary at a Creative Arts Fellowship last year and got to know her better at some subsequent events. Mary’s art and mine have a lot in common – we both like upcyling materials and taking apart old jewelry to make new. I enjoyed teaching a class with Mary recently at one of her Women’s Upcycled Jewelry Jams. I’m looking forward to more opportunities for Mary and I to collaborate. A gifted artist and teacher, Mary creates under the name Sanctified Studios.

I knew I’d love Perennial after being in there for about two minutes! Seeing all the nice work space, supplies and tools was exciting but what really sold me was the console stereo! Clearly my retro-loving, thrift-shopping, dumpster-diving self was going to feel comfortable here.

Look at all those wonderful woodworking tools!
Look at all those wonderful woodworking tools!

At my first work session I cut up some wood for an upcoming class I’m going to be teaching on building garden pollinator houses. Then I put together a wood tray that I’ll be finishing and writing about later.

You can become a member of Perennial to access the work space and use the tools when they hold open sessions. Different levels of membership also give you discounts on classes and other events. Perennial accepts donations of materials. You can trade or purchase some of the materials for what you think is a fair market value. They also make craft kits that are for sale in the shop.

Some of the supply stash on the left and the sewing area on the right.
Some of the supply stash on the left and the sewing area on the right.

Art and crafting can often be lonely activities. Working around other artists is really healthy for social interaction and for the stimulation of being around new ideas. I’m looking forward to many happy times while I enjoy my new membership!