Shoe decoupage workshop

To be honest, I’ve always viewed decoupage as slightly old fashioned, conjuring up images of carefully cut out pretty-pretty flower images stuck onto boxes and trays. But like so many craft areas (including felting!) decoupage has moved on, and a workshop on shoe decoupage I did with Gabriela Szulman a couple of days ago really opened my eyes to the possibilities.

shoe decoupage workshop

For a start, there was the subject matter. Decoupage shoes? What a fabulous idea!

[Warning: shoe digression! If you do not have a footwear fetish you may want to skip this bit. 🙂

When I had a “proper job” in an office I was a bit of a shoe fanatic, and the bottom of my wardrobe is stuffed with dozens of shoe boxes, each with a photo of its contents so I could find them easily. 🙂 Now I work from home I rarely wear any of them, so looking for a pair to decoupage revealed footwear I’d long forgotten about!

Despite the quantity, however, my choice was fairly limited, as leather or plastic are best for decoupage, and most of my shoes are suede or fabric. So in the end I took a pair of slip-on trainers.]

shoe decoupage before

The other surprise was that we didn’t have to cut round specific shapes and carefully place them – in fact, Gabriela rather discouraged this. Instead we tore bits of tissue paper or paper napkins and glued them down so they overlapped to produce an interesting all-over pattern. This is the paper napkin I used.

paper napkin for shoe decoupage

The four of us on the workshop all brought different types of shoes, so it was really interesting to see the different results.

Kate of Made by Mrs M fame transformed a pair of ballet flats.

shoe decoupage

Carol of Carol’s Creative Workshops coated a pair of boots with exotic flora and fauna.

boot decoupage

Damilola beautifully converted some Converse trainers.

shoe decoupage

And this is how my old trainers turned out.

shoe decoupage

The result was four very happy upcycled shoe owners hoping for dry weather so they can wear their new creations! 🙂

Gabriela’s next shoe decoupage workshop is on 22 August, with further dates in September and October – see her website for details of how to book.




Marbling paper workshop

A lovely new gift shop, Turpentine, has just opened up in Brixton, and also runs workshops. They advertised one for yesterday on marbled paper, and as I am an enormous fan of the gorgeous Falkiner papers, I couldn’t resist the chance to have a go myself.

marbling workshop

The space is quite small, but they managed to get 12 people, plus a demo table and drying racks in there. I thought they were very brave to have people doing quite a messy activity just a couple of feet from the shelves holding their wares! Hence no photos of the process, as there was very little room to put anything down, let alone take photos. 🙂 But this was their first workshop, and they said afterwards that they realised they had been a bit ambitious with the numbers!

We each had a large plastic tray filled with the size, made with carrageen, or Irish moss. Because it is quite thick, it helps prevent the paint sinking to the bottom.

On top of the size we dropped blobs of acrylic paint mixed with water and washing up liquid, and then “combed” the surface with an implement improvised from cardboard and toothpicks, or swirled it with a paintbrush.

The paper had been treated with alum on one side to help the paint stick to the paper (like a mordant on fabric, I guess). We placed this side on top of the paint, pulled it off, washed off excess size, then hung it to dry. After making a huge mess, we left owners Jude, Amber and Alice to clear up and iron our dried paper before picking it up today! 🙂

Although the colours looked quite dark on the size, quite a lot got lost when we washed the paper, and it’s even lighter when it’s dry. Between each piece we tried to scrape remaining paint off the size with a piece of cardboard before applying more paint. But inevitably some gets left, and after three or four pieces it’s tricky to judge exactly how much paint is on the surface. It’s a bit of an art to get the right ratio of paint to water, too.

But the results were endlessly fascinating – and addictive, as we each tried to squeeze in just one more piece before the end of the workshop!

marbled paper 1 marbled paper 2 marbled paper 3 marbled paper 4

I was wondering whether this would work on fabric, given that it’s floppier, but discovered there are lots of sites giving advice on marbling fabric – there are some links here.

