paper holiday: scrap art holiday gift tags by Karen Winter

Paper Holiday Scrap-Art Gift Tags: Crazy and Colorful Gift Embellishments

Our special Paper Holiday magazine has tons of creative ideas for this festive season, including home décor projects, fun-to-make gifts, and techniques for creating beautiful cards and gift wrap. This article, showing how to make cheerful gift tags from paper scraps, offers a taste of what’s inside the issue! –Jeannine
This holiday season, I decided to tweak my usual ATCs (artist trading cards) and design some fun, sparkly, crazy, and colorful holiday gift tags. These tags can be made in a variety of sizes, in any theme you like, and with any scraps that you’ve been holding onto. This is one of those projects that you don’t have to buy anything . . . that is, unless you want to.

paper holiday: scrap art holiday gift tags by Karen Winter

(These holiday gift tags were originally featured in Paper Holiday 2014-2015.)

Holiday Gift Tags Materials
  • paper and scraps for the basic tags and collage (cardstock, magazine cutouts, old children’s book illustrations, collage sheets, pictures, etc.)
  • scissors
  • rubber stamps
  • ink pads in various colors
  • adhesive of choice
  • pens and crayons (I used Sakura Glaze™ and Souffle™ pens, a black Copic® marker, Sharpie® poster paint, and DecoColor™ acrylic paint markers.)
  • sewing machine and thread
  • Glimmer Mist by Tattered Angels
  • eyelets and eyelet-setting tool
  • ribbon
  • Glossy Accents™ INKssentials™
  • Stickles™ by Ranger

How Make Holiday Gift Tags

  1. Select the papers for the background of the basic tags, and decide on the size and shape of your tags. Don’t fret too much; most of the base will be covered up in the process of completing your tags.
    paper holiday: scrap art holiday gift tags by Karen Winter
  2. Cut out your tags. The tags can be any size and shape you want. Design your own shapes or buy pre-made tags to use as templates, and simply trace them onto your paper and cut them out. (Get our free gift tag downloads!)
  3. Ink all of the edges of the paper tags with an ink pad. I enjoy using colors that you would not normally put together; I like the colors to clash.

Note: I wanted to keep the shape of my holiday gift tags interesting, so I chose two different shaped tags that fit well together color-wise and played with putting them together as one tag.

paper holiday: scrap art holiday gift tags by Karen Winter

  1. Start layering paper onto the tag with your adhesive. The more layers you add, the more depth your tag design will have. At this point, I really have no idea what I want my tags to look like. I simply go through my box of paper scraps, magazine clippings, etc., and start adding some interesting pieces to the tags. The key is not to think about it too much.
  2. Choose and add your focal point (or main image) to the tag. I chose to use animals.
Ideas for Fabulous Images
  • Look in thrift stores and antique markets for old royalty-free images.
  • Use the backs of old playing cards.
  • Look online. There are great sources for collage images.
  • Search out vintage books.

paper holiday: scrap art holiday gift tags by Karen Winter

  1. Add more papers to make the piece cohesive. Play with the paper scraps until you feel there is enough layering. Consider adding borders or text over the focal image. I found some great holiday sentiments and text in old song books.

 Tip: Add a little bit of fun. I added some festive holiday hats to my woodland friends.

  1. Play with the different pens and markers in lots of different colors. Add some doodling, some dots; have fun with it. On some of my images I used a white paint marker and faded out the background images and/or colors.
    paper holiday: scrap art holiday gift tags by Karen Winter
  2. Using a minimal amount of glue, adhere the tags to a large sheet of decorative paper, and then sew all around the edges of each tag. I picked some simple, brightly colored solid cardstock. After you sew around the tags, cut out each individual tag shape.

paper holiday: scrap art holiday gift tags by Karen Winter

Finishing the Holiday Gift Tags
  1. Decorate the back of the tag. I rubbed the back of the tag with a variety of colored ink pads. I also randomly sprayed the tags with Glimmer Mist, did some stamping, and then drew some lines and added “To” and “From” to each tag.
  2. Add an eyelet to each tag, and insert a ribbon, string, or some thread through the eyelet.
  3. Add a little glitz. I used Glossy Accents and Stickles to highlight my focal point. Sparkles and glitter say holiday to me. Allow the tags to dry overnight.

 

More Ideas for Gift Tags
  • Use up those spools of thread that don’t have enough thread left to do a large project, but have too much thread to just toss out. Decorate with the thread or gather some strands together to use as the tie string.
  • Personalize your tags by stamping the name of the recipient right on the tag.
  • Add a touch of fabric with rickrack or some remnant ribbon.
  • Use leftover yarn as the tie for your tag.

paper holiday: scrap art holiday gift tags by Karen Winter

Holiday Gift Tags as Gifts

These gift tags are a great little project to use up a lot of the odds and ends that have a way of accumulating in your studio, and they make a nice gift in themselves. Make a set, six, or a dozen. Wrap them in a pretty basket and give them to your party host, or tie one to a bottle of wine. I am sure whoever ends up with one of your holiday gift tags will cherish your miniature work of art.

Save a bundle with our holiday crafting bundle!

Get more holiday gift ideas in our handmade holiday gift guide!

Karin Winter moved to the United States from the Netherlands when she married. She has always had a love of arts, sewing, and creating with papers and fabrics. Karin lives in Peyton, Colorado, with her husband Josh, four young sons, and a beautiful little daughter.


Get your holiday crafts, decorations, and gift-making started with these inspiring resources!

improve your hand lettering with Lettering Lessons

Lettering Lessons 2018: Have Fun with Hand Lettering and Marie Browning

Marie Browning’s Lettering Lesson is full of fun ideas for hand lettering and for embellishing hand lettering with design and color. You’ll fall in love with brush-tip watercolor markers when you learn Marie’s tricks for making the marker work for you in creating artful designs and flourishes.

Add color and interest to your hand lettering with Marie’s tips and tricks.

If hand lettering has you stymied, Marie’s Fat Font letters will give you the confidence you need to create all kinds of hand-lettered art. Begin by drawing some guideline, then pencil in a word or phrase using Fat Font letters. Use a ruler if you’re looking for perfection, or jump right in. You’ll see my hand-lettered Fat is a little wonky; I used a ruler for writing Font. The fun begins when you add doodles and line within the letters. Notice I used a different design in each of the letters here.

improve your hand lettering with Lettering Lessons
If you’re a doodler, like I am, you’ll love choosing an array of designs to fill the letters.

