There's a certain, unmistakeable glow of pride when someone compliments you on something, to which you can say “Thanks, I made it”. Cherish it. Bank it for the future.
Want to try an idea that might help that a long a little? A bit 'Blue Peter'? I prefer to see it as a clever use of household materials destine for the dustbin. Check out the results above! You could print your own wrapping paper, tea towels, cushions, table cloths even. Think of the gifts you could make! It's simple enough to give it a go with children – a perfect activity for a dismal half-term afternoon.
What you'll need…
Anti-clockwise from top left
1. Tracing paper (or greaseproof paper would work) 2. Set square 3. Low-tack tape 4 Fine-tipped permanent marker 5. Sharp craft knife (scissors not shown) 6. Soft pencil (6B works nicely) 7. Wood or craft glue 8. A wood block or flat rigid, water-poof surface 9. Packaging foam or any other dense foam 10. Sponge 11. Foam roller (not shown) 12. Acrylic paints (not shown) 13 Textile medium (not shown) 14 Paper or fabric
1. Creating a design
But I haven't drawn since school! But you don't need to. Finding your design inspiration is easy. I bet you've got photographs on your phone of flowers, leaves, decorative bits and pieces that have caught your eye? You can trace them easily from the screen of your phone. Get the image the size you want, take a screen shot, then open that up, overlay some tracing paper and get tracing the outline. Otherwise, if you can draw, on you go! Just remember to keep the shapes clear and simple, making it easier to cut out later. Don't forget to keep in mind the size of your MDF block you have – that will dictate the scale of your design.
Image: stone carving
2. Making a template design
Cut your drawings out, keeping the tracing paper templates (you'll need them later). Then place them on the foam pad, draw the outline in pen onto the surface of the foam, then cut out your shapes with a sharp craft knife*. Before you get stuck in, test on a spare bit of foam how easily it cuts so you can gauge the pressure you'll need to apply. The elements of your design can be cut separately; you'll piece it together later.
Image: scale your drawing to the size of your block
3. Transferring your design to the block
So you're probably cursing me… 'where am I going to get a block of MDF from'? You can either shamble down to the wood cutting department in your local DIY store, smile sweetly and ask if they have any small off cuts you could have, get your saw out or perhaps use the underside of suitably sized ceramic tile (might dictate the size of your pattern but you'll know what you're working to so you can plan your pattern accordingly) or any other suitably rigid, flat and water-resistant surface.
Image: make paper template to trace your shapes onto your foam
4. Laying out your design
Mark your block into a grid – you'll need this to work out your design layout. Roughly layout your paper templates on the block to make sure they all fit, the design make sense and they have enough clear space around them. If you want to print a repeat pattern that gives you a seamless pattern the instructions are below, but otherwise, if you're happy with your layout, time to get going with the glue. One by one place your foam shapes over the paper ones just to check they fit (often exact shapes and sizes change when you cut them out), make any adjustments you need to by carefully trimming the foam. Then piece by piece, paste the bottom of your foam shapes (double, double check you've got it the right way round just in case!) with strong glue (craft, wood glue or Copydex PVA won't be strong enough) fix onto the block. Once it's dry you can get printing… exciting!
Image: draw a grid onto the block and layout your design
5. A quick and easy cheat repeat;
Place your paper templates in the centre of your marked up block, roughly covering 50% of the total block. Leave a clear area around the edge on all four sides.
As I'm a right-hander, I'm going to start on the right… so take a paper shape, place it into the clear space on the edge of your design on the right. About half of the shape should be poking off the side of your block. Hold it firm, make a few pencil marks around it so you can replace it accurately in a minute. Run your thumb down the paper shape where it overlaps the edge block so you get a defined crease. Now move the shape horizontally over to the left side, using the gird as a guide to place it accurately, making sure the straight edge aligns with the straight edge of the block. If it matches up, cut the shape along the crease line. Then move the right hand portion to the left and the left portion to the right. Still with me? Good, well lets crack on. Now follow exactly the same method for the top and bottom edges, but moving the portions of the shapes vertically.
If you're happy with your placement, cut the foam shapes on the edges in half, as per your templates and glue them in place, then finally glue the middle section down. You can add a little more surface detail by drawing a heated darning needle (protect your hands with oven gloves) over the surface to melt away the surface. Try it on a sample before getting stuck in on your print lock. Let it cool and the glue set, then you're off…
6. Time to get printing
This kind of stamp can be used on paper or fabric. To print onto paper you can use acrylic inks or I've used poster paints with my children. Next step is to apply the paint with a foam roller, then place your stamp onto your paper, pressing down gently to get good contact with the paper. It's a good idea to masking-tape the paper your table so it doesn't slide about or come away as you lift the stamp up after printing. For fabric you can also use acrylics but you'll need to mix them with a textile medium (see the link below for where to buy it) and follow the same method as for paper. You'll need to iron your finished fabric under a clean tea-towel for 5 minutes to fix the colour it before you start laying your dinner plates on it.
Give it a go and let me know how you get on. It would be great to see the results!
Handy link for equipment and stuff:
George Weil: http://www.georgeweil.com
(*If you're going to give this a go with kids please cut the shapes for them if there is any risk they might cut themselves.)