At the beginning of November 2018, I was cleaning up my studio area after completing on online class, and noticed five small substrates I made during the summer, lined up on a rack, waiting to be used. I quickly decided I didn’t want to see them there in 2019, so I laid them out on my work table, hoping for an idea to come my way.
I thought back to the art retreat I went to in 2017 in Santa Rosa, where I spent two days learning how Finnabair makes her fascinating creations. I hadn’t made anything like that since I came home. I looked at the experiments I had been doing with handmade paper, wire, and palm bark. What would happen if I added these materials to what I learned at the retreat?
I had to find my notes from the retreat to recall how we began the piece I made. I didn’t have the finished item from the retreat because I had given it to my granddaughter for her High School Graduation.
I cut up patterned paper into small squares, pasted them to each substrate with gel medium, and coated them with soft gel, through which I dragged a comb to create texture. When that layer was dry, I added torn strips of handmade paper and a small piece of palm bark to each substrate. I was making a series so they all had a small amount of each material.
At this point, I realized I needed a focal point in each piece. While looking for something else, I had recently come across a box of curious animals made of coiled pipe cleaners. They had been in that drawer for years, since I added my mother’s craft stash to mine. They looked like the things she made in Florida at the mobile home center. There was a caterpillar, a mouse, two bears, and one I couldn’t identify, which I decided would be a butterfly.
I added garage junk: nuts, screws, paper clips, washers, and odd metal and plastic pieces using gel medium for the glue. I highlighted the metal with metallic paint. I was having such a fun time, but what was I going to do with them when they were finished?
I hadn’t done any Christmas shopping because I had no idea what to get my three granddaughters. Why not give each of them one of these creations? The little animals were made by their great-grandmother. This was just the incentive I needed to get them finished soon even though I was cleaning up the yard every day, too. The next logical thought was that the mouse should go to my son.
To the caterpillar and butterfly pieces I added some dark green paper leaves and flowers. I tried to highlight the leaves with some shiny paint, but it didn’t work out well, and I couldn’t remove the paint.
These were both on wood substrates.
The brown bear is on a cork substrate which was glued to a piece of craft wood to give it stability. I liked working with the cork. It made a nice texture for adding paint, and the gel medium stuck to it well. The dark brown mass in each collage is the palm bark. The tan area is the handmade paper which was torn into odd shapes. This piece has silver highlights.
The mouse is actually a pack rat as can be seen by all the junk in his nest. The next is made with the palm bark. On the bottom below the bark is a strip of black woven mesh, probably nylon, which I picked up in a garage at an estate sale. The metal pieces were highlighted with brass metallic paint. His corrugated cardboard substrate was glued to a craft board.
One of the substrates was made on a piece of cardboard with the lower right corner cut out. I resolved this by mounting it on a piece of light weight craft board that was slightly smaller than the cardboard, painted that corner with a pink metallic paint that I used for highlights on the piece, and glued a small shell to the craft board. The green diamond pattern on the bottom and right side were made by using thickened gesso with a stencil. After it was dry, I applied green paint and rubbed most of it off. This has a little panda bear sitting in the palm bark, surrounded by tiny fabric roses. He has now joined the menagerie in my bedroom