Larks as Learning Opportunities

Last night I went through a stack of magazines I’d picked up at a tourist information stand and free at work. Something caught my eye as I was paging through a tourism magazine, and a while later I had this:

No. 1: The Larch.
No. 1: The Larch. 9″x12″, 2017. Sketch pad paper, Mod Podge, two outdated issues of the Vermont Visitor’s Guide.

Well, not literally; I trimmed the edges this morning. But essentially.

Just a lark, slopped together with lots of mod podge and minimal care. I intend to make more collages in the future, though, so I thought I’d record what went well here and what I would change if I were doing a collage like this to be a serious piece.

The Good:

  • I laid my sketch pad paper out on waxed paper and glued magazine clippings off the edge. The waxed paper meant I could turn it over and see the edges for trimming this morning without having to try to peel it off in advance.
  • I had tons and tons of the little clippings. I kept cutting them even though I was sure I would end up with something like twice as many as I needed. Nope, I needed all of them.
  • I saved out one of each version of the key to make sure they were all represented on the top layer.

The Not So Good:

  • I couldn’t get a sweet spot between too much and not enough Mod Podge in its role as adhesive. If it was a thick enough layer not to dry immediately it wrinkled the paper and made it translucent. If I were doing this “for real,” I would … well, I’d be a lot more careful in a lot of ways! But in particular, I wouldn’t use Mod Podge as the primary adhesive. Instead, I’d use a glue stick to attach one round of clippings (probably over half) with minimal overlap but hopefully good coverage. Then I would dab on a thin layer of Mod Podge, covering the whole page, and let it dry. Intermediate layers of Mod Podge should mean I wouldn’t have to worry about making sure the glue stick was all the way out to the corners of every clipping. Repeat with the rest of the non-reserved clippings, and finally with the reserved clippings. Then probably one more layer of Mod Podge, thicker now because the previous coatings should protect the paper from wrinkling.

Quite a bit gained from following that moment of silly inspiration!

A drop of decoupage

I acquired a strange obsession with Mod Podge after a friend brought some over the night we made pie charts, when I used it to make the candy wrapper collage shown on my About page. I also went through a long phase of saving all the wine, beer, and other alcohol labels I could, going to lengths to soak and scrape them off the bottles. I have long since stopped that, as it is far more laborious than it is worth to me, but I had an envelope of labels and finally (years after the pie chart night) purchased my own Mod Podge.

Also in my possession was a wooden box with grapevines on it.

closed box

So what is one to do but decoupage wine labels all over the interior and foot of the box?

open box bottom of box

I learned that Mod Podge is not the best glue, though it is an adequate glue. I kind of wish I’d glued the labels down with rubber cement originally and used the Mod Podge only as a finisher, but it worked out. I used many, many layers of Mod Podge. The oval label in the middle of the interior bottom had a ridge around the edge where it was poking up, and my efforts to sand that down led to the entire coating on the oval label peeling off! Fortunately, it only peeled off exactly over the oval, which meant further layers of Mod Podge helped smooth the surface – there was still a buildup of Podge outside the oval, so the ridge was diminished. I did, however, add a label from the neck of a vodka bottle to cover where I’d sanded off the oval label’s color.

box ceiling box floor

All in all, I would call this a fun and incredibly easy project, though it takes a lot of time. Not at once, but spaced out over a number of days. I used a foam brush and wrapped it in aluminum foil between uses, though I still had to replace it once or twice over the life of the project when it got gummy.

Fancy pie charts

I was out with two girlfriends some time ago at a coffee shop that hosts little art exhibits on the wall. There were all these pie charts of pretty paper, and the legends were the sources of the paper. We thought, “we could do that,” and furthermore combined the idea with charts a la GraphJam.

Here’s my favorite of the four I made that night, with all the magazines, scrapbook paper, and postcards we could summon up. It was a gift for my sister.

previous round

We used an unwanted CD for a stencil. This time around, I folded the cut-out circle into segments and cut them apart.

making a pattern 1 making a pattern 2

After selecting magazine images and cutting out wedges and some extra paper for the legend (using a different pattern than the one in the photo above), I marked a cross 4.25 inches down from the top of the page and centered across (4.25″ in from each side edge) to center the circle. Then I just started gluing down my pieces. I had some old glue sticks that were slightly dried out but they seemed to work okay. I glued the magazine pieces and my husband glued the paper; these approaches both have their pros and cons.

centering the circle partially glued

I’ll caution you now to cut your pieces wider than you think they need to be, because I thought mine were wider than the pattern pieces and they still didn’t quite meet up – I had to replace the perfume bottle with a substantially wider wedge. If you are more careful than I am you may not need the extra, but if that is the case it can always be hidden underneath the neighboring pieces.

replacing the skinny wedge

Finally, I cut half-inch squares of the leftovers to make the legend. I arranged them neatly and wrote my captions and title. My husband’s lovely chart is below as well.

all done! hubby's pie