Category Archives: Tutorials

Doing Art Therapy on Myself

Here is what happened to me Friday October 15:

I fell down the stairs and bent my foot the wrong way. I might have two broken toes, I realize it could have been a lot worse. The pain is way down today so my head is more clear and I can actually write something! I don’t have to spend 100% of my time off of my foot until I have a follow up appointment with an orthopedic doctor, but I will have to spend the majority of my time with it elevated, at least for awhile. Not sure for how long, but in the meantime I’m taking the opportunity to study my art therapy book and my horticultural therapy books to see if there is anything I can do to cope better with the fear and frustration of being temporarily unable to move around much. I’d also like to help my stressed out family cope with helping me with my injury while dealing with other severe recent losses. What can I learn while I study and try things out?

Having Some Fun With Negative Space

I started out by working on some collages I began during #virtualartparty number 4, an online session my husband and I hosted to help our friends and family do a little art and hopefully feel less lonely during the pandemic. I’ll write more about the collages later, but for now I want to write about the leftover cut away paper pieces I was dropping in the waste basket to be composted. The shapes were interesting, and reminded me of something. What was it? Why were these scraps interesting? Then I remembered this really cool architecture photo I had put on an Architecture Pinterest board. And some sketches I’d done for a ceramics class in the spring of 1990. Good memories of one of those times when I couldn’t stop the ideas from coming, and a pretty good percentage of them still seem exciting to me.

What I was noticing was the shapes made by the negative space – the parts I cut away – and how they reminded me of positive and negative shapes that I responded strongly to. I took the most interesting white paper scraps back out of the waste basket and glued them down on black paper. I scanned them into the computer to make these positive and negative images to see if they inspired me to make something with them.

Using Photoshop, I made selection outlines out of the white shapes, stroked them in black, and printed out the results as coloring pages so I can try to encourage myself and other people to enjoy the benefits of coloring and art making. There is enough going on to get people started – sometimes a blank page is intimidating if people don’t know what to draw or color – that’s a tip I learned long ago in Drawing 1. There is still room for individual creativity in these and other coloring pages I’ve made available for free download.

Download free coloring pages:

Negative space #1

Negative space #2

Abstract Art

The shapes that resulted from the paper cutting do somewhat resemble natural forms, but the overall design so far is abstract. Is abstract art good for therapeutic purposes?

I often encourage people to try making some abstract art in a project that is relatively low stakes such as an art journal page, because my reasoning has been that many untrained artists are afraid that they can’t draw and therefore are discouraged from making art that attempts to be representational. If I can show them how to make art from found papers and found objects, maybe that will help them become less inhibited and just have fun.

My favorite kind of art is abstract and if need be I can keep myself entertained with shapes, colors, textures and lines for hours if not days on end. Even if I think it’s fascinating and fun, abstract art is likely going to be a hard sell for most people. Those who appreciate abstract art the most are often art and design professionals or people very knowledgeable about art, such as patrons or collectors. The general population is mostly not that big of a fan and prefers recognizable nature-based images (Marcus and Sachs 15). We know from reactions to modern art and modern public sculpture how wide the gulf can be between the tastes of art and design professionals and the general public. If this sounds elitist, it’s not meant to be, it’s just a fact pointed out in a therapy book to help practitioners offer projects that are most helpful to the patient (Marcus and Sachs 15).

Abstract art isn’t necessarily therapeutic to people with certain conditions or states of mind. Experiments on physically or emotionally stressed patients revealed not only an affinity toward nature imagery but hostility to abstract art – even to the point of attacking the abstract pieces. The same artwork often prompted positive reactions from the staff, showing how the varying states of mind of individuals influenced how the artwork was perceived (Marcus and Sachs 30-31).

Practitioners intending to use art to facilitate health should keep the client’s needs in mind above their own personal tastes (Marcus and Sachs 15). Stress is detrimental to healing, both mentally and physically (Marcus and Sachs 25), so the last thing I would want to do is add to someone’s stress if I was trying to help them.