Add Color to Hand Lettering Designs

Adding color to hand lettering adds to the fun. I wanted these letters to stand out, so I used lots of different colors, filling some of the letters more than others to mix it up a bit. I also added “is fun” in cursive to complete this piece.

improve your hand lettering with Lettering Lessons
Mixing different fonts within hand lettering adds to the interest of a hand-lettered design.

Hand lettering is always fun, but not quite as much fun as adding embellishments with a brush-tip marker. I was amazed how easy it was to create these designs, as well as how much they added to the piece. For “Grateful,” I wrote the word with a brush tip, used a fine-tip marker to draw the branches, then added autumn berries and leaves with the brush tip.

improve your hand lettering with Lettering Lessons
Make your markers work for you, creating all kinds of marks and designs as well as artful letters.

I loved the look of Marie’s strings of holiday lights, so I surrounded the word joy, creating a festive holiday piece. A fine-tip marker was used to create the string and a brush tip for the holiday lights.

improve your hand lettering with Lettering Lessons
A brush-tip marker is perfect for adding creative designs to hand lettering.
“Bee” Patient

“Bee happy” was a lot of fun to create, but I learned a lesson: Let the first marker layer dry before adding the second. The black lines on my bees bled because the orange was still wet. So, a little patience is in order for layering color. I created the bee’s bodies with Marie’s oval technique, and the teardrop technique was used for the wings. Their flight patterns were created with a fine-tip marker. I was disappointed that the lines bled, but will remember this lesson for sure.

improve your hand lettering with Lettering Lessons
Add color, shapes, designs, and more with watercolor markers. Just remember, sometimes you have to be patient when hand lettering.

Whether you’re new to hand lettering or it’s a daily activity for you, it’s always fun to add to your technique arsenal with new tools and ideas. The techniques in Marie Browning’s Lettering Lesson will keep you creating and happy for quite some time. Looking for more inspiration? Check out more Cloth Paper Scissors Lettering Lessons.

Happy lettering!
Barb


Try more Lettering Lessons to improve your hand lettering techniques.

making custom stencils and masks using recycled materials

Studio Saturday: Making Custom Stencils and Masks From Recycled Items

The Fall 2018 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors is all about recycling materials for mixed-media art, which got me thinking about making custom stencils and masks from repurposed items. The great thing about custom stencils is that they can be tailored to your project and your style. Today I’ll show you a few easy ideas for making one-of-a-kind stencils and masks that you can start using right away in your artwork.

making custom stencils and masks using recycled materials
Making custom stencils is so easy, and they can add a distinctive look to your artwork.

Making Custom Stencils with Plastic

We’ll start with one of my favorite materials: plastic. Look around and you’ll discover tons of items made of plastic or rubber that make great stencils: mesh produce bags, sink and tub liners, placemats, and gloves. I found some plastic shelf liner with an open pattern that I thought would be great for stenciling. After prepping an art journal spread with clear gesso and letting it dry, I dabbed some acrylic paint onto a cosmetic wedge and rubbed it over the shelf liner in several spots on the page. It looked so great I did the same with another color.

When that was dry, I cut my own stencil from cardstock, using a craft knife. For more permanent custom stencils, you can use stencil film with a craft knife or a stencil cutter. But I felt like going old school and just cut random shapes with a knife. You can draw a design first, but I felt like just going for it, since the shapes were basic and abstract.

That design was stenciled in several areas on the page, again using two colors. Since some of the acrylic paints I was using were translucent, layering colors gave me some cool effects.

making custom stencils and masks using recycled materials
Items that can be used for making custom stencils and masks are all around. Open your eyes to the possibilities!

I brushed some lime green paint in a few areas and, while it was still wet, placed the cardstock stencil on top and wiped away the paint through the openings. This reverse stencil technique is facilitated by the gesso layer, so don’t skip the gesso!

making custom stencils and masks using recycled materials
If your cardstock stencil starts to get a little wet, allow it to dry before using it again.

When I looked at the page, I realized it needed some darker values, so I spattered some magenta paint with a paintbrush.

making custom stencils and masks using recycled materials
Get tons of use out of your custom stencils by using them with paint, ink, crayons, pencils, and pastels.

Making Custom Stencils from Magazines

Another really fun technique for making custom stencils is cutting out images from magazines and catalogs. These images can be people, animals, flowers and trees, furniture–practically anything that’s recognizable as a silhouette.

When you’re looking for images, focus on the outline and try to discern if it would make a good stencil. For people, I look for arms and legs separated from the body and clothing that isn’t too voluminous. If you’re not sure if an image will make a good stencil, trace the outline and then decide. For this image of a horse, I removed the rider and modified the tail.

making custom stencils and masks using recycled materials
Modify an image suit your needs by adding to it or taking away certain parts.

Copy the image onto cardstock or lighter weight paper (sizing it larger or smaller if necessary), and cut it out with a craft knife.

I used an image from a fashion magazine as a mask, stenciling the design across the page. Using a cosmetic wedge and semi-opaque Payne’s gray acrylic paint, I dabbed the paint just around the outline, so it wouldn’t interfere with subsequent images.

making custom stencils and masks using recycled materials
Magazines, catalogs, and old books are terrific sources for stencil and mask images. By copying them onto cardstock, you never have to touch the original.

After stenciling the horse image across the top several times, I went back in with a paintbrush and more Payne’s gray and covered the areas in between the images.

making custom stencils and masks using recycled materials
How much of the background you want to cover is up to you!

When that was finished, I thought the piece need a little something more. So I drew white dots around some of the stenciled images with a white paint pen, then created little circles in various spots.

making custom stencils and masks using recycled materials
After stenciling, look at your piece and determine what it needs. More details? Some collage?

I love the pop art look of this and the fact that it was done with custom stencils and masks. I have tons of commercial stencils that I love using in my mixed-media art, but it’s fun to create something unique and see how it inspires you.

