Party invitations? Keep it simple…

I love making a bunch of the same card design for invitations, or to send out for the holidays. Having made some pretty elaborate ones, I can vouch that the advice “keep it simple” applies here too. After your 50th one, you will thank me!

Here is an idea for an invitation that works up quickly, is elegant in its simplicity, and offers lots of opportunity for customization. Take a sheet of white or cream-colored drawing paper 18 x 24 inches (45.7 x 61 cm). It should be sturdy, but not stiff or card stock since you will be folding it several times. Tear off one sheet and fold it in thirds, lengthwise. Cut along each fold so that you have three long strips.

Take one strip, fold it in half, then fold into quarters in the opposite direction so that you have a basic accordion-folded “book”. Now stamp an image on the top – this will be the “cover” of your “book”. It will be 6 x 6 inches square. Then you can stamp on the inside pages.

Here I’ve stamped the cover with Queen’s Herald:

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Then I stamped an inside page with Queen Alice Door and then Mad Tea Party. Opening it like a book, you could add the captions “You’re invited… Chez moi… To a party!” and the details of when and where. To deliver your invitations, you will need square envelopes, and remember that mail in special sizes will likely require additional postage. There, now, you’re done…go get ready for your party!

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From the Kitchen of…You!

Are you busy in the kitchen making all kinds of wonderful things…cookies, jam, syrup or maybe your own special brew? Well, I can hardly think of a better gift for a friend or loved one! Why not wrap it up in style with a personalized stamped message?

All you need besides your gift food item are a few of these cute brown paper tags, some rubber stamps, and a bit of gingham ribbon tied in a bow (image: Girl Cooking by Nature’s Blessings Fine Art Stamps):

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You can stamp just the image and trim the tag down to size, or leave it long, and add your sentiment on the front of the tag along with your image.

Need some inspiration for what to write? Here are some ideas to really “get you cooking”! (Images, from left to right:  Girl Cooking, Child Eating, and Baking, by Nature’s Blessings Fine Art Stamps.)


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Adding Pastels to your Rubber Stamping Repertoire

Pastels are a great addition to your rubber stamping toolkit. They can be used to create soft backgrounds, or to add dramatic accents to your stamped images. The tricky thing is if you stamp first on the paper and add pastel over the image, you will obscure your image, or completely cover it up. Then, if you try to stamp on top of a layer of pastels, you are stamping on top of dusty chalk which sticks to the ink, leaving you with a poor image, or no image at all. So how is it possible to do this?

There are a couple of essentials to making this work. One is a decent set of soft pastels. You don’t need a super soft pastel like Sennelier, rather I prefer one that is a bit harder like Rembrandt, but either kind would probably work. I have tried inexpensive colored chalks too, and they work okay, but not great (they tend to generate a lot of dust that falls off rather than sticking to the paper). The higher quality pastels come in lots and lots of colors, and are much more enjoyable to use.

The second essential is paper with a good “tooth”. You want a rough surface that will grab and hold the pastel. But because you will be stamping on it, you also need the surface to be even so that you will get a good stamped image. You can buy special pastel papers that have a fine surface of grit on them (Art Spectrum Colorfix has a good range of colors), or you can make your own. I prefer to make my own because it is so easy to do, and much less expensive than buying the specialty pastel paper.

The way to make your own pastel paper is to start with watercolor paper. I’m using a pad of Fabriano watercolor paper here. It doesn’t need to be the expensive stuff, you just need to be able to apply wet media to it. Then get a small jar of acrylic ground for pastel. Pour or scoop out a bit of the pastel ground into plastic dish, add a bit of water to thin it, and use a brush to apply an even coat of it to your watercolor paper. If you use a foam brush you should get a good, smooth application. Let the paper dry thoroughly. If the paper is a bit warped when it is dry, just weight it down overnight with some heavy books and it should flatten out. You can make a whole batch this way and have lots of pastel paper on hand for when inspiration hits you.IMG_9568

