DIY Plaster of Paris Dipped Flowers

IMG_8850Yesterday, my friend Claire and I spent a few hours dabbling in plaster with fabric flowers.  The process is really simple and they look like the most delicate bisque porcelain pieces when finished.  Claire has taken them off for framing in 3D Box frames, and the picture of the framed end result is at the bottom of the page.  They can also be made into tealight holders if you dry them flat and push out a space in the center for the tealight whilst they are still wet, or framed, or just left au naturel.  As the Plaster of Paris dries quite fast you only have a small window of time to make the flowers, so work in small batches and make new plaster as and when you need it.  In the meantime here is the process: Ingredients: Plaster of Paris Water Fabric Flowers (tighter full blooms like roses and peonies are best) Wire cutters Scissors Plastic container for the plaster of paris which is wide enough for dunking flower heads Greaseproof paper Mixing stick. How to:

  1. Prepare the flowers:  Cut off any internal plastic stamens.  Pull off leaves from stem, leaving the flower head and stem only.
  2. Prepare the plaster of paris by mixing it in the plastic container and adding water gradually whilst mixing until it reaches the consistency of thick cream.
  3. Take a flower, turn it upside down and submerge in the mixture.  Twizzle it about, and pull out to inspect. It might not be totally covered in plaster, but you do another dip in more plaster later when it is dry if this is the case.
  4. When it is fully covered (including the insides of the petals) let drips fall off by gentle shaking it in the container.  If you want just the flowerhead cut off the stem, but you can leave a length of stem and also dip that in plaster.  Cut off the stem to the length you want with wire cutters and place it face up to dry on the greaseproof paper, or in an empty foil pie dish is also good.  You can also peg the flowers out to dry upside down on a line, (we tried this way too for the really full blooms and it keeps their shape tight).  We dried some of ours flat on newspaper and it stuck and had to to be peeled off when dry, so greaseproof paper is the way to go if lie them down to dry.

Leave to dry thoroughly.  If bits look patchy, make up another mix of plaster and do a second dip.

Here is the framed finished version of the flatter dipped flowers:

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I have more recently used the flowers on plaques as pictures show below, here is a link to the post about them:

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Displaying collections Part One

Coming from a marriage of two compulsive collectors, it is really hard not to let the objects accumulate into chaos and clutter.  We are dreadful at always coming home with bizarre treasures, and love taxidermy, old medical paraphernalia, books and actually anything odd that grabs our fancy.  For Christmas I received a vintage medical model of a hair follicle and a also Biologist’s fish’s brain model – bless him!  However, with so much stuff and growing collections I often have to reorganise the items into some form of controlled display.

I am inspired by this house featured in Apartment Therapy where the owners have as much ‘stuff’ as we do, and have managed to group it into some semblance of controlled display.

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Eclectic collection of items

I love their version of a kitchen unit – a dream for hoarders like me.  Cannot see myself chopping onions anywhere on it, but it is a small price to pay for such a beautiful piece of furniture.

Photo: Apartment Therapy

Photo: Apartment Therapy

There are lots of ways to display items and they can look great en masse, this is a collection of antique textile fibres I picked up at a flea market and grouped together in a shelved box frame:

I always remember being knocked out by this photo of a collection of baskets in a hotel.  Amazing.

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I have a large glazed cupboard in the hallway where I store bits and pieces like magazines, ribbons and so on (neatly hidden away in boxes).  I wanted it to be visually more exciting so backed the cupboard in fabric, then added in collections of shoe lasts, fossils and some very old books:

 I am working my way through the various collections and trying to space them out around the house so they can be seen clearly and preferably not gather dust.  It is a long winded task, this one below is one of my husband’s ‘cabinet of treasures’… I don’t even know where to start on this one but it needs an edit.  He has also swiped some of my treasured insect taxidermy into it I note…

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Hand Painted Wallpaper ♥ Want Wednesday No. 1

De Gournay paper and murals from the masters of the most exquisite wallpaper hand made by artisans has always been Number 1 on my dream list for decorating a room, (or Gracie Studios as a close second as well).  However, you do usually pay a small fortune for hand painted wallpaper and murals on silk or paper, and so it has always been out of my reach, and I am not sure my own artistic skills would match the pieces I have seen if I tried to replicate it, (actually definitely not when I think about it).

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All Photos from De Gournay

I love the way the paintings meander over the walls, around corners and are so obviously not normal wallpaper.  These papers cost literally hundreds per roll. A friend purchased a roll a couple of years ago, and hung it like a painting rather than stick it to a wall directly in case she moved house and had to leave it behind.