Two Quick Ideas for Custom Stencils

Use real or faux leaves and flowers as masks. Here, I dry-brushed orange paint onto a tag, then used a silk maple leaf as a mask, dabbing acrylic paint around the outside with a cosmetic wedge.

making custom stencils and masks using recycled materials
Use real or faux leaves and flowers to create one-of-a-kind masks for tags, art journal pages, and collage.

Metal gear embellishments were used as stencils for this tag. Two colors of spray paint were applied over the stencils, and when dry, the gears were removed. Bonus: the gears got a boost from the paint, too!

making custom stencils and masks using recycled materials
See what kind of designs you can make with spray paint and paper clips, rubber bands, or feathers.

Here’s a great tutorial on using stencils with watercolor from artist Danielle Donaldson.


Learn more about making custom stencils and using stencils in your art!

The Art of Unplugging from Social Media

Unplugging from our online lives seems like the easiest thing to do, but it isn’t for many of us. In our connected, information-driven world, we have become zombie slaves to the web and the thousands of images it wants to show us every time we pick up our phones.

Nothing I do is more nourishing for my soul than my annual social media fast. For the past five years, I have unplugged from all social media for at least one month. It is a precious time for me, and I begin to crave it deeply as the time approaches. Life is peaceful and quiet when we inhabit our world like we did in 1999—only email, nothing else. I have to use social media for my brand, so I can’t just dip a toe in. I have to go in all the way. I manage my social media myself, so my social media siesta is a respite for my spirit.

Photo by Jill McNamara

Artists, designers, and makers are compelled to participate in social media to support their bottom line. But that involvement comes with many unpleasant side effects, no matter how much we enjoy sharing and connecting with family and friends online. Sometimes we can’t hear our own inspiration over the sound of the noisy Internet.

Using social media has been shown to contribute to mental health issues, such as low self-esteem, depression, and addiction. It can also be numbing and distracting. We self-medicate with the wash of information cascading before our eyes, much like the green waterfalls of data streaming in The Matrix. With every “like” we get, we receive a hit of dopamine. It feels good, so it becomes difficult to stop. We must make conscious choices about how we want to engage online for our well-being.

I tend to unplug in the summer. I live in the sun-soaked Arizona desert, so our summer involves a lot of indoor time, as winter does for Minnesotans. We are able to enjoy life’s simple pleasures with our loved ones, seeking cool and shade. My kids are off from school, and I usually don’t have much to promote in the way of fabric or art during the summer. Luxuriating in the long days, fully present with my family, is wonderful and it enriches all of us.

Your time of self-reflection may be in the heart of winter, and that might be an ideal time for you to unplug. Regardless of when you take this break, it will enrich your creativity.

Creativity requires true presence, paying attention to the everyday moments: reading books, talking to family and friends, working in the garden, painting, baking, sewing, breathing. Being. We have to see the magic in our own lives without all the inspiring images of Pinterest or Instagram.

When Virginia Woolf was writing or Henri Matisse was painting, they spent hours upon hours alone with their work. Sharing it required the presence of friends in close proximity. They created and birthed their work without concerning themselves with showing and sharing it, which is something we have lost sight of. We finish our work and we share right away, sometimes before the paint is dry. Then, if we don’t get the feedback we want, we think perhaps the work is flawed. But that’s usually not it at all. Social media sites use algorithms that control how many people see our posts at a given time of day. That is a perfect example of how social media can negatively impact your state of mind.

So, give it a try. Just stop. Take a social media break and engage deeply with the world around you.

Photo by Carrie Bloomston

Some of us can’t totally unplug, because we are designers or makers who rely on social media to make a living. If that’s the case, take mini-breaks.

Here are my self-prescribed rules and regulations for healthy social media engagement:

1. Remove social media apps from your phone. This forces you to concentrate your social media posting from your computer or laptop. Choose a time of day, or two, and do all posting at those times.

2. Only post if you have something meaningful to contribute.

3. During your mini-fast from social media, do your best not to look at others’ posts. If you have to pop on to post something, get in, get out, and don’t make eye contact. It’s too easy to get distracted and start mindlessly scrolling.

4. Front-load a week or two by creating drafts for Instagram of all your posts so when you sign on you can share them, and not linger.

5. Use an app such as Hootsuite to manage all your social media posts from one place, posting on multiple platforms with one click.

6. Take a weekend “technology Shabbat,” if you can’t unplug fully.

7. During your partial fast, consciously, mindfully inhabit the real world as much as possible. Don’t check out while waiting in carpool lines or at the dentist.

8. Keep your art materials close by. You’ll be surprised how much more time and desire you have to work with your hands when you’re fully present in your day.

9. Most importantly, try to live small. Live close. Live local. Focus on what is native and nearby you in every moment. Notice people’s faces, the texture of the walls, the feeling of standing at your kitchen sink. Plant your feet wherever you are and just inhale and exhale. Do that until you feel yourself land in your body. Steal a few minutes of mindfulness whenever and wherever you can. Carry that momentary awareness into washing the dishes, helping with homework, painting, or waiting in line. Be present in all you do.


Carrie Bloomston is an abstract painter, textile designer for Windham Fabrics, creativity enabler, mom, and author of The Little Spark: 30 Ways to Ignite Your Creativity. She lives with her inspiring family in the desert of Phoenix, Arizona. Visit her online at carriebloomston.com.


This column also appears in our Fall 2018 edition of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine.

Check out our lookbook preview to see more of the mixed-media art inside this issue!

What you see is what you’ll get when using transparencies to test ideas.

Sandrine Pelissier’s 4 Tips for Trying Out Patterns

Patterns are a fun addition to any design, but they can be very time consuming to create, especially for large projects. Before committing to an idea, it is nice to be able to visualize how a color or a pattern will look so you can more confidently apply it to your work.

Save yourself time and trouble by trying out patterns and colors before making them permanent on your artwork with easy techniques from Sandrine Pelissier. (All artwork and photos by Sandrine Pelissier.)
Save yourself time and trouble by trying out patterns and colors before making them permanent on your artwork with easy techniques from Sandrine Pelissier. (All artwork and photos by Sandrine Pelissier.)

Here are four techniques for trying out patterns and colors to see if they work.