What could I add to my abstract background to make a project that is more soothing to the general public? My project is aimed at people who want to color but don’t necessarily want to draw. I have several stencils in my collection with botanical imagery that will appeal to the universal human need for nature-based imagery. I can use colors that are soothing and also found in nature. I chose blues and greens because hot colors might aggravate certain conditions and interfere with wellness (Winterbottom and Wagenfeld 182).

Art Journal Page

Here is an art journal page I made with one of my abstract printouts and a botanical themed stencil.

I got out a piece of cardstock that I use as a template for making pages that fit my art journal and I traced around the printout to remind me where the page edge will be. I chose a stencil by The Crafter’s Workshop, Mini Four Ferns, and outlined the fern designs in pencil.
I chose a blue gray pencil color to fill in the abstract shapes so that they would visually recede into the background behind the green ferns. Where the fern and abstract shapes overlapped, I overlaid neutral gray marker. I used green colored pencils and a green Sharpie paint marker to color in the rest of the ferns where they did not overlap the blue, and I outlined the ferns with a thin black Sharpie pen. It didn’t look quite finished so I drew some lines in pencil that are reminiscent of topographic maps. Then I was satisfied!

Works Cited

Marcus, Clare Cooper and Naomi A. Sachs. Therapeutic Landscapes: An Evidence-Based Approach to Designing Healing Gardens and Restorative Outdoor Spaces. Wiley, 2014.

Winterbottom, Daniel and Amy Wagenfeld. Therapeutic Gardens: Design for Healing Spaces. Timber Press, 2015.

Make Reversible Masks

The top mask still needs the pleats, the bottom one is finished.

I made this mask pattern about a year and a half ago so that I could make my own masks with fabrics that I liked. I meant to publish it eventually, but so many people had put mask patterns out there online I figured there was no need for another one. But now the pandemic has gone on long enough that I’m getting tired of the fabrics on my original batch of masks so I decided to make some new ones. I figured if I was sick of my masks, others might be tired of theirs too and might want to try out a new pattern. So here it is!

Pieces of fabric cut to size for mask making.

Supplies you will need

Fabric

Narrow elastic

Sewing thread

Scrap cardboard or chipboard

Tools you will need

Template

Awl or large needle

Paper cutter

Sewing scissors

Sewing needle

Washable fabric marker

Pins

Instructions

Prepare the templates:
1. Download the Mask Template PDF file I made and print it out.


2. Trim around the outside edge of the template so that the paper edge ends at the 9 x 8 inch border.
3. Use an awl or large needle to poke holes through the four x’s that indicate where to attach the elastic, and where the two vertical lines intersect the border toward the bottom of the template. The two bottom holes indicate where to leave an opening for turning the mask inside out.
4.Out of scrap chipboard, cut out a 9 x 8 inch piece and an 8 x 7 inch piece. The larger piece is an aid for drawing a line to cut out your fabric, and the smaller piece is for drawing the seam.


Cut out and mark the fabric:
1. Place the 9×8 inch piece of cardstock on the reverse side of the piece of fabric you want for the front of your mask. Draw around with washable fabric marker and cut out a 9 x 8 piece of fabric. Repeat for the piece of fabric you want for the back of your mask. This pattern makes a reversible mask, so you can choose two interesting pieces of fabric, or a plainer fabric for the back if you choose.
2. On the back side of either your front or back fabric, whichever would show the marker better, lay the 7 x 8 inch piece of chipboard in the middle of the cutout fabric and trace around it with your washable fabric marker to indicate the seam line to follow.


3. Center the printed template over the fabric and make dots with the marker where you previously poked the holes. Lift the template and draw on the x’s and two vertical lines with marker.


Assemble the mask:
1.Cut out two pieces of elastic long enough to fit around your ears and hold the mask on your head. The length of elastic needed will vary by the size of your head. You can pin elastic in place to test what length you will need.