But, GOOD NEWS, I have just found a supplier of Chinoiserie papers in China (via my lovely friend that is Ebay) that has good recommendations via Jenny Komenda at the Little Green Notebook blog.  They can paint onto paper or silk so you have a choice of medium.   Jenny had some panels from them with the backgrounds specifically matched to a paint sample she sent them, and the results are stunning.  Jenny framed hers as separate panels in acrylic, however I think I would go the whole hog and use them as wallpaper directly in alcoves, and match the background colour paint to the colour on the rest of the walls. The room would then have the hand painted sections in the alcoves, and if you used 2 panels per alcove they could curl around onto the adjacent walls.  Scrummy.

Here is the link to the ebay store where they can be found.  They cost approximately £237 for an 8ft high x 3ft wide panel which is quite a lot less than one roll by De Gournay.

!Bqg7-4wB2k~$(KGrHqEH-CUEu43COgQRBLvzp)R(-g~~_12 !BzJRsogEGk~$(KGrHqF,!i8Ew5judG52BMUufWuWtg~~_12 !BzWi,M!BGk~$(KGrHqYOKjgE)OofPoj3BMVr+sc,nQ~~_12Definitely an option worth investigating further, and not much difference in costs to using a designer wallpaper all over the room from design houses like Colefax & Fowler, Prestigious Wallcoverings or House of Hackney.

Wallpapering Furniture

I have had a Georgian cupboard for years, that I bought because it was quite scruffy and showed where at some point it had had a decorative paint effect applied.  It looks like someone has applied a woodgrain oak effect on top of the original mahogany.  But it is now a bit chipped and worn and needs an overhaul.  As I think the paint effect is at least Victorian, I can never restore it to immaculate mahogany.

I have seen lots of pictures online with cupboards and shelves having wallpaper set into the back panels but not many when wallpaper is used to the outside of the pieces:

Photo from House to Home

Photo from House to Home

I want to make my cupboard into something more exciting and came across this great piece by Dutch designer Piet Hein Eek.  I love the fact it is totally wrapped, and it starts to look like something like marquetry or hand painting that you might see in a very grand old house.

Wallpaper Cupboard by Piet Hein Eek

I am going to go for it with the cupboard and aim for quite a dramatic finish with a very dark/black base all over, but not by wrapping it totally in wallpaper as I want quite a large design and I think it will be too overwhelming.  I will start with papering the inset front and side panels and adding some brushstrokes of paint to those areas,  and will then paint the rest of the wood to match the background of the wallpaper.  Then with a glaze I think I can match the texture of all areas so it ends up looking like a hand painted piece, and slightly oriental if I use a shiny glaze.

The shortlisted contenders for the paper are below – I LOVE the House of Hackney paper as it is crazy close up with animals holding odd items but it is really expensive for a roll, and I also think the Snow Tree is a contender as the brushstrokes in the background can be replicated all over the other areas of the cupboard.  Samples are on their way so I can see the paper with the naked eye as that will also affect the choice.

More to follow on the cupboard saga, and any suggestions also most welcome….

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Ice in photography

This morning I woke up very early to a huge frost, everything was blanketed in it and looked fuzzy with ice, and then the sun started to shine.  It looked amazing.  So I rushed outside, (coat over dressing gown plus hat etc – probably made my neighbours wonder what on earth was going on if they did see me crawling around in the flower beds), and I took some pictures.  Here is one:

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I could not really go any more macro on shots with the basic camera and lens I was using, so decided to investigate what lens would work.  Along my googling journey I came across these stunning close ups of Ice by Oystein Johnsen.

I also found a large collection of ice macro shots by various photographers on Gizmodo, all amazing.  This page is also really handy for lens information as the photographers discuss how they took the shot and with what cameras and lenses.

Cupboard Reinvention

I owned a scruffy victorian cupboard, and had used it for general dumping for a while.  It looked a bit sad, so I decided to have a go at making it into something more exciting.  I wanted to turn into into something that looked like a faded old french shop fitting.  I found some excellent template signs at The Graphics Fairy.  These are a variety of french worded signs that you can print out in reverse and use as transfers for the below method.  You need to print the transfers on inkjet printers as that ink can transfer onto your chosen item.

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First of all I painted the cupboard in a mixture of ‘Mizzle’ by Farrow & Ball used on the tops and door panels and ‘Duck Egg Blue’ by Annie Sloan on the sides and door frames.  It looked very pristine and bright, but I was going to add coloured wax after so knew it would darken down when applied.

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I then used Modge Podge, (this is a US glue product available from Hobbycraft in the UK, but you can use PVA as a substitute diluted about 2 parts water to 1 PVA).  I coated the front of the transfers with it so they were saturated.  This then was stuck onto the panels, smoothed on very well on the areas of font and left to dry hard overnight.