1. Use Tracing Paper

Because of its translucency, tracing paper can be an artist’s best friend when it comes to auditioning designs for artwork.
Because of its translucency, tracing paper can be an artist’s best friend when it comes to auditioning designs for artwork.

I find tracing paper very convenient for trying out designs. You can make a few quick copies of your drawings and then use colored pencils, felt-tip markers, or ink to try out different ideas.

A variety of color media work well on tracing paper.
A variety of color media work well on tracing paper.

The test drawings often end up being an interesting work of art by themselves.

Don’t toss your test drawings of patterns---they can work as stand-alone art!
Don’t toss your test drawings of patterns—they can work as stand-alone art!

If you like some of the designs you’ve drawn on tracing paper, you can also mount them on thicker paper with acrylic medium, as I did with this self-portrait.

Turn your test runs into unique backgrounds for mixed-media art.
Turn your test runs into unique backgrounds for mixed-media art.

The tracing paper might wrinkle a bit when you mount it on paper, but you can make the texture part of the design by painting over it with washes.

2. Use Transparent Plastic Sheets on a Painting

Transparent sheets are perfect for trying an idea on a painting or a drawing without having to touch the artwork. This works especially well with paint, but won’t work with dry pastels, colored pencils, or any medium that needs some tooth to adhere to the surface.

Among the different kinds of transparent sheets you can use are Mylar® and Dura-Lar®. Simply place the paper on top of your painting and brush paint on top. Use a paintbrush to apply acrylic paint to the surface of the Mylar and Dura-Lar.

What you see is what you’ll get when using transparencies to test ideas.
What you see is what you’ll get when using transparencies to test ideas.

You can also use the plastic to try on patterns using a marker or a dip pen.

Try out detailed designs created with dip pens or markers.
Try out detailed designs created with dip pens or markers.

3. Make Pattern Samples on Paper

Paper samples are fun to make, and you can always reuse them in a collage project. Placing them on your design will help you see if a color or a pattern will work or not.

Even a small pattern sample on paper can let you see if the design will be a good fit.
Even a small pattern sample on paper can let you see if the design will be a good fit.
Creating several paper samples offers lots of options for adding patterns on things like clothing.
Creating several paper samples offers lots of options for adding patterns on things like clothing.

Small paper samples are also a quick way to audition patterns on a large piece before committing to draw them.

Working large? No problem---even trying out small samples of patterns is helpful.
Working large? No problem—even trying out small samples of patterns is helpful.

4. Use Dry Pastels

Dry pastels are awesome for testing colors on any acrylic painting or waterproof surface.

Try a dry medium like pastel directly on a waterproof surface.
Try a dry medium like pastel directly on a waterproof surface.

Trace contours or color an area with pastels, see how it looks, and take off the pastel with a wet cloth so you can apply paint instead.

Your finger is the only tool you need to smudge colors onto your surface.
Your finger is the only tool you need to smudge colors onto your surface.

To cover a large surface, smudge pastels with your fingers. As long as the layer underneath the pastel is waterproof, you will be able to wash it off once you decide on a color.

On the painting below left, I tried a shade of blue for the vase with pastels but didn’t like how it looked. I washed it off and finally decided to use a lighter green, below right. (Paintings are from Painting Imaginary Flowers: Beautiful Blooms and Abstract Patterns in Mixed Media.)

Sometimes you don’t know if something will work until you try it---and these techniques make the process painless!
Sometimes you don’t know if something will work until you try it—and these techniques make the process painless!

Do you have any techniques you’d like to share for trying on ideas for your artwork? Let us know in the comments.

Sandrine Pelissier is originally from France and has been living in North Vancouver, Canada for the past 20 years. Her work has been collected and exhibited extensively in Canada and internationally. Many of her paintings have been published in art books and magazines, including The Artist’s Magazine, Watercolor Artist Magazine, Acrylic Magazine, and International Artist Magazine. Sandrine is the author of Fearless Watercolor for Beginners: Adventurous Painting Techniques to Get You Started, and Painting Imaginary Flowers: Beautiful Blooms and Abstract Patterns in Mixed Media, both from North Light Books. See more of Sandrine’s work on her website.

Get more great techniques from Sandrine about adding visual texture to your artwork with dip pens in this guest blog post!


Sandrine is our Artist of the Month for October! Check out her new book and videos for fun, innovative techniques in mixed-media art.

make mixed-media art with vintage ephemera:

Make Projects Galore with Our Vintage Ephemera Kit!

Collecting vintage ephemera is one of my passions, and I love sharing my finds with people. That’s why I’m thrilled to tell you that we’ve put together a limited collection of ephemera that’s part of our new Vintage Ephemera Kit, which also includes the books Storytelling with Collage and The Art of Expressive Collage. These ephemera pieces, including book and ledger pages, labels, game and quiz cards, and much more, are from my personal stash. And they’re ready for you to use in your next mixed-media masterpiece!

make mixed-media art with vintage ephemera:
This one-of-a-kind kit includes a fantastic array of ephemera and embellishments. Get yours today!

You likely know that ephemera is a staple of mixed media, with artists using it for junk journals, collage, tags, cards, art journaling, assemblage, printmaking, jewelry—yeah, pretty much everything. In the pages of Cloth Paper Scissors, you can find tons of great projects that incorporate ephemera, and the ideas and techniques artists come up with are so inspiring.

Here’s a peek at what you’ll get in the kit:

make mixed-media art with vintage ephemera: Each includes book and ledger pages, game and quiz cards, buttons, postage stamps, embroidery thread, and much more.
Each includes book and ledger pages, game and quiz cards, buttons, postage stamps, embroidery thread, and much more.

A limited number of these ephemera kits are available, so don’t wait until it’s too late! The items in the kit date from the mid-1800s to the 1960s, and all are authentic, with no reproductions. Some of the ledger and book pages are made of cotton or linen rag paper, which predated wood pulp paper. You don’t need to scour thrift stores or wade through flea markets to find fantastic ephemera. I’ve done all the work to bring you the best of the best.

You’ll find tons of ideas and techniques for how to incorporate ephemera in all types of mixed-media projects in both books included with the kit. I love creating with ephemera, and I’ve put together a little best-of sampling of blog tutorials that feature ephemera, in case you’re looking for some instant inspiration. Read all the way through—there are two new quick and easy projects at the end!

