Technique Tuesday: Handmade Studio Decor

If your creative space is a corner of a room, a refurbished basement, or a funky loft, it deserves a little sprucing up. Spring is the perfect time to put supplies in order and clear some space for more mixed-media projects. Why not create a few custom handmade studio decor pieces that will help you stretch those artistic muscles? These projects and techniques will have you looking at your workspace in a whole new way.

Be sure to check out the March/April 2017 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine for even more great mixed-media projects for your studio and home!

1. Don’t stick paintbrushes in any old jar—create a holder worthy of your art tools that you’ll love looking at every day. In the March/April 2017 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine, the article “Bohemian Artist’s Stool” by Sally Griswold and Josie Celio shows how to create a painted, stamped and embellished stool. The same techniques can be applied to other studio pieces, like a tool holder. Shown in the article is a plain square wooden caddy; to embellish this piece, paint it with chalk paint, let dry, then stamp with text stamps in a dark shade of paint on all four sides. Stamp a Moroccan design at the bottom. Add dimension with molded paper clay; press the clay into flexible silicone molds, then adhere them to the sides of the box with wood glue and allow to dry (Iron Orchid Designs’ Vintage Art Décor Moulds by Prima Marketing Inc. were used for this project.). Create a translucent color wash in one or more colors and apply it to the molded pieces. Apply gilding wax with your fingers, and seal the piece with a clear sealer.

Mixed-media handmade studio decor tool holder from Cloth Paper Scissors March/April 2017
This tool holder started as a plain wooden box and was embellished with paint, stamps, and paper clay molding. (Art by Sally Griswold and Josie Celio, photo by Sharon White Photography)

2. Garlands make great handmade studio decor; you can create them quickly and change them up for various seasons and occasions. In the article “Flutter” in I {Heart} Paper magazine, Marisa S. Swangha creates a wire and paper garland that looks like books fluttering in the wind. To make them, collect 50 pages from a hardcover or trade paperback book, or 75 pages from a small paperback, and arrange the pages into stacks of 5 pages each. Fold each stack in half lengthwise, creasing with a bone folder. Create a template for the pages, noting the size of the book pages and the fact that you’ll be cutting on the fold. Cut a slight curve at the fold side of the template to accommodate the wire. Align the template on the fold, secure it to the pages with a paper clip, and trace around the template. Move the template down the fold of the stack and trace more pages. Cut the book pages out to create the booklets for the garland. Create a small loop at the end of an 8′ piece of 22-gauge wire, and twist the end to secure it. Rest the center of one booklet on the wire, about 6″ from the loop. Bring both ends of the wire around to the center of the spine and twist it together 4 times. Repeat, adding more booklets about 6″ apart. Make a loop at the end and hang the garland.

Book garland from Cloth Paper Scissors I {Heart} Paper magazine
Add handmade studio decor to your workspace with this garland that looks like little books fluttering in the wind. (Art by Marisa S. Swangha, photo by Sharon White Photography)

3. Form and function meet in a colorful mixed-media key holder embellished with found objects, featured in the article “Key Keepers” by Jennifer Heynen in Cloth Paper Scissors Gifts magazine, 2011/2012. For this project, paint a small beveled wood plaque with acrylic paint. As the first color begins to dry, lightly paint another color on top, but don’t cover up the base layer completely. When dry, consider where you’ll place the objects, and paint designs to frame them; simple circles and squares work well. Lightly sand the edges of the plaque to create a worn look, and further distress the piece by spraying it with walnut ink, rubbing it into the surface while still wet. Attach found objects to the plaque, and screw cup holders to the front to hold your keys. Fun objects to use include house numbers, toy components, checkers, and metal findings.

