I answered without hesitation, "A trip to Greece, Turkey, and Italy."
Meredith looked at me with the expression of beleaguered tolerance teenagers reserve for their parents and replied, "Mom. Something a 14-year-old could buy."
We settled on a manicure, but the conversation got me thinking. I used to travel quite a bit, and over the last decade or so I had barely left my own state, let alone gone abroad. I resolved to change that, and decided to start by making a travel journal. I'm a big believer in the power of visualization, and I figured if I started focusing on the places I wanted to go, that would help me create the means to get there.
The journal would be a series of map-like pages. Because the places I wanted to visit were ancient, I thought about what techniques and materials I could use to create worn, weathered, and crumbly textures. I immediately pulled out my bin of "alternative fibers" full of Tyvek® envelopes, Kunin felt, tulle, used dryer sheets, and Lutradur® and gathered up some markers, inks, paints, stamps, and my heat gun.
I also grabbed a copy of Wendy Cotterill's new book, Lutradur and the New Fibers: Creating Mixed-Media Art with Spunbonded Materials, to get some tips and ideas.
I thought the Tyvek would make a good map, because it's so durable and you can scrunch it up to give it texture. I rubbed a bronzy ink pad all over it, rubbed the ink around with a dryer sheet (thus coloring two materials at once), and then scrunched the Tyvek sheet up into a ball and laid it out to dry. To give it more depth, I rubbed a little sage green acrylic paint over it here and there.
In the meantime, I used blue ink to color the Lutradur, adding water with a foam brush to spread the ink around. When that was almost dry, I decided it needed more depth, so I sponged a green-gold acrylic paint onto it here and there, again using water to blend the colors somewhat.
I liked it so much I decided the Lutradur should be the "map," so when it was dry I randomly stitched all over it with white cotton thread. The white was a little stark, so I integrated it into the blue-green by coloring it with a blue pencil.
Looking back at the Tyvek, I realized the effects I had given it resembled rocky earth–perfect for reflecting the geography of my hoped-for journey. I cut out a mountain shape and a hand-like shape with "fingers."
Now the fun part–but kids, don't try this at home unless you're working in a very well ventilated area: I fired up the heat gun and applied it here and there to the Lutradur. Almost immediately, lacy holes began to form, giving the fiber the old, worn texture I'd been looking for.
Next I applied the heat gun to the "hand" of Tyvek; the heat caused it to curl up in a way that resembled the craggy part of Greece that reaches out into the Aegean like the withered fingers of Cassandra.
While I was on a roll, I decided to make some ancient marble. I cut a piece of white Kunin felt (polyester craft felt), topped it with white tulle, and stitched it down with vertical lines of cotton thread. Then I zapped it with the heat gun, and the felt and tulle melted and shriveled, giving me exactly the texture I was looking for.
I assembled my page, stitching it on top of a piece of screen-printed organza, stamped a compass motif on it and added a quote from one of my favorite poems.
- Experiment with burning the materials. You can't always control where the heat gun will work its magic and how the material will be affected. Be prepared to embrace spontaneity.
- If you're going to stitch and want the stitching to remain after burning, use cotton thread. Cotton will not melt, but polyester thread will.
If you'd like to learn more about the magic of creating with Tyvek, Lutradur, Kunin felt, and others, I highly recommend Lutradur and the New Fibers: Creating Mixed-Media Art with Spunbonded Materials. I can't wait to make more art journal "maps" that will lead me to the journey of my dreams.