Paper Flowers

Making flowers out of found papers is one of the most fun things to do, and they look gorgeous. In this post, I show how to make a rose and a poppy from book pages. The process is so easy and completely addictive.

make mixed-media art with vintage ephemera: Use the ephemera in the kit to make exquisite paper roses that never fade.
Use the ephemera in the kit to make exquisite paper roses that never fade.
Paper Dresses

In the Fall 2018 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors, UK artist Jennifer Collier shows how to make the most charming dresses out of book and music pages. I incorporated her techniques for making sewn pleats and piping to make this miniature dress, which has a skirt made out of ledger pages and a blouse made from sheet music. Here are the instructions to make it.

make mixed-media art with vintage ephemera: Make a paper dress using all the mixed-media techniques you love, including stenciling, painting, and stitching.
Make a paper dress using all the mixed-media techniques you love, including stenciling, painting, and stitching.
Handmade Books and Journals

Ephemera is a wonderful addition to handmade books and junk journals, and that’s where a lot of my collection ends up. In this tutorial, I show how to make mini travel journals from postcards and use ephemera for the inside pages. Book pages made from ephemera alleviate blank page fear, making books more enjoyable to work in. The text and images offer great possibilities for painting, doodling, drawing, collage, etc.

make mixed-media art with vintage ephemera: Fill a handmade book with ephemera and you won’t have to wonder how to fill blank pages.
Fill a handmade book with ephemera and you won’t have to wonder how to fill blank pages.

This book was made using the techniques from Rachel Hazell’s article “Books that Speak” in the January/February 2018 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors. Rachel shows how to create a small accordion book with a narrative built from ephemera enhanced with drawings, paintings, and words.

make mixed-media art with vintage ephemera: Pieces of disparate ephemera come together to make a cohesive narrative in this accordion book.
Pieces of disparate ephemera come together to make a cohesive narrative in this accordion book.

Going through my stash, it was easy to pull pieces that had special meaning to me, like a book illustration, part of a map, and a postage stamp. I quickly developed a cohesive idea that could be spread across the folded pages. Read more about how I made this book, and Rachel’s beautiful books, here.

Cyanotype Prints

Recently I made some cyanotype prints and included them in several projects. In one, I painted a large ledger page and used that as the backdrop for a cyanotype made from a vintage glass plate negative. The ledger page, with its subtle handwritten words, really allows the focal image to shine.

make mixed-media art with vintage ephemera:Pieces of ephemera can play starring roles and be supporting players in your artwork.
Pieces of ephemera can play starring roles and be supporting players in your artwork.

Two New Ways to Use Ephemera

Handmade Envelope

Okay, on to the new tutorials! I used the large hand-written ledger page to create an envelope for a special card. To start, I carefully opened up an existing envelope and used it as a template, tracing it onto the page (If you need a different size, scan the template and make it larger or smaller.). I cut the shape out with a craft knife, then stenciled the envelope with a light coat of acrylic paint, allowing the handwriting to show through. Using rubber stamps, I created two labels, stamping the images onto a blank ledger sheet.

make mixed-media art with vintage ephemera: Adding glaze or extender to acrylic paint makes it less opaque and perfect for stenciling or painting over ephemera.
Adding glaze or extender to acrylic paint makes it less opaque and perfect for stenciling or painting over ephemera.

The envelope liner was made from a portion of the atlas page; a liner is optional, of course, but it makes a great presentation. To make the liner, I traced the flap and center portion of the template, then cut just inside the lines. I adhered the liner with glue stick.

make mixed-media art with vintage ephemera: Use ephemera to create a liner for an envelope, a special detail that won’t go unnoticed.
Use ephemera to create a liner for an envelope, a special detail that won’t go unnoticed.
Tag Pocket

To make a tag pocket, I painted the smaller hand-written ledger page from the kit with Dr. Ph. Martin’s Hydrus Fine Art Watercolor in blue aqua, which is a gorgeous, vibrant color. To give the manila tag a little interest, I dipped it in walnut ink and sprinkled some walnut ink crystals on while it was still wet.

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I folded the ledger paper in half to create pockets on both sides of the tag. Then I trimmed the paper with pinking shears and decorated with little flags punched from the atlas page. By gluing a scrap of vintage necktie material (included in the kit) to the top of the game card, the card became a fun tag.

I took all the tag and envelope components to my sewing machine and stitched around the pocket tag, the game card, and the envelope with dark blue-gray thread. Lastly, I adhered labels and a vintage postage stamp (yep, the stamps are in the kit) to the envelope. Wouldn’t that pocket tag be great in a travel journal?

"make

Don’t hesitate—these kits will be gone soon, so make sure you get yours today. Just think of what you can make! I hope you have as much fun with this unique ephemera as I did.


Get creative with our vintage ephemera kit!

ink drawing for Inktober:

Improve Your Ink Skills During Inktober!

Tomorrow is October 1st, the kickoff to Inktober, a month when artists challenge themselves to create an ink drawing every day. Are you in? I hope so—I look forward to this event every year. I always encourage artists to take part in Inktober if they can, since it’s a great opportunity to take your creativity and art practice up several notches.

Artist Jake Parker created Inktober in 2009 as a way to develop his inking skills and encourage positive drawing habits. Since then, the annual event has exploded, and artists all around the world take part. Find fellow inkers on social media with the hashtag #Inktober. If you want to know more about Inktober, go to inktober.com.

ink drawing for Inktober: Getting prepped for Inktober is fun! Choose some ink pens that you’d like to work with, and create something—anything—with them every day during October.
Getting prepped for Inktober is fun! Choose some ink pens that you’d like to work with, and create something—anything—with them every day during October.

Each year I choose something different to focus on for Inktober. Last year I challenged myself to work more with dip pens and ink, and the process was so enlightening. Dip pens can be intimidating, since they’re most closely associated with formal calligraphy. But they’re actually easy to use and capable of making even the most humble line look like a work of art. The lovely thicks and thins, drips and puddles, and lights and darks of the ink are so beautiful.

