Thursday 29 December 2022

2023 Topic 01: Shrines {by Dounia Large} with Hot Picks stamps

Hi everyone Dounia here with you today.

2022 is almost over, and for me, it is always a time to realise how fast time is flying and to reflect on the year gone by, which is often not the easiest. To put myself in the right mindset for the new year, and considering the current topic, I decided to make a shrine celebrating the passage of time. It is an inevitable aspect of life but I wanted to focus on its positives, playing with lights and warm colours. I'm also looking forward to sharing with you a few tricks for working with transparency.

I am really happy with how this turned out. It was a bumpy start but then the parts I was worried about actually ended up not being that hard! I am particularly pleased that it looks good both with and without the lights on! And the warm glow really works well with the texture, which I had fun creating. I hope this inspires you to try your own light up project.

Being French, my experiences of actual religious shrines are mainly in Catholic churches, even the smallest of villages here will generally have an impressive Catholic church at its heart. Less in use than they once were, but a peaceful place to visit and soak in the art and history of the generations who have been within its four walls. One of the things I like about them is the gentle atmosphere created by the flicker of candles in semi-obscurity, revealing the relief and detail of the surrounding architecture. So when starting this project, I aimed to recreate a pocket of light and warmth but my idea was, in all sincerity, quite nebulous; I just knew I wanted my shrine to glow from the inside and planned to involve LED lights and warm colours.

My 'vision' came together when choosing stamps to work with. I knew I wanted something either natural, with branches and leaves, or architectural. I then found these two stamps: Hot Picks stamp set 1509 (HP1509) and Hot Picks stamp set 1902 (HP1902) with their complementary collaged buildings. I loved the intricate details and repeating images and I imagined an ornate building with glowing windows. 

For maximum contrast, I decide on white for the 'stone' parts and warm autumnal colours for the 'glass' parts. I also wanted to use mainly recycled materials so I gathered whatever transparent pieces I had hoarded, including acetate, tracing paper and pill packaging. The stamps sets also involve clocks, a pattern I favour, so I decided to make the shrine about time in some way, as keeping track of time would be nod to our quarterly theme: TRACKS. I remembered I had some clock parts in a drawer and added them to my pile of things to possibly use.

I initially planned to make the whole project out of a cardboard cereal box, but in my foraging, I found a watch box. It was white, the right size and connected to my time idea so I decided to make it the main substrate in the hope to make the shrine more sturdy and save me some building work. I came to curse this choice. Haphazard planning was a recurring theme during this project, as you will see!

As I wanted transparent doors and windows, I had to cut windows from the substrate. I first stamped my chosen elements from Hot Picks stamp set 1509 (HP1509) and Hot Picks stamp set 1902 (HP1902), the doors and clocks, on Smoothy stamping card.

I cut out the parts I wanted to transform into windows. I used those templates to plan the placement of the architectural elements and trace the openings. To better integrate the stamped images and create a cohesive building, I added some lines to expand the patterns on the empty areas. For more opportunities for the light to shine out, I also sketched openings to insert the pill capsules, like tiny treasure windows.

Then came the time cut everything out... and the time for cursing! That box is made of greyboard and certainly much sturdier that a cereal box, making it awful and unwieldy to cut! You might notice the main door lost its horizontal barre. I was not fussing with that! But after sweat, tears and blood, I finally had my finished substrate...

Now for some texture! The empty areas were quite plain so I broke out the Grunge Paste to add relief and hint at stone work.

I spread it with a palette knife then drew the stones in it with a pointy tool. As the design is quite simple, I tried to not to be too neat when applying the Grunge Paste, to create nooks and crannies as the stone texture.

I did not forget the quarterly theme of TRACKS! For me, the texture and cracks in stone are the wrinkles of buildings: keeping track of their age and adding character and gravitas. To replicate them, I created more texture with a home made high-tech tool: a piece of cardboard patterned with pinking shears. It did the job handsomely but my next prototype will be made of acetate for better durability!

Finally, to harmonise and mattify all the surfaces, I sponged a nice layer of PaperArtsy Fresco Finish  Acrylic in Chalk.

My base was complete! I was really happy with the addition of Grunge Paste, it really looked like an old white stone building.