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In the morning, I soaked the paper with water so it was sopping wet, and very slowly peeled it off.  It leaves an imprint of the print showing the right way around.  After it thoroughly dried I sanded it back to make it look faded and old, I then waxed these areas very gently with clear beeswax.  I then waxed all the other areas of the piece with clear beeswax, and then rubbbed in much darker bison wax into all the cracks and crevices.  This gives a patina of age and use.

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The finished cupboard looks so much better and it was an interesting process to try out.

3D Paper Pictures and Botanicals

I love botanical prints, and have many old ones over the house.  However, I had a space for some artwork and some box frames lying about, so decided to make my own modern version of botanical prints. They looked great, and I sell mine a lot, they can even be customised for clients with text:

Using royalty free images found on-line, I pick one image and then print it up either on aged paper or pages from old books, in varying scales of size, about 5 copies per image.  It needs to be strongly coloured to work well.  Then I cut them out carefully with a scalpel.  Mounting them is trial and error, starting with the biggest at the rear and then building them up.  Pinching and curling some leaves etc added to the 3D effect. Using small pieces of sponge cut to size and a glue gun, you attach each layer so it protrudes.

You can also print straight onto old pages if you do not want to do a 3D effect.  I used old encyclopedia pages, and printed the botanicals straight on top of them:

I have now started on birds and trees:

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Upcycled wall lights

I wanted to have wall lights in my bedroom, but without the expense and mess of an electrician coming in and hard-wiring the walls.  In Ikea I spotted some very reasonably priced wall lamps called  ÅRSTID with plug attached, but when I got them home they looked too modern, bright and shiny for my room. arstid-wall-lamp-white__0103651_PE249969_S4 Rather than drive all the way back to Ikea, I got busy. Now they look very rustic and suit the room, plus I can move them if I want a change. First I made a bowl of 5 tea bags & hot water and dunked the shades in for a couple of minutes, this knocked back the whiteness of the shades.  When dry I attached ribbon around the base of the lampshade with glue.

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Then I painted the chrome bases with two coats of chalk paint.  I used Annie Sloan paint.  When dry I waxed them to withstand scratches and knocks.

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When they were ready to hang, I attached them to the wall as per instructions, however the white wires looked awful against the dark walls in my bedroom, so I painted them in leftover paint from the walls so they were far less obtrusive.

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Paper Flowers and Wreaths

IMG_7950 I saw this idea online, and decided to have a try.  They are really easy to make, and look beautiful.  I sold a load at a craft fair at Christmas, and people now commission them with specific central ornament colours to match their home decor colours.

IMG_7963You will need: 120 pages of a standard sized old book.  The older the better as the pages are yellower and have a great patina.  I only use books from junk shops that are falling apart as I do not feel guilty when cutting out the pages. Scalpel and ruler Sellotape Stapler Foam Board Hot Glue Gun Decorations  – These can be baubles, natural cones and dried fruits, shells (lightweight), feathers… anything light and that you like.

INSTRUCTIONS:

  • Cut a square piece of foam board slighter larger than a dinner plate.  On the board, draw circles decreasing in size in pen or pencil, (I use a dinner plate, bowl, side plate & mug turned upside down and I draw around them).  Then draw through the circles 2 x lines forming a cross, so you have a graphic resembling a target.  This is your guide for when you stick on the paper cones.
  • With a scalpel and a ruler, cut out 120 pages from the book.  Try and keep them equally sized.  At this point I normally settle down in front of a good movies and start making the cones as it can take a while.
  • Roll each piece of paper from the bottom left inwards into a cone shape, use a small piece of sellotape to secure the wide back of the roll so that it is unseen, and then staple once across the bottom point horizontally.
  • Once you have all of your cones ready, heat up the glue gun.
  • Start attaching the cones to the board, put small blob of glue at the back bottom part of the cone where the back of the staple is.  Use the widest circle as a starting point and stick a circle of cones around it.  Then moving inwards, repeat the circles.  The trick is to keep it neat and uniform.  Once you start nearing the middle, you may need to trim the bottom of the cones so they are shorter and re-staple before attaching.  Leave a space in the middle the diameter of a mug base.  Once all of the cones are stuck on, just glue in the decorations you want to use.
  • That is pretty much it.  To hang, I use a bulldog clip attached to the top of the foam board with a ribbon attached, as it is all paper and foam board, the flower wreath is very light.

IMG_7945 I also been working on versions with folded paper sheets rather than cones. The central area is shredded paper rather than decorative elements: IMG_0097 IMG_0098