Use dip pens and ink to sketch, write, or make marks, and they’ll immediately loosen you up. I’m sometimes a little stressed when I head into my workspace, so using a dip pen is like therapy for me. The unpredictability of the ink and the funkiness of the pen remind me that great things happen when you let go, and that it’s okay not to control the process all the time.

This year I wanted to keep going with pen and ink, but also explore pens I’ve amassed from trips to the art store. Inktober is the perfect catalyst to get those items out and use them. If you don’t have a lot of pens in your stash, now is a great time to see what’s available. Technology has given us a fantastic variety of nibs and inks to work with, and pens are a staple in so many areas of mixed media, such as art journaling, collage, Zendoodle, and mixed-media painting.

ink drawing for Inktober: The variety of ink pens available to artists is enormous! During Inktober check out a few new ones and see what they can add to your mixed-media artwork
The variety of ink pens available to artists is enormous! During Inktober check out a few new ones and see what they can add to your mixed-media artwork

To warm up for the challenge, a few days ago I got out a Soft Brush Faber-Castell PITT artist pen in Dark Indigo and a smooth-paper journal to record my experiments. Oh my gosh, that Dark Indigo color. To me it looks like a version of my favorite Payne’s gray, a dark blue-gray hue that’s the color of a cloudy night sky.

I must confess, I find brush pens daunting. They’re used a lot for lettering, which is always a challenge for me. For drawing, I use a pencil or a fine-line pen, not a brush tip. But I discovered that this flexible brush nib had so much to offer. I was able to create beautiful scrolled lines and subtle shading by pressing and lifting the nib. I thought the designs would make great borders for an art journal page.

ink drawing for Inktober: The soft brush nib of this Faber-Castell PITT artist pen lets you create beautiful swirls and curves, lettering, and more.
The soft brush nib of this Faber-Castell PITT artist pen lets you create beautiful swirls and curves, lettering, and more.

Layering colors over the ink is easy. I tried a white gel pen, shimmery acrylic ink, and pigment ink, and they all worked well.

This pen is forgiving enough that creating lettering using my own handwriting looked pretty good—even better when I shaded it a bit with a pigment pen. And by pressing just the nib of the brush pen against the paper, I could create small teardrop-shaped marks.

ink drawing for Inktober: During Inktober, keep your tests and experiments in a journal that you can refer back to. Here, I catalogued my explorations with a soft brush Faber-Castell PITT artist pen.
During Inktober, keep your tests and experiments in a journal that you can refer back to. Here, I catalogued my explorations with a soft brush Faber-Castell PITT artist pen.

Next, I broke out my four-set of Copic Multiliners in Sepia; these fine-nib pens have waterproof pigment-based ink that’s archival. The nib sizes range from 0.05 to 0.5. I quickly discovered that these strong nibs are great for sketching, and having a choice of nib widths in the set means you can easily add details and depth.

But the big revelation was that before the inks are completely dry, the color spreads a bit with water. This is a great way to add simple shading, and it turns a plain sketch into something special. Also, I love the shade—sepia and sanguine are two of my favorite colors to draw with.

ink drawing for Inktober: This set of sepia Copic Multiliners comes in four nib widths that are great for drawing, doodling, and mark making.
This set of sepia Copic Multiliners comes in four nib widths that are great for drawing, doodling, and mark making.

Next, to get a little more experience with pen and ink, I gathered a jar of Winsor & Newton Calligraphy Ink in Indian red, a couple of pointed dip pens, and a watercolor brush. I also pulled out a Fabriano Studio Watercolor Pad (hot press) and played a bit with the ink, diluting it with water and using it as paint, then when dry, adding some loose lines with a dip pen.

ink drawing for Inktober: Working on large sheets of practice paper allows you the freedom to try different strokes and pressures with the dip pen.
Working on large sheets of practice paper allows you the freedom to try different strokes and pressures with the dip pen.

After that I brushed some Daniel Smith Transparent Watercolor Ground onto a sheet of vintage ledger paper and painted some loose flowers in diluted ink. When that was dry, I outlined the shapes with the dip pen, letting the ink flow any way it wanted to. Smaller flowers were painted on a separate sheet of ledger paper, cut out, and glued onto the piece for a little dimension.

ink drawing for Inktober: Try drawing on found papers, like ledger paper or book text. Brush on a ground if necessary to make drawing and writing easier and give you better results.
Try drawing on found papers, like ledger paper or book text. Brush on a ground if necessary to make drawing and writing easier and give you better results.

Thank goodness Inktober goes for 31 days—that gives me lots of time to play with more pens and inks, and think of ways to incorporate them into my mixed-media work. I’m all in for this challenge, and I hope you are too!

Find more useful mixed-media ink techniques in this blog.


We have some terrific books, magazines, and videos to make your Inktober experience a great one! Check out these resources:

Studio Saturday: The Miracle of an Organized Art Studio

My office here at Cloth Paper Scissors Central doubles as my secondary art studio. To produce projects for blog posts, it makes sense (and saves time) to create things where I work. Recently I did a big one-day cleaning/overhaul, and it’s made a huge difference in my mood and my energy. Although it may seem counterintuitive, I believe organization and routine are huge creativity boosters.

Yes, I said organization and routine—the very things that some people think are crushers of imagination and inspiration. But being organized and having a routine will free you from the chaos of disorder and allow you to create more confidently and more freely. Doesn’t that sound great?

When your art studio is clean and organized, you’re likely more motivated to spruce it up with attractive storage.
When your art studio is clean and organized, you’re likely more motivated to spruce it up with attractive storage.

Save Time and Energy with Art Studio Organization

I’ll admit that slovenliness is my true nature. As a child, my room was always a mess, and that really hasn’t changed throughout my life. But as good as I am at making a mess, I’m also great at cleaning up and organizing—call it the duality of me. I can only work in disarray in my art studio for so long until I simply can’t stand it, and a full-on cleanup ensues.

Once that happens I feel so liberated, so ready to try new techniques and tackle those back burner projects. Sometimes we aren’t even aware of how much stress a messy workplace can cause until it’s neat and tidy again. When the hassles of having to hunt for that one scrap of vintage lace or stepping over a pile of fabric for the fourteenth time are gone, all of that energy can be funneled into making art.