2. Lay one of the fabric pieces good side up on your work surface and place the elastic pieces so that they overlap the fabric and the ends line up with the x’s you drew on your fabric.

3. Lay the other piece of fabric good side down over the first piece and pin together.

4. Start at one of the vertical lines at the bottom indicating the opening, and start sewing along the seam line away from the opening, leaving that section open for the time being. Trim extra fabric away from the corners as shown.

5. Turn the mask inside out and pin the opening closed. Whip stitch it shut from the outside.

6. Fold the mask to make pleats as shown, pin, then sew the ends of the pleats in place. You’re done!

Easy Thank You Cards

Rubber stamps by Rubber Stampede (Thank You), Hero Arts (flowers) and unknown (passport stamp collage).

My Dad and I are making Thank You cards following the funerals of my uncle Dave and brother Larry. Tom helped a lot too with the gluing. I’m feeling the effects that a lot of people feel after serious grief and trauma: disrupted sleep, fatigue, brain fog, joint pain, muscle pain, etc. These symptoms are normal for some people after trauma and severe stress, apparently, but of course make everyday functioning relatively difficult for a time. A bike ride on Sunday with friends helped a lot. I asked Tom to be my coach and help encourage me to do the ride. He pumped up the bike tires and pumped me up emotionally and took a hot epsom salt bath with me before we got dressed for the ride to help loosen up my stiff and sore body. With that I didn’t need any pain meds like ibuprofen which I had taken from time to time the previous week. He helped me break through a big barrier and function better. I was really discouraged and scared by how sore I was and how bad I felt. I’m very grateful to have a loving husband to help me get over some rough spots and build on little victories to gradually improve over time. This is extremely hard even with help. I hope and pray that people out there who need support can get it from somewhere. As I find grieving and mental health resources online I’ll keep adding them to my self care Pinterest board.

In the meantime, Dad and I are extending the effort to make cards because we have abundant supplies on hand we enjoy using and we find the activity healing and therapeutic. But with not feeling terribly well I had to come up with a card design that was relatively simple so that we would not tax ourselves beyond our current abilities to make them. They are just challenging enough to force us to concentrate a bit but not so hard we want to give up in frustration. I have to take a lot of breaks, but I’m not giving up! Of course if you want to make your own similar cards you could use any suitable sentiment in place of “Thank You” to fit any message you want to send.

Supplies You’ll Need

Blank cards with envelopes – Dad had a whole bunch of envelopes in different sizes already on hand, so we cut plain white paper to the envelope width and folded the pieces in half to fit. If you prefer, you can buy blank cards with matching envelopes at craft stores.

Assorted papers in light, neutral colors for the two largest areas on the card, with subtle patterns on them. The design on the paper should be light enough to stamp on in medium to dark colors.

Assorted papers in more contrasting neutral colors and patterns for the narrow stripe on the front of each card.

Rubber stamping ink in a “harvest gold” color, a taupe color, and black.

Clean scrap paper to help with gluing

Optional – interesting die cuts, design tape (also known a paper tape or washi tape) and stickers for extra interest

Tools You’ll Need

Paper trimmer

Metal ruler for tearing paper

Scissors

Glue sticks

Squeegee, bone folder or burnishing tool

Rubber stamps. My friend Kate recently gave me a large collection of pre-owned stamps. I will gradually be offering some for sale in my online shop as I have time to get them listed. I did set aside some of my favorites to keep for my own collection (of course). To start out my Dad and I selected for these cards two Thank You stamps, two postage related designs, and three wildflower silhouette stamps. Unfortunately I’m not selling the exact stamps I used in this card because I really love them and there were no duplicates in the pre-owned collection Kate gave me, but you can use similar stamps in their place.

Instructions

  1. Glue a narrow strip of paper that is from the higher-contrast selections about 1/3 from either the left or right from the side of the card.

