Thursday, 31 July 2008

Just craftin'...

So, as promised, here is a little craftiness just to prove that this really is a craft blog.

I'm sure most of you recognise the work of the great Julie Arkell. Her "creatures" are so fantastic.

Julie uses 'found' bits of dolls, papier mache, knitting and dressmaking skills to create her mixed media masterpieces.

At last year's Knitting and Stitching Show at the NEC I finally got to see her work 'in the flesh' and it's even better than in photographs. I could quite cheerfully have cleared off all her shelves and taken every single one home with me.
Their cute little faces and knitted ear warmers are fab. And I love the random bits of text she embroiders onto the clothes. Apparently these are phrases and sentences that she finds on the back of old postcards. My favourite (although I don't have a picture of it) is "In case of nutmeg". What is that about? What does it mean? I don't know but it just appealed to me because it's so random.
Anyhoo... I decided that I should have a little play myself and see if I could create a Julie creature. I know that Katie (whatkatiedid) attended a workshop with Julie a year or so back, so I sent her a little email for some pointers and the lovely lady replied so that was it. I was all set.


Believe it or not I've never actually done papier mache before, or not in recent memory anyway. I googled recipes for the best paper and paste to use, and in the end I cooked up my own batch of flour and water paste. It was very thick and gloopy and a bit lumpy but it seemed OK. I also fancied having a go at making some paper pulp, so I soaked a load of torn up newspaper in warm water, mushed it up with my hands, rinsed it in clean water and squeezed it out. Then I wrapped it in clingfilm and shoved it in the fridge for a day 'cause I ran out of time. lol

Next day I put the pulp in a bowl with some of the paste and mushed it all up together. Then I started to model with it (see the grey, blobby shapes). It seemed to work reall well and felt lovely and gooey. Having said this, it's not the way that Julie creates her papier mache parts, so I went back to Katie's email.


I rolled up a tube of newspaper and folded it in half to create a body and two legs. A second tube formed the arms, then I pasted layers of paper strips onto the tubes to make the shape more solid. I wond stripes round and round the head part to fill it out. It's really very therapeutic actually, tearing up little pieces of paper, spreading on paste and positioning the bits of paper. This is the little chap drying out. And sadly he is the only remaining creature left from my experiment :o(
I don't know what went wrong exactly but my flour and water paste started to ferment. Well that's the only thing I can think has happened. It smells like when my nan used to make wine - all yeasty but not very nice. I tried putting the pieces in a very cool oven to speed up the drying process but that just made the whole kitchen stink, so I've had to admit defeat and consign the whole lot to the bin.
Strippy boy has survived and I made a quick second strippy bloke to be his friend. They are dryting out nicely and don't smell at all so fingers crossed...
This week's free papers have all arrived today so I have more raw materials to work with. I think I may crack open the PVA and make some more people but using the 'safer' method.
Stay tuned for the next instalment when I hope to be adding a layer of paper from an old book and painting the face of the small blokes.

6 comments:

Jackie said...

As a primary school teacher I am an EXPERT on papier mache! Use wallpaperpaste or CMC (Same thing but no fungicide) Make the basic frame from rolls strips etc and build up with pulp. You can add a bit of plaster of paris to the pulp mix for a harder finish, but not so much that it will set on its own.

Jackie said...

PS Your posts are not coming through to google reader..I think its feedburner thats the problem. I had a lot of trouble with mine when I subscribed to FB so I unsubscribed and no probs now.

Apryl said...

it looks like you have been having fun. I can't remeber the last time I did papier mache it must have been when I was about 8 and made a manatee for school.

Tip Top said...

Heheheh!! I used to make them with balloons - best bit was popping the balloons afterwards!

Chloe said...

I'm looking forward to seeing the next lot!

katie said...

hey - well done you! they look terrific - especially the last one - very JA!! And don't forget - you've got the best bit to come - the dressing up!
keep going!