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Sunday, 8 March 2015

Preparing Mini Features

In a previous blog I told you how to make your own album from masonite. We had some off-cuts left ever from that project and I promised to show you how to put them to use. We'll do exactly that in this blog. Let me step back first for the sake of those who had not read the previous blog. After measuring the sizes of the album I was going to saw from the masonite, I was left with a thin strip of wood. I measured the width and divided it into squares. I happened to get 5 squares and an odd-sized piece. The measurements doesn't matter here, because you are allowing your off-cuts to determine size for you. Mine worked out to approximately 6,5 x 6,5 cm.

Next step is to saw the wood and to file the rough edges to a smooth finish.

I prepare the surface for painting with a two coats of gesso with a flat brush. The gesso serves as a primer so that the paint sticks to the surface better.

I prepare all of the pieces in advance, but have only plans for two of the pieces at the moment. The others are put away for the moment and I continue working with only two of the pieces. These two pieces are painted a warm purple. With a proper primer, such as gesso to encourage the paint's natural adhesiveness, I don't fret too much over what paint I use. It is very costly to keep all kinds of paint and people rarely have the space to do so. Truth is that I found the perfect colour among my fabric paints and this is what I used here. I would have done equally well if I had used craft paint or acrylic paint. The secret lies in getting your surface prepared correctly  and a decent layer of gesso will do just that.

I wish I knew the name of the tool I use next, but the truth is that I saw it a hardware store years ago, immediately recognized its potential and bought it on the spot, not bothering to inquire after its actual use. If I remember correctly it was in the plumbing section. Still, there are lots of things that will give you similar results. Here is a picture.

I liked it for its evenly spaced dots and often use it as a stencil to paint dots, as is the case today. I put a dollop of flesh coloured acrylic paint on the lid of my water bowl.  Since I'm working on such a small scale, I use a discarded sponge from a tablet bottle to do the stenciling with, not bothering with a proper stencil brush. I lay the dotty thing in its place over the prepared squares.

The golden rule in stenciling is to work as dry as possible. Dab your sponge/brush in the paint and then dab it dry on the lid. If your applicator is heavily loaded with paint, the paint will seep in under the stencil leaving ugly smudges. Dab your stencil lightly. If you want it darker, repeat the process. Continue dabbing until you are satisfied with the intensity of the colour. Do not get impatient and overload your applicator. When done, remove your stencil very carefully, taking care not to smudge any wet paint, although if you had been working dry this will hardly be possible.

Leave your surface to dry and tend to your stencil and applicator first. Wash them both properly. A damp wet cloth should be all that is required to clean a stencil, if you tend to it quickly. A brush or sponge is best cleaned under running cold water. Try not to use a drain system that runs into your sewer system.

I am now going to stamp some images on my mini features. I select the stamps I want to assemble for the project.

Start by selecting the correct sized stamper and attach the handle by sliding it on and clipping it into place.

Select the gel stamps you want to use and stick them in place on the stamper. Note, they will stick without effort on their own accord. Simply pull them from their backing and put them on the stamper. No adhesives are required.

With your stamp assembled, select your stamp pad. My choice fell on the silver line in this pad and I worked very carefully to ink the pad with silver. A tiny amount of blue would not bother me too much, but you could wipe it away if it hindered you.

The ink from the stamp pad dries very quickly, so don't waste time in stamping your picture on your surface. The most common reason for blurred lines in stamping is because people tend to 'over-stamp'. The want to make sure the ink 'takes' in all the corners and then they wiggle their hand around trying to redistribute pressure to the far corners of the stamp. In the process the stamp moves ever so slightly and when it is lifted from the surface you will find blurred lines, often obscuring the details of the image. Put your stamp straight down (don't roll it onto the surface), apply slight pressure and lift straight up.

Keep a damp towel handy and don't waste any time in cleaning the ink off your pad. The better care you take of stamps and stencils, the longer they will last.

I arranged a second collection of stamp for the other mini feature and repeated the exercise.

Deciding that the images did not have enough definition, I gathered a dip pen and acrylic ink to accentuate the more prominent lines. I used the finest point of the selection of five, not wanting the pen and ink to overshadow the stamped image. I chose to use black ink, essentially adding shadow to the images.

This is what the images look like when I am done with them. I will get back to these when I incorporate them into another project in the next blog about mosaics.

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