Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Collagraphs, carved printing plates and stamps for the gelli plate

Hi again everyone. I have made an exciting discovery (well to ME anyway!). I can make EASY engraved printing plates with my personal cutting machine. YES!!!! I personally have an older KNK Maxx machine, which has since been superseded by the Zing and another heavier cutter called the Force. Mine is kind of in the middle of these, cutting power wise.

When I first got the machine, I really wanted to cut mat board - you know the stuff you use to frame pictures, but found the machine wasn't really strong enough. Most aren't, although the new KNK Force can apparently do it. I could get close though, with it cutting through enough of the layers to give me clean lines which I could finish off with a craft knife. Haven't done it for ages, but recently while watching a video tute on gelli printing techniques, I saw an engraved mat being made by hand. A pretty time consuming process! She was carving out the image into mat board, rather similar to lino cutting. An age old technique and still a good one to get sharp complicated images printed and wonderful to use on the gelli plate. However, as I said.............time consuming!

Now most of you know, particularly if you have watched my Youtube channel that I am NOT the Princess of Patience and although I really wanted to use this technique, I did not want to spend an hour or two cutting out tiny little shapes and peeling them back. THEN I remembered my mat board cutting experiments and thought "I wonder if I used the cutting machine to incise into the board if it would make the process easier?" And guess what?


Proof !This is how it came out of the machine after 4 passes and, ordinarily I would not have been happy with all the little tags and lifting, but for this purpose.... Oh joy!! The lifted bits made it so easy to peel layers back and it was amazingly QUICK. I had the whole thing peeled back in a jiffy - less than 5 mins. WOW! So that taken care of and ready for experiment on my gelli plate, I again pondered......

I wonder if I could also use the machine to make a collagraph, which is basically the opposite of the above technique, as it has the image raised from the surface instead of carved into it. A stamp really! The first way I thought of was to simply repeat the process above, but rather than carve out the positive image (tree), I could remove the negative space (background). Absolutely would work, but I felt there was an even easier way. So I cut 2 of the same images of the tree from cereal box cardboard and glued them together as per pic at right. Done!! Both positive and negative images of the same tree and super easy and time effective!

The alternative would be cutting the image from craft foam or stamp material, but my cutter is a bit fussy about craft foam if the shape is complicated and I currently don't have any stamping material for the cutter (but I DO have an idea about that too. Stay tuned! LOLS).

Just a reminder to those who may not have seen my Youtube videos, that there are several on using craft or fun foam as stamps starting here

"Be a Tree" made with the collagraph plates

Thursday, August 3, 2017


Hello again, well you cannot say I am not making up for lost time - 3 posts in a couple of weeks! LOLS

So, as I am doing a far bit of gelli printing and furniture revamping lately, I have found that I am constantly leaving stuff all over my dining room table. Yuck!!

"You need a studio", I hear you say.....and yes you are right and I do have one of sorts. All my art stuff is dumped into my third bedroom which I constantly organise and reorganise to try and make it work. BUT the truth is that, no matter how organised it is, I acually prefer to work in my living area rather than being tucked away in a back bedroom. Silly really, but it is what it is.

So now I have admitted the reality to myself, it is a case of how to make THAT work without having my dining room table (which is in the middle of my space and clearly visible when one walks into the house) constantly look like a bomb has hit it.

I have contemplated many options and even put up a screen in a corner to hide bins of art stuff I am constantly using, but the problem of a large flat surface still remained. Yes, I thought of getting a trestle table, card table or such, but I know I would then just have another "semi" permanent very messy additional table in my living space. It's the cleaning up and putting away that I just never seem to do,  part laziness and part "I may get back to this later today" thinking. If I have to pick everything up, put it away, clean and fold a table every time I want to create, I know it won't happen.

So I started thinking along the lines of how might I make my dining table work. I thought of trays, which seemed could be a good solution, except that they wouldn't be large enough to actually work on. I would still spill over onto the table. So more rumination.

I really needed something I could spread out and gather up when finished and store easily. Mmmmmmm......Nana Jan (me) to the rescue. I thought of those handy dandy fabric "lego" mats that my grandchildren have. Would almost do the job, but not quite. I really wanted something more firm and solid like a box that would open out.......and so my idea for the "ART PLAY MAT was born!

A portable storage box that could open out into a flat mat and cover my table safely and then fold back up into a box when finished. Yahhhhh!!! Yep, great idea, but not quite as simple as I thought. LOLS However, after a bit of research and many dry runs and prototype experiments, I finally came up with a design that works.

