Thursday, 21 November 2013

the story of a wall hanging / egy tabló története

So we meet again for a piece of decoupage... I would't exactly call it a tutorial, because these pictures don't reflect the best practice for this technique, but I want to show you how I did it, what I learnt from this experience, because I'm still at the beginning.
I guess I never had so many pictures in one post :) They're not the best quality, and I can tell you it's a lousy idea to use flash when taking a picture, but hey... I work best at night, and took me a few hours to complete this wall hanging. (When I start a project I'm so eager to see it finished, that I can't stop until I'm done :)) So I had to take pictures in my very dark room, and my only source of light besides the bulb was the flash of the camera. It's not professional, I know, there's always room for improvement, but in lack of something better I have to settle for these now... I hope you'll understand the essentials.

This is how the final piece turned out... I call it "Euphoria" :)
Do you know that feeling, when you enjoy something so much (like Beethoven's symphonies for instance) that you let yourself get carried away and your thoughts and emotions melt into a delicious swirl that has no end and no beginning? I can't find words to best describe it, just gives me the chills...
So Beethoven could be a metaphor for... anything you want :)

I worked on a piece of medium density fiber board, that is already painted white on one side. I imagined the napkin on a square platform, but since I had only rectangular ones, I had to rethink the project. I unfolded the napkin and cut one quarter of it, I needed only this one since the pattern is repeated on the other sides.

I could have chosen to place the napkin in the middle, but didn't want to. It would be too common... I placed sticky paper tape onto the board as to leave a blank in the middle right the size of the napkin.

Carefully separated the top layer of the napkin from the other two (it's easier for beginners to work with rice paper or decoupage paper, so I hear, the napkin is very thin and can accidentally be torn )

Here's a trick I learned from a colleague: a piece of transparent plastic foil (of about 1mm thick) can come in handy right now. Do you remember from school how very light objects like thin plastic bags or hair are attracted to plastic rulers if rubbed against your t-shirt?
I placed the foil over the neatly arranged napkin and gently scoured a few times. It's electrifying :)

The thin napkin just sticks to the plastic sheet. I took the foil with the napkin layer and put it aside, I would need it later.

I applied a fair amount of the decoupage glue on the square surface (it was too much as it turned out later...)

took the foil with the napkin

and carefully placed it inside the square, gently pressed to let the air bubbles out and smooth the wrinkles.

I didn't notice it so far when using this technique, but the napkin kind of strung out after it got wet...

And now you can see the result of me applying waaaay too much adhesive: wrinkled, bubbly, even though I tried to smooth it out with the foil. I have to solve this problem somehow...

I used a piece of damp sponge, because the napkin would stick to my fingers, and gently pressed on the problematic areas. As I lately learned from an expert, I need to put only a very thin layer of decoupage glue on the base, just enough for the napkin to stick to it and the glue doesn't penetrate the layer of paper, so I can work more easily on the surface. That way I could press with my fingers or fingernails to smooth the wrinkles out.

This is how it looks after almost drying. I guess I can work on the wrinkles now, too.

After it dried completely I applied another layer of decoupage glue onto the surface.

I like to use the roller sponge because I can spread the glue more evenly than with a brush.

When this second layer of adhesive dries, the surface gets a silky shine.

The sticking of the napkin is over, so I can remove the paper tape from the margins. I had to use a cutter to clear away the excess of napkin as well. Press very gently along the line, because the edge of the cutter is very sharp and you don't want to cut through the base!

Gently peeled off the tape...

Ta-daaaa... Well, this looks pretty naked... But chill, it's not over yet :)

And now, ladies and gentlemen, comes the difficult part: antiquing, using a crackle varnish with 2 components...
Always start with number one. Logical, isn't it? :)
Here are some tips I found on eHow:

"Apply a coat of crackle varnish using a paintbrush. Paint lightly in one direction. Don't go over the same area twice with your paintbrush. Let the crackle varnish dry. Apply a thin coat of crackle medium for thin cracks and apply a thick coat for larger cracks."

So here's a layer of varnish (first component) which has to be pretty thick to prepare the ground for the crackle medium (second component), but not too thick, otherwise it wouldn't dry properly.

As I found out later, the best solution is to let the varnish dry on room temperature, or even cool air, because the hot air of the hairdryer ruins the final effect... Hot air dries only the surface of the varnish, and this can be misleading. Well, I didn't know that at the moment, was in a hurry as well because I wanted to finish the project in on night, so I used the hairdryer... and also put the piece of mdf on the radiator to give it all the heat possible to dry quickly...(I say it again: not advisable!)
There are some things that can't be rushed... you have to allow events to take their natural course... and they are definitely worth waiting for... for a maximum effect. So be patient :) (I kind of say this to myself... :-P)

It seemed dry to me...

So I applied the second component, the crackle medium, which is already transparent so I had to be very careful where I applied it, in order not to go over the same area twice... (well this mistake is inevitable at the beginning... professionals already know how thick a layer should be, in what direction should the brush go and so on. Apparently you have to choose your brush wisely then you come to the best practice conclusions by experimenting. A lot. This is Sólyom Gabriella's advice, who's an acknowledged decoupage expert for the Hungarian Pentacolor firm, maker of the Pentart brand. You can see her blog here, with so many wonderful creations, ideas and advice. It is in Hungarian, but you can always use Google translate for a basic understanding of the presented ideas.)

The cracks started to appear after a while (I used the hairdryer again to rush the drying process) but they are very hard to see with the naked eye.

In order to highlight the cracks I used bitumen, a very dark and very stinky liquid. I applied it with a piece of sponge but you can also use a piece of cloth that you don't need anymore.

Very little is more than enough! I think I put too much all at once and it darkened the whole surface. Theoretically the excess can be wiped off, but you have to work quickly! I should have applied a coat of transparent varnish before the bitumen, because without the lacquer the surface absorbed the dark patina.

Well, at least the cracks are visible now... :) They are so small because of the hot air from the hairdryer. They would have been bigger if I had let the crackle varnish dry on its own.

Here's a spot where I went over the same area twice (at least that's what I think it happened because it didn't crack)

I finished decoupaging, then I started to make the frame. I used one thread, cut it only once because it annoyed me that the skein kept rolling away :) Just a few hours work :) I glued the yarn with decoupage glue at first, then switched to universal hobby glue that proved to be even better.

I used about half the skein for this design (don't ask how many meters, because I have no idea), then it seemed too raw... I tried to apply a little golden antiquing paste on the thread to see how it looked but it wasn't the effect I expected :(

So I eventually painted the whole thread frame with ivory acrylic color...

...then applied a coat of solvent based transparent lacquer for protection and a little shine.

It still seemed a little "naked", I felt like something's missing...

So I tried the antiquing paste again... It looked okay to me this time... :)

Here's the final piece, imperfect as it may be, but hey, practice makes perfect :) I'm still experimenting!

You can find all the products I used in this post on this online shop:, in Romania.