Over the years I have made some impressive dyed pages (often called ecoprints) with autumn leaves. (To see this tutorial, go here: http://bookandpaperarts.com/bookandpaper/beautiful-paper-dyeing-fall-foliage-leaves-using-eco-printing-techniques/) Recently I tried the same technique with onion skins and wow wow wow, it did not disappoint. Haunting colours, depths, and rust-like patterns, and I don’t have to wait for fall to roll around. Here is a breakdown of how these pages were made. Hopefully you will put it on your list of things to try, and if you have any questions, just get in touch via email or the comments below.
- loose onion skins, purple or yellow or both
- a mordant (optional but I highly suggest it)
- a deep baking dish large enough for your paper
- heavy paper – I use 200 gsm
- twine or cord
- the biggest darn pot you can find – I use a stock pot
- sticks or dowels (optional but helpful)
Okay, how do you gather up a mess of onion skins in the first place? In order to procure a substantial supply you have to be resourceful. My system is to go to the loose onions in the supermarket and when no one is looking, rustle them a bit. The skins loosen and [read more]
Sometimes you have to spend good money for art supplies and sometimes – you don’t. For instance, you can get a lot of beautiful, mysterious, and dramatic effects with leftover tea and coffee for free.
- Tea stained pages. Simply soak pages in strong tea (I use double the tea bags for a heavy brew) for a few minutes for a pale shade or overnight for a deeper patina. If you rotate the pages while still damp, the tea will travel over the paper and then pool in different parts so that the staining is irregular. This can also be done with coffee.
- I prefer to get a light, parchment colour with tea and then use coffee for mark-making. While you can use it straight out of the pot, I always take the day’s leftovers and leave them in an open container overnight. The water evaporates a little making an even stronger brew. (I actually let my coffee evaporate for several days. It is not always intentional – I just get behind on stuff and it sits there waiting for me, getting darker and darker.) You can also use instant coffee and make it even stronger.
Boy do I love using old tea bags in art. There is something mysterious about the translucent layers they make. Added to paper or other substrate, they look like parchment or linen, while allowing any text or image underneath to show through. Here are some suggestions for using tea bags in your art, collage, scrapbook, or other mixed media projects.
– Layering, layering, layering. Brush your glue medium of choice onto the tea bag and place it on the surface you are working with. Bunch it up here and there for added texture. You can then paint or print over that. Or not.
– Rubber stamps. You can get some dramatic effects that look like a tiny print on parchment that you then add to paper or board.
– Guess what doesn’t work. Stencils with ink from a spritzer or mister. What does work are stencils with ink pad. For this I used a Tim Holtz blending tool that you “load” with ink from a pad, then pounce over the stencil.
– Paint. I am not much of a painter but there are artists out there who turned the humble tea bag into a tiny canvas for portraits. Here I have used acrylics, both [read more]
I am deeply attracted to rust-dyed papers and enjoying reading about the technique. It usually seems to involve different combinations of tea, rusty stuff, paper bundles, and a cauldron, and I don’t have room for anything remotely that big, even in my studio, which is a scant 98 square feet and filled to the rafters with ephemera and tea cups. Recently, however, I found a method of dying papers that, while it lacks the eerie depth of mark-making with rust, it is pretty darn lovely; also simple and quick, which makes for near-instant gratification.
Ink (I use a variety of fountain pen inks and homemade walnut ink)
Medium to heavy weight paper or cardstock
A water mister
Ink, Sponge, and Mister
These pages are to be used for a sketchbook. Rather than cut them to size, I tore them, using a ruler as a straightedge. This torn edge is pretty as it mimics a deckled edge, and it absorbs the ink.
Tearing the Edges of Paper
Dip the sponge in the undiluted ink, then dab the edges of the page around all sides.
Now spray the page with the water using your mister/spritzer. Start with the edges, turning the page as you mist. When you [read more]
One of the most beautiful and accessible techniques for decorating pages is with paste paper. For centuries it has been used for endpapers, bookbinding, wallpaper, and other crafts. In the 17th century it was widely used by unmarried Moravian women as a way of supporting themselves at home; their work made its way all over Europe.
Recipes vary, but this is one I have used for years. The alum is a mordant, which helps the color “grab” the paper. (For my U.K. friends, alum can be bought online.)
- ½ cup white flour (cake flour is best but if you don’t have it, don’t sweat it)
- ½ cup corn starch/corn flour
- 1 tablespoon alum
- 1 cup + 1 cup cold water
- 4 cups boiling water
Basically you are creating a homemade paste. Mix flour, corn starch, and alum thoroughly. Add one cup cold water and whisk. Add four cups boiling water and keep stirring with whisk. Place over high heat on stovetop and keep stirring. As mixture thickens, turn the temperature down and let it simmer. It is important to keep stirring constantly for an even texture. I let it cook for about 15 minutes. The mixture will become somewhat translucent and pudding like.
Take off [read more]
The first, best piece of advice I ever received about keeping an illustrated or sketchbook journal was to always, always travel with your supplies and be prepared. I take mine everywhere: walks, restaurants, museums, doctor’s offices, even church – a great place for meditative drawing. If you carry what you need with you along with your sketchbook, you will always be ready to draw at a moment’s notice, no excuses and more importantly, be ready to use small amounts of time where you might ordinarily be staring into space (traffic jams, airplanes, etc.)
If you have never kept a portable studio like this before, don’t worry. Everyone is going to work with different materials to suit their own style and needs, and you may not know what these are until you have tried it for awhile. Also, buying all new supplies can be expensive, although it is perfectly possible to keep a visual diary with little more than a good pen and a glue stick. Just get what you can and add to it when you can. For instance, I couldn’t really afford a whole set of good water color crayons in one go, so I buy one or two whenever [read more]
Join me on Saturday, May 2, for a paste paper workshop at the Garnswllt Hall Activity Centre in Ammanford. This is traditional technique similar to marbling that uses pulling, combing, and other devices to create multi-dimensional designs. Once dry, these paste paper pages can be used for a variety of paper crafts, including card making, bookbinding, and collage. From 10:00 to noon we will make unique paste paper pages. After a break for lunch, we will then use our pages in a variety of crafts from 1:00 to 3:00. The fee is £25. Please pre-register by contacting me at KellyBoler79@gmail.com.
A few weeks ago I was in Asheville, North Carolina. Lots of walking, lots of journal pages, and lots of leaves. I drew leaves. I photographed leaves. But I wished that there was some way to actually get a leaf onto a page, the ones that I was collecting in my pocket as we walked; a tiny bit of the walk and the day. Last year I made walnut ink for the same reason. Sure, I can buy it, but making something out of the trail and the beauty to make other things of beauty after the autumn has passed, this is – I don’t know – a kind of contract that with nature.
It is possible to incorporate flowers and foliage into handmade paper with impressive results, but I don’t make paper, I only use it for book binding and other paper arts. However, after searching about a zillion journal sites online, I found something perfect. It’s called eco-printing. Silly name, great result.
There are several different methods of eco-printing, but so far this is the only one that I have tried.
Choose the right paper. 130 gsm was much too flimsy and tore after soaking. Watercolor paper of 230 [read more]