2. Cut and tear out pieces of paper in light neutral colors with subtle background patterns and glue them to the fronts of the cards on either side of the strip you glued down previously. I tore the edges that overlap the central stripes for visual interest. On some of the cards I added some stickers and design tape for a little extra interest if I thought it was needed. As you’ll see in the final graphic featuring variations on the original design, I added some hexagon die cuts I had made some time ago. When I was designing the prototype card, I asked Dad to pick out stamps he liked from my collection, and he also took out these hexagons, so I looked for ways to use a few and I liked them on some of the cards. Trim the paper to the edges of the card front when done gluing.

3. Stamp three flower stamps on the wider background side of the card in harvest gold or similar ink color. My Dad switched to a red-brown ink later in the process which also looked very good.

4. Stamp a Thank You stamp in black, and if you think the card needs a little more interest, stamp postage related designs or some other accent stamps of your choice in a taupe ink color as in my example at the top of this article. You might decide your card needs more or less done to it depending on what background papers you choose. See the graphic below for a bunch of variations that we made.

Here is a collage of some of the cards we made showing how many different ways you can use the same stamps. The additional lower case thank you stamp you see here is by Tim Holtz. Dad did most of the stamping and decided some of the cards didn’t need so much on them which is a fine design choice you can make when the papers are interesting. If you would like to download a high-res version of the above graphic (with more designs on it) to use in projects like stickers or faux postage sheets here is a link:
Printable Thank You Graphics

Additional Resources:

My Pinterest board for Greeting Card Idea and Sketches

My Facebook album for free coloring and paper crafting downloads

With more time and energy, I probably would have created a card that uses stamps that I actually sell, some of which I designed. For now the important thing was to make something nice that is also fast and easy. But if you want to browse my collection of stamps in my Etsy shop here it is: Stamping

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.

Making self-care cards out of Project Life cards

I know several people who could use some encouragement right about now, including myself. I decided this week to get out my paper craft supplies to have a bit of creative fun and make supportive cards to use and more to give to people I know.

First I’ll explain what both self-care cards and Project Life cards are. Self care could be considered the practice of maintaining your physical and mental health in order to prevent burnout and breakdowns. While looking for some resources for my Self Care Pinterest board that I use for reference, I found some specifically aimed at caregivers of different kinds. Even if one chooses from their own free will to be a caregiver, it’s still a tough job. As these resources I found mention, one should not feel guilty for practicing self care even if you are naturally inclined to be giving – a burned out or broken down person is not in a good position to help others. We are able to be of much better service when we are strong. We are often socially engineered by individuals and institutions to sacrifice our own agency to serve interests not our own or of our own choice. I think it’s a beautiful thing to voluntarily share but not to be manipulated or coerced into it. The latter is just being a victim of people who choose to live a parasitic lifestyle.

So what are self-care cards and where do they fit in? There are many types of cards with different information that people have used over the years as reminders or teaching tools. Small cards are portable and fit in a wallet, a planner, a journal, a pocket or wherever so that you can access reminders on the go or wherever it’s convenient. When learning new life habits we might need a touchstone of sorts to keep us on track. Self care cards are just cards with self-care content. They can be purchased, downloaded for printing, or handmade. I often like to use a combination of desktop printing and paper crafting methods to make or decorate self care cards for myself.

What are Project Life cards? Project Life is a commercial product developed by designer Becky Higgins intended to make scrapbooking and related memory crafts easier and less time consuming, and to relate the activity to living well and positive personal goals. Pocket scrapbooking is a generic term for using clear pocket album pages to organize cards and various paper items. Like a lot of people, I picked up the modern form of the hobby of scrapbooking in the 1990s. When I first heard of pocket scrapbooking I was intrigued and purchased some cards to use in conjunction with with my “conventional” scrapbook pages and also in other paper crafts.

Several years ago I purchased the Project Life Cinnamon Core Kit and the Road Trip Theme Pack. These sets featured lots of colors I used a lot, and graphic themes that were complementary to a number of products I already owned.