I like using enamel trays for storing supplies like ink and acrylic mediums. The trays are sturdy and can double as paint palettes.
I like using enamel trays for storing supplies like ink and acrylic mediums. The trays are sturdy and can double as paint palettes.

Invite Routine to Your Art Studio

Routine is a huge boon to creativity too. I love my morning routine because I can shower, do my hair and makeup and get dressed without ever really thinking about it. Muscle memory gets the job done. Since my days are usually packed, this is time when I can think about what I’d like to incorporate in a fabric collage, or work out a new binding for a book.

Establishing a routine for your art studio or workspace is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Like any other habit you’d like to foster—going to the gym, reading more books—setting a date and sticking to it helps ensure you’ll actually do it. And when you begin to see the benefits of keeping to a schedule, you’ll look forward to that time and perpetuate a cycle of happiness. Even if you’ve had a bad day and don’t feel like making something, if you’ve carved out that time, keep it. Stamp some tags, practice lettering, make a quick collage—I guarantee you’ll be glad you put in the effort.

After I cleaned my office/studio, I was motivated to do a little decorating. I’ve had a vintage wooden tool caddy forever and bought it with the intention of one day embellishing its plain exterior with stamps or collage. Now that it wasn’t obscured by five paint water jars, I could go for it. I loaded up some Prima IOD Décor stamps with acrylic paint and went to town.

Stamping this tool caddy was much easier than I thought it would be!
Stamping this tool caddy was much easier than I thought it would be!

Create Artistic Studio Storage

I know I’ve said this before, but I can’t emphasize this enough—whenever you have leftover paint, create painted papers. I had a substantial amount of blue left over, so I quickly grabbed some found papers and tags and printed them. The process took a total of 10 minutes, and now I have some lovely papers to work with for future projects.

Got leftover paint? Quick, print some found papers, tags, or cardstock!
Got leftover paint? Quick, print some found papers, tags, or cardstock!

When the paint on the tool caddy was dry, I sanded it a bit to give it a distressed look. Next, I covered the sides with a collage of book pages, gluing and sealing them with Collage Pauge Matte. A Catalyst Wedge is helpful for pressing the papers flat, making sure there are no air bubbles.

Collage any papers to wooden storage pieces to give them a quick makeover.
Collage any papers to wooden storage pieces to give them a quick makeover.

When the papers were completely dry, I removed the excess by sanding the pages off. I find this much easier than cutting, and the results are far better.

Sanding off the excess papers results in nice, smooth edges.
Sanding off the excess papers results in nice, smooth edges.

I adhered book pages to the other side, and here’s my finished caddy, all dressed up and looking pretty!

Taking the time to upgrade something I use every day was definitely worth it.
Taking the time to upgrade something I use every day was definitely worth it.

A few months ago, I picked up a rustic pottery jug at a flea market to use as a prop for magazine shoots. But I loved it so much, I thought it belonged in my office instead of the prop bin. Now it holds a variety of natural items, but I thought it could use some sprucing up, too.

I decided to make a wrap from fabric scraps to jazz it up a little. So I cut small squares from kantha quilt scraps, butted up the edges, and zigzag stitched them together. I also cut small circles of the fabric and stitched them over the seams. Two pieces of sari ribbon were sewn on the ends for a tie.

Any fabric scraps sewn together make a pretty wrap for a jar or box.
Any fabric scraps sewn together make a pretty wrap for a jar or box.

What a great upgrade! And a nice touch for my workspace. Since the wrap closes with a tie, I can easily remove it and add it to another piece.

This wrap can easily be added to another storage item when I feel like mixing things up in my art studio.
This wrap can easily be added to another storage item when I feel like mixing things up in my art studio.

It’s the Perfect Time to Tidy Up Your Art Studio

If your art studio is in need of tidying up, now’s a great time to do it. The holidays will be here before we know it, and having a clean, organized space to work in will make a huge difference. If you have some favorite studio organization tips, please leave them in the comments below!

I have one more idea for you—see how I made a studio storage piece from a vintage quilt block.


Discover more ways to organize your art studio!

If you love to doodle, hand lettering offers plenty of opportunities for showing off your style.

Lettering Lessons 2018: Creative Geometric Hand Lettering

Debi Adams guides you back to basic lines and shapes in Lettering Lessons: Creative Geometric Lettering. If you think that basic means boring, you’re all wrong. Debi presents a plethora of hand lettering ideas for transforming simple shapes into unique and artful letters. You will not be disappointed.

hand lettering: Creative Geometric Lettering

Debi shows so many creative ways to build and alter letters, I chose a few of her lettering styles to try to give you a taste of her fun techniques.

This is a great hand-lettering technique if you’re short on space or just want to illustrate a word, like hug. The letters are drawn so they overlap, which was especially effective for a word like hug.

This hand-lettering technique is a great way to fit letters in small spaces.
This hand-lettering technique is a great way to fit letters in small spaces.

Word Play

Using rectangles for the tall letters (one of the many geometric shapes available) and making them look like rulers adds a fun twist. Debi’s triangle-shaped A fits right in. Including the word “stand’ in cursive carries the message without taking away from the focal word.

Geometric shapes are easily transformed into letters when hand lettering.
Geometric shapes are easily transformed into letters when hand lettering.

Corral the Letters

Use the geometric shape to enclose letters. Look how “joy” pops when surrounded by colorful shapes.

Hand lettering offers plenty of opportunities for embellishment, and what better way than a pop of color?
Hand lettering offers plenty of opportunities for embellishment, and what better way than a pop of color?

Use Simple Shapes

Use lines and angles in a variety of ways to create one-of-a-kind lettering. Such a small word, but it has such personality when shapes are used to transform it.

It’s fun to combine different hand-lettering techniques to create letters that are truly your own.
It’s fun to combine different hand-lettering techniques to create letters that are truly your own.

Decorate Inside the Letters

Geometric shapes form the letters, and a variety of hand-drawn designs take the style up a notch. Color is a star player here, too, but it’s the simple shapes that steal the show.

If you love to doodle, hand lettering offers plenty of opportunities for showing off your style.
If you love to doodle, hand lettering offers plenty of opportunities for showing off your style.

Get in Shape!