Here are a couple of examples. In the the first one, I wanted a soft background and applied about three pastel shades in pink, beige and green. I used the side, rather than tip of the pastel, to get broad strokes. You can be assertive with these pastel strokes, and then blend them a bit with your finger afterwards. Gently tap off any excess pastel dust into a dustbin, or do this outdoors. Don’t blow on your paper, because you don’t want to breathe in the pastel dust! The paper should now have an even layer of pastel on it, that is well incorporated into the tooth of your paper. Now you can stamp on top of it, as you normally would on any surface. (Image: Peony by Nature’s Blessings Rubber Art Stamps)

Here is another example, this time using the pastel to add a bit of drama to an image.  This time, I used the tip of the pastel to draw long, curving strokes. I layered about five shades of blue and mauve to achieve the wind-blown look. (Image: Alice and Cards by Nature’s Blessings Rubber Art Stamps.)

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Lastly, a tip on finishing and mailing your artwork… Some people like to spray their finished pastels with fixative. I don’t recommend doing this because it will really change the look of the pastel you’ve just laid down on the paper. A little dust will normally come off, but for the most part, the paper will hold onto it. We have pastel drawings that are over a hundred years old, that have lasted just fine without fixative. A good way to protect your artwork if you plan to mail it is to cut a piece of glassine paper to fit over the image. This kind of paper will protect your image from smearing, and it won’t lift the pastel off of your finished work.

Rubber stamp on copper!

A while ago I purchased a roll of copper for a household DIY fix-it project, but only needed a small amount then had lots left over. It occurred to me, given how thin it is, that it would make a great surface to stamp on. It would even be light enough to add to stamped cards! So here are a couple of first projects. It’s a fun material to use, and I’m conjuring with other ways to use it, so you may see more copper in future posts.

For materials, you need special ink to stamp on copper, but that’s about it. If you have metal shears that will save some wear and tear on your scissors, but I just went ahead and used my scissors. Do be careful of sharp and pointy metal edges.

I made my own templates for these two projects, stenciled on the copper (just indenting and marking the cut line with the tip of a bone folder) and cut them out. I stamped them using Stayzon ink, in black. Then when the ink was dry, I distressed the surface (optional!) with a ball pein jewelry hammer. Hammering the edges took some of the sharpness from the edges. If you don’t hammer your piece, you’ll probably want to file the edges a bit.

Here are a couple of finished projects. The first is an announcement – for a wedding perhaps? Or a baby? Perhaps an honorary knighthood! (Image: Queen’s Herald by Nature’s Blessings Fine Art Stamps)

Nature's Blessings Fine Art Stamps

This second project is a bookmark. To punch the hole, you can use a standard paper punch, even 1/8 inch size (the metal is thin enough).  A leather cord with a couple of hand-blown glass beads add an extra touch of elegance. (Image: Books by Nature’s Blessings Fine Art Stamps)

Nature's Blessings Fine Art Stamps

 

Lampshade? Stampshade!

A quick search online will show you lots of templates for making one of these super-cute votive candle shades. When assembled, the shade rests on the rim of a water or wine glass, and the small votive candle or LED-candle sits inside.  I traced a template on vellum paper, stamped it several times, and cut it out. Nothing else required, and instant cuteness!  (Image: Daisy by Nature’s Blessings Fine Art Stamps)

Nature's Blessings Fine Art Stamps

Make this Quick Card to Congratulate Your Graduate!

This time of year, many of our friends and family are crossing an important landmark in their lives…graduation! Many children now celebrate graduation from preschool and elementary school, and recently a very accomplished woman in Germany received her doctorate at 102 years old. No matter what age, everyone likes to have an important event in their lives celebrated and appreciated, and a very appropriate way to do so is to send a card. Of course one that you make yourself is an especially nice touch, and you can always tuck a little something inside, like a gift card or money to recognize their accomplishment.