I’ve used a lot of the cards in scrapbooks and other paper projects over the years but still have a good quantity left. Because some of the Project Life cards feature positive messages and others contain grids or lines to help with journaling or record keeping of various kinds, they are well-suited to use as a base to make self care cards. If you want to make these of course the bases of your cards don’t have to be specifically from Project Life – a variety of products could be used.

One activity that I learned a few years back from a depression support group web page is the acronym G.R.A.P.E.S. It stands for:

  • Being Gentle with yourself
  • Relaxation
  • Achievement
  • Pleasure
  • Exercise
  • Social

The idea behind using this acronym is to try to do one activity on the list from each category every day. From my own experience and from what others have told me who have tried it, even if it isn’t possible to do each category each and every day, striving to do it and tracking the activities each day to make sure one is continually improving does result in better mood and health. It helps you “social engineer” yourself into having a better life. This is anecdotal information of course, but if you delve into scientific research on mental health you will find out why it’s effective. In this project, I’ll show how I made self care cards track the use of activities from the G.R.A.P.E.S. categories. I put more “decoration” on these cards than is strictly needed but it’s fun to use up paper scraps while making cards that fit my own personality. And paper crafting itself is a great way to get the Pleasure “task” checked off for the day!

paper crafting materials

Tools and Materials

Project Life or other cards
Scrap papers in harmonious colors
Scissors
Paper cutter
Glue sticks
Thin markers in black and colors harmonious with chosen color scheme
Small letter stencils
Small letter stickers
Assorted encouraging stickers, die cuts, paper scraps featuring helpful sayings or sentiments, or other appropriate embellishments
Rubber stamping ink – black and harmonious colors
Rubber stamps
Hole punch
Cord or string to loop through hole

First I added paper scraps to the existing Project Life cards I had whenever I wanted to make the existing designs more to my taste. Mostly this consisted of adding paper scrap strips to the borders on some of the cards, leaving the grids or lines in view. Some of the cards were fine the way they were.

Next I assembled a variety of letter stickers from my collection that spelled G.R.A.P.E.S. For more variety, I drew some letters with marker through alphabet stencils and cut those pieces of paper out. I added the letters G.R.A.P.E.S. along the side on on side of the card. Since these cards came with designs on both sides, I used the other sides for spaces to take notes, or for making a mini encouraging collage with stickers and paper ephemera.

When necessary to make a grid to keep track of activities, I added vertical lines with thin markers.

I punched a hole at the top and added some string with a lark’s head knot so that I can use these cards as bookmarks also.

I thought some of the cards needed just a little bit more added to make them looked finished, so I stamped here and there with assorted rubber stamps and added a few more stickers.

As I complete daily activities that fit one of the G.R.A.P.E.S. categories, I’ll put a checkmark in the proper spot on the grid.

Additional Resources:

My article "Self-help Techniques for depression"

Link to a PDF file I made with motivational quotes and graphics with the letters G.R.A.P.E.S. for printing out

My Self Care Pinterest board

Art Journaling Pinterest board

Pinterest board of Planners, Journals, Albums, Scrapbooks and Handmade Books

Scrapbooking Page Sketches Pinterest board - includes a section on pocket scrapbooking

Make a Greeting Card With a Star and Arrow

mixed media greeting cards

I designed this project around some collaged stars I had made awhile back while working on my previous tutorial, Making Greeting Cards From Scrap Papers. If you don’t want to make your stars in that style, you can use any paper or cardstock star of your choice.

This card design uses quite a few tools and materials, so if you are going to get them all out you might as well make several. Having extra cards on hand is a real time saver sometimes!

matching_stars_with_card_colors

Supplies:
Cardstock
Assorted small paper scraps
Decorative paper large enough to make envelopes
Tracing paper
Tape, single and double-sided
Pencil
Scrap chipboard
Glue stick
Black rubber stamping ink
Clean scrap paper
Envelope template – free download here for a template that fits a 5.5 inch x 4.25 inch card – Envelope template for Rectangular Card

