Kristen Robinson's mixed-media details for collage, assemblage, and more

We were thrilled to have mixed-media artist Kristen Robinson host a webinar recently, "It's All in the Mixed-Media Details." She demonstrated three fantastic techniques for using wax, plaster, fabric, and wire to create beautiful details to use in collage and assemblage. All of these work in tandem with her new set of collage and assemblage videos: Sewn Collage Classroom; Tear, Glue, Paint, Draw; Assemblage Workshop; and Upcycled Art Journaling. Although Kristen answered many questions during the live webinar we couldn't get to them all, so here she responds to the remaining few. If you weren't able to sign up for the webinar, good news: It's available as a download in our shop!

We also have a wonderful Assemblage Workshop Kit that includes all four videos, Kristen's book Explore Mixed Media Collage, her Art Lesson, plus a sweet molded bird hand made by Kristen herself. The kit also includes a StencilGirl Products stencil designed especially to use with the video projects. Kristen wanted you to have something special, and designed and made these items with a great deal of love.

Now, here's Kristen! ~ Jeannine

I had such a wonderful time during my webinar last week. Thank you so very much for sharing your time with me. I loved the questions that were asked during the webinar; they were very thoughtful, and I'm sure they resonated with others who attended the event.

We covered a lot of material in an hour, but there were many questions that went unaddressed due to time. As promised, I've answered them here. If after reading this you still have something you'd like to ask, please visit me on my blog, Kristen Robinson: Living the Creative Journey, or on Facebook. Again, thank you for sharing your time with me!  I look forward to many more creative adventures with you.

Technique 1: Wax, Etch, Color: Adding wax, etching the wax, and adding color to a collage on a wood substrate

Q: Can hot wax be put onto a stretched canvas, or does the heat stretch out the canvas?

A: It is important to remember that once the wax is applied to a piece of artwork, any heat added to a surface will manipulate the wax and possibly lift it.

Q: Does the beeswax ever melt and run when it is hanging in a hot, humid area?

A: I have not experienced this; the melting point that I use (and most packaged pellets) is 146 degrees Fahrenheit, or 63 degrees Celsius.

Q: Is this the same beeswax that's used for pysanka (Ukranian Easter eggs)?

A: Because I have not created anything using the pysanky method, I cannot say if the wax is the same.

Q: Can you use this technique on paper?  If so, what is the best paper to use?

A: I use the beeswax on all types of paper, including watercolor paper and antique and vintage ephemera. The most important thing is to test the wax on a small scrap. Let the wax sit for a couple of days and then return to it. Flex the paper a bit; at this point any lifting of the wax that might occur will happen. As for the second part of the question, my favorite type of paper to place wax onto is old ledger paper, sheet music, and anything aged, since the wax saturates the surface and truly makes it magical.

Q: Is an embossing heat gun too much for melting the wax?

A: An embossing gun is perfect. Just be sure to keep the heat at least three to six inches from the surface of your artwork.

Q: Is a natural or synthetic brush best for applying the wax?

A: A natural brush is best, as synthetic bristles will generally burn more quickly. Also, synthetic bristles tend to loosen a bit faster, and then they can become embedded in the wax.

Q: At what temperature should you melt the wax?

A: The melting point for beeswax is generally 140 degrees Fahrenheit, or 63 degrees Celsius. Some craft melting pots will indicate the appropriate temperature.

Q: Do pieces embellished with wax collect and hold dust when displayed?

A: I have not experienced this. However, I suggest wiping the artwork with a soft cloth or baby wipe if you find a layer of dust on the surface. You can also purchase a commercial wax sealer to protect the wax from the environment. Just make sure to polish the wax with a piece of nylon or soft cloth prior to sealing it.

Q: Do you add a sealer such as varnish over the top of your piece if you've added beeswax?

A: I allow my beeswax to remain natural when displayed in my home, but I polish it if the wax becomes cloudy. If I am working on a piece to be sold I do seal it with a commercial wax sealer. Do some online search on beeswax or encaustic wax sealers and you'll find an array of options.

Q: Do you use encaustic gesso, and do you ever use beeswax over acrylic?

A: Generally I apply the beeswax right over acrylic gesso, since it works a bit differently from encaustic wax.

Q: Can you use pastels to color the substrate after you etch the wax?

A: Absolutely. This is a wonderful addition to the piece.

Q: Do you ever substitute microcrystalline wax for the beeswax?

A: I have not tried this; I generally use microcrystalline wax to seal color on a piece. But search the Web to see how others have used it. More importantly, be sure to check the manufacturer's instructions and warnings.

Q: If wax is used on a journal cover, will it crumble off if the cover is opened repeatedly?

A: I would not suggest applying beeswax to a surface that would be handled quite a bit. If you seal the piece you will extend its life a bit-but I still can't guarantee what the outcome would be over time.

Q: How long can you use the beeswax?

A: I generally leave my wax in its melting pot for many months. Different types and brands may have different shelf lives, so I suggest checking with the manufacturer.

Q: Do you use Dorland's Wax Medium with mineral spirits as a sealer, or do you use it straight from the jar with a palette knife?

A: I am a straight-out-of-the-jar kind of girl. I buff the wax in pretty well, making sure the surface is no longer sticky.

Technique 2: Hand-Sewn Running Stitch: Creating a gathered fabric strip embellishment for a fabric collage notebook cover

Q: What is the ratio of school glue to water for the glue mix that you use for the fabric stiffener that can be applied to the embellishment?

A: I prefer two parts glue to one part water. I suggest starting with glue and adding the water, slowly stirring as you go (unused chopsticks and craft sticks are great for this).

Q: Do you brush the glue mixture onto the fabric?

A: I brush the mixture on using a foam brush. Those brushes are perfect for this because they are disposable.

Q: How can I attach a fabric collage to a sketchbook?

A: You can attach it with either fabric or paper-safe adhesive. You can also pierce a row of holes in the sketchbook with a paper piercer or awl, and then sew a running stitch through the holes, attaching the collage to the sketchbook.

Technique 3: Ribbon and Button Wire: Making a wired embellishment with fabric and beads for a plaster-covered assemblage

Q: Can plaster wrap for mask making be used for this?

A: This is the same wrap you can use for mask making.

Q: What did you put on top of box?

A: I created a ribbon with strips of plaster wrap that I cut very thin.

Q: Any thoughts about using regular plaster of Paris and cheesecloth in lieu of plaster cloth?

A: You could use plaster of Paris and cheesecloth, but I think the end result might be a bit bulkier looking. Plaster of Paris is also a much messier process.

Q: Can you use a Dremel drill to drill through the box to attach the wire, instead of piercing the box with an awl?

A: Absolutely, just be sure to drill through the plaster within 24 hours of drying.



3D Art and Assemblage, Blog, Mixed-Media Techniques


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