Let a drawn shape determine the way the letters are formed. Hand lettering takes on a whole new look when captured inside a focal shape. If you thought the letters within a word had to be the same size to make sense, think again. Here, an apple and a star take center stage, and look how cool they look.

Simple drawings come to life by adding the words that name them.
Simple drawings come to life by adding the words that name them.

Try Hand Lettering Yourself

Use Debi’s inspired techniques in Creative Geometric Lettering to transform your hand lettering and create a unique and artful alphabet. If you love lettering like I do, check out the 2016–2017 Collector’s Edition, where you’ll find a lots of creative ways to have hand-lettering fun.


Try more hand lettering techniques with these resources!

Download this fantastic selection of vintage ephemera images today and start creating stunning mixed-media art!

Free September Downloads: Elegant Ephemera

Another successful trip to the flea market means one thing: new free ephemera downloads! For September, we’ve got some awesome vintage images for you that you can print today and use in all of your mixed-media artwork. I’ve also cooked up a few projects for some inspiration, so let’s get started.

These detailed images are absolutely stunning, and celebrate Victorian femininity at its best. Some of the illustrations are of the fashions of the day. There’s also a lovely portrait in cobalt blue, plus a chatelaine. I was so excited when I found these at the Brimfield Antique Market recently, and I couldn’t wait to get them scanned and ready for you. All this was done with the expert help of talented Interweave production designer Janice Tapia.

Download this fantastic selection of vintage ephemera images today and start creating stunning mixed-media art!
Download this fantastic selection of vintage ephemera images today and start creating stunning mixed-media art!

Mixed-Media Projects Using Free Ephemera Downloads

What I love most about these images is that they transcend time. Yes, they are of a specific era, but in an artist’s hands, they can be anything. Two out of three of the projects below have a definite contemporary look. Give them a try—they could shake up your mixed-media artwork in ways you never thought possible.

1. Monoprint Collage

Starting with gel plate monoprints is never a bad idea, and I thought they would make great backgrounds for these ephemera images. I brayered a few light analogous colors onto a gel plate, stamped some designs, and pulled prints on lightweight cotton rag paper. When the monoprints were dry, I desaturated one of the images until it was black and white, and printed it over one of the monoprints. This worked fine in my printer, but models vary, so make sure this is something your machine can handle.

Start with monoprint backgrounds in light colors and your images will look incredible as soon as you print them.
Start with monoprint backgrounds in light colors and your images will look incredible as soon as you print them.

I love that image on the right as is, but we mixed-media artists can’t leave well enough alone. Starting with another similar print, I stamped some flowers and French text, created stencil motifs with white acrylic paint, added some white ink drips, and punched a few flags out of book pages. The flags were machine stitched to the edge of the paper. The ephemera image still stands out, but the techniques definitely give this piece a modern style.

Victorian images are easily updated when you add contemporary mixed-media techniques.
Victorian images are easily updated when you add contemporary mixed-media techniques.
2. Fabric Collage

Printing ephemera images on fabric is a great way to get even more use out of the designs. I have a plain denim tote bag that was in need of some embellishment. So I sized and printed the blue portrait onto a cotton inkjet fabric sheet and trimmed it with a rotary cutter along the borders. That focal image was auditioned with some kantha quilt and vintage quilt scraps until I decided on an arrangement. The pieces were attached to each other using Mistyfuse fusible webbing. You can skip this step if you like, but I like elements to be stable before I sew them.

Try a variety of fabrics and embellishments to see what works best with your focal image.
Try a variety of fabrics and embellishments to see what works best with your focal image.

Then it was off to the sewing machine. I stitched the hexagons first, then the portrait, then the kantha piece, using a straight stitch. I also added beads and sequins to the corners, stitching them by hand. In this collage, the portrait looks timeless with a modern edge.

Adding touches such as messy stitching and funky embellishments can breathe new life into vintage ephemera images.
Adding touches such as messy stitching and funky embellishments can breathe new life into vintage ephemera images.
3. Handmade Book

You knew a book was going to be in the mix, didn’t you? Glad I didn’t disappoint. This project came about because I wanted to see how the images would print on found papers, including ledger and music sheets. Since my ledger paper was smaller than 8-1/2″ x 11″ I glued it to a piece of copy paper with repositionable glue. The paper acted as a carrier sheet, and it printed beautifully!

Experiment with printing on a variety of found papers to see what they add to images.
Experiment with printing on a variety of found papers to see what they add to images.

I decided to use this image for the cover of a small handmade book and glued it over lightweight chipboard. For the spine, I made my own fabric washi tape by pressing the sticky side of heavy-duty carpet tape to the wrong side of a piece of cotton fabric.

It’s easy to make your own fabric washi tape with heavy-duty carpet tape.
It’s easy to make your own fabric washi tape with heavy-duty carpet tape.

After trimming the fabric to the edges of the tape, I removed the tape’s backing and adhered it to the covers, leaving a 1/2″ gap. For the back cover, I printed another of the images onto vintage sheet music.

DIY fabric washi tape is sturdy enough to use as a handmade book spine.
DIY fabric washi tape is sturdy enough to use as a handmade book spine.

For the inside pages, I gathered some ledger paper and more sheet music. I cut a piece of bookcloth the height of the pages and the width of the fabric tape. The book cloth was folded in half lengthwise and sewn along with the pages, using a five-hole pamphlet stitch (you can find complete instructions in this blog post). The entire piece was glued to the inside of the book.

Pamphlet stitch bindings are great to use for making quick books.
Pamphlet stitch bindings are great to use for making quick books.

Decorative paper (I used wallpaper scraps) was glued to the inside covers.

Mix ephemera from different eras to give your book a unique style.
Mix ephemera from different eras to give your book a unique style.

I added a stamped label and a vintage postage stamp to the cover, and my book was ready to go.

Customize your handmade books by using ephemera images for covers, and making them your own.
Customize your handmade books by using ephemera images for covers, and making them your own.

So even if vintage isn’t your thing, I urge you to incorporate these images in your mixed-media art projects. You never know what’s going to spark some great new ideas. Happy downloading!

Looking for more free downloads?

You can make your own mini book with these downloadable designs!


Discover more ways to use ephemera in your mixed-media art!