Here is a card that is very easy to make.  The style is simple but elegant, just like that diploma they recently received! Stamp Professor Owl by Nature’s Blessings Fine Art Stamps on crisp white card stock. Crop it as needed, but leave plenty of white space around the image.  Now find a piece of red card stock, and trim it to be slightly larger than the white card you just stamped on. Cut four diagonal slits in the corners, and tuck in corners of the stamped card. Now find a ribbon with a bit of gold in it, something that looks collegiate. The easiest way to tack it on is to use a bit of spray adhesive, and then tuck the ends around the back side of the red card.

Now find a piece of black card stock, and fold it in half so it will be slightly larger than the red card. If you use a bone folder, and score the paper before you fold it, your fold should look neat and crisp. Run the bone folder along the fold to flatten it. Crop it as needed, and mount the red card on top with adhesive squares.  And there you are! Choose your own sentiment, or use this one:  Hoo hoo whoooo graduated?  (Inside) You did! Congratulations!

Nature's Blessings Fine Art Stamps

Easy Monotype Prints with Rubber Stamps and Plastic Storage Bags

Monotype printing is a single-print technique where you can get a lot of neat effects and make papers for collage, card making, and scrapbooking.  What I like about the technique the way I’ll show you here is how inexpensive it is, and how you can use rubber stamps you already have.

To start you’ll need a few supplies:

  • a few thick / stiff plastic sandwich bags (quart-size Ziplock storage or freezer bags work well)
  • some tubes of acrylic paint
  • cards or paper you want to print onto
  • a brayer (rubber roller)
  • a tray for the paint (I’m using a plastic storage container, you could also use another plastic bag)
  • stamp pad cleaner (paint pads work well)
  • rubber stamp(s) – I’m using Butterfly by Nature’s Blessings Fine Art Stamps

Nature's Blessings Fine Art Stamps

Start by squeezing a dime-sized blob of paint into your plastic container, then roll the brayer over it until you get good, even coverage. Then roll the brayer back and forth over one side of a plastic bag. You want the coverage to be opaque, but not too goopy or thick.

Nature's Blessings Fine Art Stamps
Next, take your stamp, and press it onto the painted surface of the plastic bag. You can even wiggle it around a bit to make sure you get a good image. Then holding the bag, pull up the stamp and rub it on the stamp cleaning pad to get rid of the paint on the surface of the stamp. You will see that you have left a negative image in the paint on the bag. Do this several times again, quickly, before the paint gets too dry.

Nature's Blessings Fine Art Stamps

Place your piece of paper or card stock on the plastic bag, and rub it with your finger to get a good transfer of the ink from the bag to the paper. Then, holding the bag, gently peel back your paper and see your unique print! I find that one application of paint is good for about one card, but you can re-ink the bag with the same color and do another print.

A few tips: if the paint is too dry it your paper may stick to it when you try to pull it off. If you aim for opaque coverage, you should be fine. If you get too much paint on the bag, your images will be less distinct. This is fine, and looks kind of cool. Just let that layer dry, and then you can stamp over the top in a contrasting color.  Also, you can try mixing a couple shades of paint, blending them in the plastic container before you roll it on the bag. This produces some really neat effects. Experiment and have fun!

Nature's Blessings Fine Art Stamps

Using Your Rubber Stamps in Collage

If you enjoy collage, you will find a lot of uses for your rubber stamps. And, if you haven’t tried cardmaking yet, I highly recommend it.  You may find it is the perfect way to experiment with new techniques or showcase small art, plus when you are done, you can mail it off to a friend!

For this project, I was actually experimenting with a tiny monoprint of a hand-drawn squirrel. I wasn’t planning to use it for anything in particular but I liked how it turned out. So I let it dry, and colored it with Prismacolor pencils to the point I thought I could make something out of it. After spending the time on it, I figured, why not use it for a card?

So I dug into my craft papers, and found some “woodsy” selections – papers with lots of fibers in them that produced interesting textures. I moistened and tore the red fiber paper so it would come out with a ragged edge. Then I cut the delicate white paper in a broad strip. Trying different ways layer and position them, I found a composition that I liked. But I needed something to tie it all together to form the base of the card.