I decided that foam core board would be the best choice for my project and as I have "cube storage" and wanted it to fit, I decided to go with 28cm squares, giving me a total working space of 84 cm x 84 cm when opened out which gives me an ideal working area (as displayed in picture below). However you can easily go smaller or larger.

It took a bit of working out to determine which way the pieces needed to fold to form the box, but once I had that done, the rest was just cutting and scoring and went pretty quickly. Now I have a FANTASTIC flat, even, portable workspace I can set on any horizontal surface! As a bonus, not only can I clean up and store away in a jiffy, it protects the surface underneath from damage too.

No more untidy dining table AND it looks good on my shelving.........PERFECT!

If you would like to save yourself time and the effort of the arithmetic and the tedium of working out backwards and forwards scores and folds, I am selling the instructions including diagrams in a handy PDF format for just Aus $2.00. Just click here

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Chalk Paint!

Wow, chalk paint! Where has this been all my life???? Last weekend I took a chalk painting workshop and OMG, this stuff is amazing. So what, I hear you asking, is so amazing about it? Well being a fairly spontaneous and "instant results" type of person, this stuff is just made for me. It requires little, if any, prep to provide the most fabulous opaque coverage in one or two coats.

I was able to repaint this rather aweful yellow/orange pine drawer cabinet in 2 coats WITHOUT ANY STRIPPING, SANDING OR OTHER PREP. Yahhh!!! I decided in the morning to revamp and 1 1/2 hours later I had a brand new piece of furniture, fresh and modern. WOW!

The drawers are decoupaged with hand printed gelli printed papers colour matched to the charcoal paint and with touches of turquoise. Much better in real life! I am THRILLED and plan to move onto revamping bedside tables to match my own bedroom now. 

I even MADE MY OWN CHALK PAINT as I didn't want to travel for hours to purchase and my local paint store had very limited colours. I purchased the white chalk paint ($42/750 ml) and decided to experiment by making the charcoal colour. Very easy - 1 part Plaster of Paris dissolved in equal part of hot water. Stir to dissolve and add to 3 parts desired colour of latex paint. I was lucky enough to pick up the charcoal paint in the "mismatch" bin at the hardware store for $10 too. I noticed NO difference between the commerical and homemade paint, so I think I will be making my own in any colour I need from now on. So much cheaper.

If you want more info on chalk paint, use Mr Google or Pinterest to learn more than you ever wanted to know. LOLS You do need to finish with either wax or varnish. I choose to finished the top of the cabinet with varnish for a tougher surface and the rest with wax.

I am now looking at ALL my furniture with new eyes. LOLS Look out!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Well it is SUCH a long time since I have posted here and it seems I have come full circle and back to......Gelli printing once again LOLS

I have been running a few local classes lately and wanted to share gelli printing with my students, but the cost of the plates (particularly in Australia) are a bit prohibitive, especially for those just starting out. So I was racking my brains for alternatives other than the homemade ones and as the cogs turned, it occurred to me that perhaps silicone mats would work. I first ordered a silicone cooking mat and it DID work, but was very thin and had no "bounce" like the gelli plates. Mmmmm....almost but not quite!

So I kept thinking and one day I was in a $2 shop and saw a silicone insole for shoes. Had an "ahaaaa!!" moment and took one home to try. It also works but is very small, although oval is handy! Then I started to research just about everything made of silicone and eventually arrived at {{{drum roll please}}}.......... the sticky, non slip dashboard mats made for phones as per pic below. OMG they work like a dream and at $2 I can give every student one to use! They are also approximately the same size at ATC's so are perfect for experimenting. You can buy them online at Ebay and Aliexpress for starters, but Mr Google will help you find them - Sticky Dashboard Phone Mats.

So here is the proof!

This pic shows a very basic 2 layer print of orange, overlaid with blue where I simply scratched a design into the blue layer before printing over the orange. The details is AMAZING!! And just with normal acrylic paint too - not open acrylics. There are a few things you need to know however. The mats are SUPER STICKY when you first get them so you need to mount them onto a piece of persplex or similar and then push the mat onto some lint free material to DESTICKY them. That's a word isn't it? Then spread the paint onto the mat with your finger, as your brayer is likely to stick to the plate at first. Do this a few times and it becomes much less sticky and behaves brilliantly!

And this is what I did with the print. Masking off the shape of the goddess I then added painted and hand drawn elements with pens, paint and stencils. Stay tuned for future posts if you want to know more about how to do this!