A mixed-media key holder makes for great handmade studio decor; featured in Cloth Paper Scissors Gifts magazine
Use this mixed-media key holder for your apron, a small tote, or jewelry. (Art by Jennifer Heynen, photo by Larry Stein)

4. Globe lanterns turn any room into a festive space. In “Globe Lanterns” in Paper Art magazine, Sherri Timmons explains why she’s enamored with the handmade look of these items: “I love the beauty of the slightly imperfect because it adds an unexpected element of interest to art.” This project starts with a purchased round paper lantern. Insert the wire support to make the lantern dimensional, and determine how wide the torn pieces of paper need to be. For larger lanterns, use 2″ squares, and for smaller ones, use 1″ x 2″ rectangles. Tear several sheets of plain copy paper into strips of the desired width, then tear those into smaller pieces. Fold each square in half. Lightly dip the folded edge of a piece of paper into a shallow dish filled with glue, and adhere it to the lantern, starting at the mid-horizontal line. Work in horizontal rows, allowing each row of paper to be slightly overlapped by the row above it. Try working from the mid-point toward the bottom, then from the mid-point toward the top. When the lantern is covered, hold it up to a light to see if additional squares are needed.

Rows of torn paper turn a plain paper lantern into one-of-a-kind handmade studio decor.
Dress up paper lanterns with rows of torn paper for handmade studio decor. (Art by Sherri Timmons, photo by Sharon White Photography)

5. Style counts, even if you’re in your studio by yourself. Spruce up your studio with an apron that reflects your artistic sensibility. In “Painting With Doodles” in the Summer 2015 issue of Zen Doodle Workshop magazine, Kari McKnight Holbrook uses hand-painted Roc-Lon Multipurpose Cloth to embellish an apron. To begin, cut a piece of Roc-Lon to cover as much of the front of the apron as you wish. Consider the size and shape of the apron, whether you want to cover pockets, etc. Mix Golden Artist Colors GAC 900 in a 1:1 ratio with acrylic paint, and paint the cloth. Let dry. Sketch your design with dressmaker’s chalk, and paint it in with the GAC 900/paint mixture. Add doodles or intricate designs with a liner brush. Try some doodle lettering, starting with creating basic letter outlines with permanent marker, and embellishing them with drop shadows, flourishes, and dots. Set the paint with an iron, and varnish the piece. Stitch the painted Roc-Lon in place. The article includes instructions for creating an apron from an old pair of jeans.

Hand-painted apron from Zen Doodle Workshop Summer 2015
No creative space is complete without a unique apron that shows off your artistry. (Art by Kari McKnight Holbrook, photo by Sharon White Photography)

6. When decorating your workspace with handmade studio decor, don’t forget the door! Create a wreath from book pages, as seen in the article “Book Page Wreath” by Angela Chavez in Paper Art magazine. Remove pages from a book; you’ll need about 200-250. Gently scrunch each page in your hands, and open it flat. Holding the page horizontally, fold it in thirds lengthwise. With the page still folded, fold it in half the short way, and punch a 1/8″ hole just above the fold. Repeat for the rest of the pages. Bend 1/8″, 36″ round welding rod to form a ring. Thread the book pages onto the ring through the hole, packing them tightly, and covering the entire rod. Attach the ends of the rod with a brass hose joiner barb to create the ring. Apply glue between each page, on an area that touches both the rod and the page. Positioning the pages at different angles on the rod adds thickness to the wreath. Position and glue the pages on either side of the joiner barb to conceal it. Hang the wreath on the door from a ribbon to welcome your guests.

Book page wreath for handmade studio decor from Cloth Paper Scissors Paper Art magazine
Welcome guests to your studio with handmade studio decor like this wreath made from book pages. (Art by Angela Chavez, photo by Sharon White Photography).

Give your workspace a little pizazz and create some mixed-media decor pieces using these resources as inspiration!

Cloth Paper Scissors March/April 2017, mixed-media home decor
The March/April 2017 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine is filled with ideas for handmade studio decor.
Cloth Paper Scissors Studios magazine, Fall 2014
Get tons of ideas for sprucing up your creative space in the Fall 2014 issue of Studios magazine.
Inside the Art Studio, edited by Mary Burzlaff Bostic
See where top artists create in the book Inside the Art Studio, edited by Mary Burzlaff Bostic.
Mixed-Media Chalkboard with Cast Resin video with Jen Cushman
Every workspace needs a chalkboard; learn how to make one yourself in the video Mixed-Media Chalkboard with Cast Resin with Jen Cushman.

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