Digging in my paper stash again, I found a piece of black card stock. Folded in half, it worked well as a card base, and I liked the dark background, but it needed something to give it visual interest. So I went to my stamps, and found the perfectly “woodsy” one for my project – Pine Bough with Cones, by Nature’s Blessings.

Nature's Blessings Fine Art Stamps

I chose silver pigment ink to match the bright value of the piece of delicate white paper, and stamped the image several times around the edge of the card, layering the images and changing their angle each time so the effect would be more like a close up of a pine tree, rather than a single branch, repeated. Sometimes I stamped twice before re-inking so the second image would be lighter, and appear to be farther away.

Then I attached the three pieces of paper with spray adhesive (this worked especially well with the delicate white paper, since any thing else I had would either tear the paper, or show through its fibers). As a final touch, I cut a piece of thick jute twine, tied it into a bow, and pulled the plied fibers apart and teased them a bit to soften their appearance. A little dab of E6000 adhesive tacked it down.

And here is the finished project, which started off as an experimental doodle!

Nature's Blessings Fine Art Stamps

 

Combining Your Rubber Stamps to Make Scenes

Rubber Stamps can be combined in all kinds of ways to create new scenes. You can use entire stamps, or just parts of them by selectively inking the lines you want with a felt tip pen. By using the simple masking technique (described in this previous post), you can make some images appear to be in the foreground, and some in the background. You can play with size and perspective. What story will you tell with your stamps?

Here is one of mine — I used several stamps: Butterfly, Night Sky (just the clouds, repeating the image), Downy Woodpecker, Girl Catching Snowflakes (just the girl), and Anemone.  The scene is colored with Prismacolor Pencils, and I drew in a horizon line for depth.  Many of the images are intentionally cropped at the edge of the paper, to give the sense of a larger scene contained by the frame of the paper’s edge.

Can you figure out what order I stamped them in?

Nature's Blessings Fine Art Stamps

Follow Your Own Dream Butterfly

Answer? The order is: Girl, Night Sky, Butterfly, Anemone, Woodpecker (but the order really only matters for those items that overlap).

Many thanks for the caption, Arwa!

Frame Pendants and Finding Elements in Your Stamps

Part of the fun of having detailed rubber stamps is finding parts of them that can be used in other projects. Once you start to look at your stamps this way, you will find lots of possibilities for using them in ways that are different from the whole image or scene you are presented with on the stamp. It is like having 10 stamps in one! You’ll find new ways to use them, or combine them into scenes that no one has thought of before. It is part of the creativity you bring to your rubber stamp art.

For this project, I’ll be making a frame pendant for a necklace, and I need a very small image. I decided to use Children Feeding Squirrels from Nature’s Blessings Fine Art Stamps, and selected just one small part of it for my project — the squirrel facing front in the lower right-hand side of the image.

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Below is a close up of the part I want to use. I stamped and watercolored just this part of the image, and trimmed it closely using a small pair of very sharp scissors.

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You can easily find frame pendants online in lots of different styles, or in jewelry-making supply stores. The pendant I have is particularly deep, so I can make a tiny 3D scene within it. To start, I created a background with red and blue metallic paper and glued this to the bottom of the frame. Then I raised the squirrel up off of the surface of the pendant about 2 millimeters using a small piece of double-sided adhesive foam (Mini Pop Dots work well for this). Lastly I added a small gold star for the squirrel to hold (a quirky design that reminded me of a meme, but you can do whatever you like).

Then, using 3D Crystal Lacquer, I filled in first the area around the edge of the frame, and then worked my way slowly towards the center, allowing the lacquer to fill in beneath the squirrel. 3D Crystal Lacquer is very thick and viscous and fills in slowly. Avoid shaking the bottle before you apply it as this will create lots of bubbles. As it is, it is hard to avoid some tiny bubbles, but using a pin, you can work them to the edge of your piece, or pop them as they rise to the surface. The lacquer sets in a few minutes, and will settle a bit as it dries, so be sure to fill in with additional layers. I used 3-4 layers of lacquer to build up a thick surface that filled in the pendant, which hardened to the touch within about 24 hours.

Here is the result!

 

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