Tools:
Greeting Card With Star and Arrow Template (free download here)
Paper cutter
Metal ruler
Self-healing cutting mat
Scissors
Rubber stamps with sentiments
Colored pencils
Prismacolor art stix or similar product (like Conte crayons in more than just basic colors)
Sharpie Pen
Sharpie Twin Tip Marker Fine/Ultra Fine
Squeegee or bone folder tool
Rubber stamp Bubble Border Small or other border stamp
Rubber stamp Rounded Squares and Rectangles Border Large or other border stamp
Stencil for the “awesome” arrow – Mini Word Arrows 6×6 Stencil – if you don’t have that stencil, you can use a stamp, stencil or paper of your choice for the small arrow portion of the card.

star_greeting_card_with_arrow

Instructions:

Download and print out my free template, Greeting Card Sketch – Star With Arrow.

Tape tracing paper over the printed out template, and make tracings in pencil over the star portion, the arrows and the shapes on either side of the star.

Write “front” on the tracings before you remove them from the template.

tracings

You’ll use these tracings to transfer your pencil markings onto the the backs of scraps of chipboard to make templates for tracing and masking.

To transfer, place your scrap chipboard pieces face down and flip your tracing paper over so that the back is facing up. Tape in place and go over your pencil lines. When you lift the tracing paper, you’ll have lines you can follow as you cut.

Out of one piece of chipboard, use a utility knife and a metal ruler to cut the two side shapes and the star out.

cutting_from_back

Make yourself templates for the large and small arrows as well.

cut_outs

Put the front of the card on your work surface and tape the stencil/mask over it. With a thin, light pencil outline the star and two side shapes. These light pencil lines will help you line things up in the later steps. Place the large arrow template where you would like it and trace around it too.

outlining_in_pencil

Stamp in black through the mask onto the front of the card, alternating the border stamps you are using.

stamping

Lift the mask to see that portions of the front of the card are partially filling the cut out shapes. This is a technique you can use with stencils or masks you cut yourself or with purchased stencils.

stamped_template_lifted

At this point, you can choose to erase your pencil guide lines, or disguise them by drawing over them with a marker or color pencil. I drew over mine with harmonious colored pencil colors.

green_web

Choose an art stick color and go over your outlines heavily, and the insides of your shapes lightly.

green_web_2

Choose a 1″ x 5.5″ piece of scrap decorative paper in a harmonious color. Fold it lengthwise, apply glue to the back and use it to cover the fore edge of the card.

Trace the large arrow onto a piece of decorative paper and cut it out. Glue it in place on the front of the card.

Take a bright, lighter piece of paper and tape it to your work surface.  Tape your stencil over the paper so that the paper shows through the word “awesome”. Outline the “awesome” arrow and lettering with a black Sharpie pen, then lift the stencil and finish filling in the arrow with the fine tip of a Sharpie double-sided black marker.

awesome

Glue the star and small arrow to the front of the card. Accent the lower and rightmost edges of the star and small arrow with the thick tip of the double-tipped Sharpie marker.

Make an envelope for your card by tracing Envelope template for Rectangular Card onto the back of a piece of decorative paper, then folding it and taping it together. Your’e done!

Low Tech Faux Postage: Part 2

Finished sheet of faux postage stamps made to put on my 2019 Christmas cards.
Finished sheet of faux postage stamps made to put on my 2019 Christmas cards.

1. Download and print out the two-page PDF file Low Tech Faux Postage. You’ll use the second page for Part 2. (Part 1 is located here: Low Tech Faux Postage: Part 1)

2. With some light colored markers or colored pencils, color around the outside edge of the faux stamp sheet and inside some of the open areas inside the stamps.

Faux postage printouts colored with pencil and markers.
In the image on the left, I’ve colored on the printout with colored pencils. On the right, I used markers and gel pens with stencils.

3. If you own any rubber stamps with postal type words or sayings on them, get them out and stamp them on some white or light colored paper to make parts to collage onto your stamp designs.

rubber stamping words on paper then gluing them down
Stamp out and glue on postal-related words. Then add border stamps in black ink to frame the composition.