Something else to be added to my ever-expanding list of things to try! 🙂

Silk paper

Right at the beginning of last academic year at Morley College, we were shown how to make “paper” by lightly spraying gummy silk waste with water and then ironing it between baking parchment. I remember thinking that it was an interesting technique but with so many other things to explore I never got round to having a go.

silk paper by sarah lawrenceI was reminded of it when I found this book in a discount bookshop. The author, Sarah Lawrence, was British (she sadly passed away last year) but the price on the back is in dollars, so it must be a US edition. The cover is different, but there seem to be a couple of similarly titled books also by Sarah Lawrence available in the UK and published at the same time, and I’m assuming the content is similar.

The book starts with the ironing method, combining it with layers of sinamay or knitting, or using it as a base for embossing, moulding and die cutting. It also explains how to make paper with degummed silk by soaking it in a mediium like PVA, or by stitching through layers using water-soluble film to create 3D vessels .

Finally, there’s a very inspiring section on using silk carrier rods and cocoons.

Of course, I immediately began to wonder how I could combine these techniques with my beloved felting and shibori. Felting should be fairly straightforward – adding silk is an easy way to create more texture and colour.

But would silk paper fall apart if I put it in an indigo vat? Is it strong enough to stitch or bind? I may have to find out.

Friday favourites

I haven’t done Friday favourites for a while. But I’ve just joined Pinterest (aaargh – that’s another six hours a day gone!), and as I was pinning some of my favourite works I came across a group of artists working with paper. As I’ve recently made paper myself, I thought this would be a good theme for today’s selection.

Polly Verity makes amazing origami curved folds, each scored and folded from one sheet, with no cuts and no glue. I also love her work made from crumpled tissue paper, like the liver, stomach, colon and small intestine:

Isaac Salazar is an accountant who has never taken an art class. He uses old books that would otherwise be thrown away and creates words and images by folding and cutting the pages:

Finally, Bekx Stephens creates geometric sculptural pieces that seem to create waves of movement through repetition. I would love to learn some of these techniques to use on fabric with printing/dyeing:

New term, new technique

It was back to Morley College on Tuesday, and time to learn about papermaking.

Over the Christmas holidays I’ve had a large bucket in my kitchen filled with shredded envelopes and water. To make strong paper you need long fibres, and every time paper is recycled the fibres get shorter. So it’s not a good idea to use paper that’s been recycled before if you want to make your own.

The longer the paper is soaked, the better, especially if it’s thicker, like brown paper. Apparently it can start to smell after a while, so you can add a couple of drops of bleach if this happens. However, mine didn’t smell at all, even after soaking for a week, though I did have a lid on my bucket.

To take the paper into college, I took a handful, squeezed it into a ball to get rid of the excess water, and put it in a plastic bag. Then it was off to Morley with a bag of soggy balls!

At college, we soaked the balls in hot water to loosen them, and then put a small handful in an ordinary liquidiser with a lot of water and blended for 15-20 seconds. We filled a deep tray – a (clean!) cat litter tray is ideal – with water and added some pulp. Then we agitated the mixture, dipped in a screen  and lifted it up vertically so that a layer of pulp settled on the top.

We put this face down on a damp J-cloth on top of a damp blanket, and gently pressed with a sponge to mop up the excess water. After this we peeled off the screen carefully from one corner, and – voilà – a sheet of paper!

We then folded over the top half of the J-cloth so that the paper was completely enclosed, and put another J-cloth on top to make the next sheet. At the end, we squeezed out all the excess water using a Victorian screw press.

Because the paper is very fragile when wet, we had to take the J-cloths home and peg them out to dry before unpeeling them to reveal the finished paper. So we have to wait until next week to see how everyone’s samples turned out – very exciting!

But here is a sneak preview of some of my samples, with various inclusions such as yarn, paper, eggshells, muslin, and raffia.

The paper pulps were all different colours, depending on the mix of coloured paper and envelopes people had used. Mine was pale lilac; one of the other student’s looked like beetroot soup!

The finished paper looks very different when it is dry. When wet, it is much more translucent, so if you want to items that you have embedded to show when it is dry, it’s best to scrape off some of the pulp while it’s wet.

I think it will be really interesting stitching into some of these samples to add further texture, though I’m not sure how robust they are. More to come on this, I suspect!