4. Tear or cut the words out and glue one onto each rectangle.

5. Take some border stamps and stamp them in black ink around the composition to make a border. I used some fairly bold stamps because the black rectangles in the original printout are pretty bold and dark so a strong border will help balance the whole composition.

6. Add some color with other rubber stamps from your collection.  I’m currently working on Christmas cards and party invitations so I used some rubber stamps that would fit into use on those kinds of items – either on the actual card or on the envelope.

Faux postage sheets with coloring, collage, stamping and stickers.
My husband Tom made the sheet on the left, and I made the one on the right. I decided after adding stamping that my design needed a lot more pizzazz so I got out some stickers and cut them into pieces to add to my composition.

7. When I make a stamp sheet like this that is designed to be viewed as a whole composition as well as single stamps, I take the original and get color copies made of it. Then I cut out individual stamps from the color copies to use on other projects and keep the original to display intact.

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?

Applique Projects with Printed Canvas

group

In this project you can practice your skills in fabric painting, fabric coloring and applique. I had a lot of fun with my stashes of fabric, trim, buttons and threads to create different blends of colors and textures. I used blank burlap bags and fabric remnants to make festive and reusable containers for small holiday gifts of different kinds. I wrote this last year and it didn’t get published by Canvas Corp at that time because they got sold to another company and disbanded their Creative Crew that I was on. It might seem a little early for Christmas projects but if you make your Christmas gifts it’s really not unreasonable to start working on them now. Also you can use the same techniques with different themes to fit the season. I had a ton of fun making these. Enjoy!

Materials
Printed canvas sheets
Burlap wine sacks
Burlap shoulder bags
Assorted burlap, trim and other fabric remnants
Gold fabric paint
Fabric markers
Assorted sewing and embroidery thread including gold metallic
Clean scrap paper
Buttons (optional)

Tools
Small paint brush
Fabric scissors
Tape
Scrap cardboard
Pins
Sewing and embroidery needles
Iron and ironing board

Instructions

Select images from printed canvas sheets by Canvas Corp and cut around them with fabric scissors. Tape an assortment of cutouts to a piece of scrap chipboard or cardboard. Outline the images with gold fabric paint. Let dry, and heat set the paint with an iron if necessary. Place the fabric pieces between two pieces of clean scrap paper to protect the iron and ironing board from paint and ink.

gold_outline

Color the images with fabric markers, and heat set if necessary. The particular fabric markers I used did not require heat setting.

colored_images

Lay out the burlap blanks that you are going to use on a work surface. For my samples I used Canvas Corp wine bag and tote bag blanks. I also had some remnants of burlap that I decided to cut into rectangles to make into little Christmas themed door hangers with pockets that could be used as ornaments or to hold object such as greenery or small gifts. These burlap remnants had a very loose weave so I backed them with green fabric pieces. Match up your decorated printed canvas cutouts with a burlap bag or piece and go through your fabric and trim stash to find scraps that look good layered behind the printed canvas pieces. Pin the trim and fabric remnants together with the printed canvas pieces on top. You might want to leave some fabric edges raw or hem them for slightly different looks. You can explore a lot of design options by working on several pieces at a time. Pin your printed canvas piece on top of the fabric and trim arrangements. Don’t pin the canvas/trim/fabric assemblies to the bags yet – some of the sewing will be easier to do before the assemblies are attached to the bags. Here are a couple of burlap wine bags with pinned assemblages ready to be sewn…

wine_bags

…plus a couple of burlap shoulder bag examples…

tote_bags

…and some rectangles that will become door hangers with the addition of a loop of braided trim for hanging.

door_hangers

Sew around each printed canvas cutout with gold embroidery thread. Secure the trim pieces with embroidery thread in a complementary color. If you want to, add a few buttons or other embellishments as accents. Once all the layers on your assemblage are sewn together, pin the assemblage to the front of your bag and sew in place. You are done!

with_buttons