All that lovely texture and it was so discrete! It needed to be revealed. I grabbed a lively palette of warm colours: Fresco Finish Acrylic Paint in Pumpkin SoupTerracottaAutumn Fire and Toffee.

The goal was to add colour in the grooves. I started by layering my paint with a stiff brush, being sure to push it in all the crevices.

Then I delicately wiped the paint sitting on top of the surface. I first used a pretty grungy baby wipe to get most of it off. This makes the gooves much more obvious but also leaves a tint on the white background. Some colours are easier to take off than others!

As I wanted a subtle look, I then came back with a clean(er) baby wipe to try and get most of the tint off. The result was not perfect but it at least homogenised the background instead of having patches of yellow, orange and brown.

I was quite happy with the results. My building looks gently aged, but in happy colours, and still clean enough not to distract from the main elements.

It was now time to take care of my windows. I had been as careful as possible keeping the base white while adding colour in the grooves but in the end the contrast with the white Smoothy was obvious. For them to match, would it have been clever to paint the card with Chalk paint before stamping? Yes. Did I think of that? No.

I therefore decided to cover the pieces with a very light wash of Fresco Finish Acrylic Paint in Terracotta. It is a translucent colour, so it did not obscure the stamped designs. I also added some pops of colour, using the same palette, to highlight the details of the stamps, and integrate them to the background.

The plan was to have the big door of the shrine open into a smaller niche. I cut that out of a cereal box, with its own windows. Much, much easier than grey-board! I painted those parts to match, adding lines to suggest stonework.

I used acetate for the windows and decided to paint it. First to add colour and warmth but also to make it less transparent. I hoped it would then diffuse light in an homogeneous glow instead of showing a point of light were each LED was. Fresco Finish Acrylic Paint do not need any prep or undercoat to work on non porous surfaces so I just brushed on blobs of my chosen colours - all translucent! - over the acetate.

The result was still too transparent for my taste, and the brush strokes were quite visible, so I came back with a layer of Fresco Finish Acrylic Paint in Mustard Pickle. I applied it with a sponge in the hope that the resulting stippled look would be better at frosting the acetate. The difference between the two coats is quite striking and I was quite pleased with the final opacity.

Another advantage to the paint layer was creating a rougher surface. I could then stamp on it with the same permanent ink as on the paper. Perfect match and no need to involve a solvent ink like Stazon.

The sponging resulted in a rather regular surface despite the brush strokes underneath. My stamping was not perfect but pretty darn good! The details came out very well.

With all my pieces complete, all that was left to do was put everything together!

I started with the inside niche. I added the pill capsules in the holes and filled them with iridescent snow for, hopefully, a bit of sparkle and pizzazz. I then glued the pieces together and covered them with the acetate. I put the the result under my desk lamp to simulate the future lights and was quite satisfied by the effect.

I must admit that focused the creation of this shrine, I had not really thought about what was going to be honoured in it... I had hoped the lights and the big clock would be enough to make the niche interesting but it ended up looking quite empty. Also, I used a piece of acetate for the floor, to add to the glow, but I again failed at planning: I glued it with the shiny and bright side visible while every other piece was showing the frosty painted side. It stood out way too much! (Looking at this picture, this could be a shrine all by itself!)

The niche was going to be stuck to the front of the shrine (somehow) but I had not planned any way to anchor it to the sides or bottom without getting in the way of the lights. It was just going to be floating in there so whatever I was going to put in there also needed to be light. I remembered the materials I had gathered at the start and extracted the clock parts from my desk. They were on theme! I found the spiral spring striking and wanted to feature it. I just added the hands and voilà! I love this semi-abstract representation of suspended time. It chimes so well with the clock in the background!

For the floor, I wanted something translucent to preserve the glow. I cut and curled strips of tracing paper, shoved them in there and bam! instant filling!
I glued the pieces, making sure to match the outsides and insides of the windows. I added tiny nuts in the round capsules as a reminder of the clock theme.

The oval capsules got an iridescent snow treatment. It is much more obvious catching the light outside than inside the niche. I also added a few pen lines to better meld together the stamped and textured parts.

Finally the lights! I was quite excited and a bit nervous as I could not really check if it would work before hand. I used a long string of tiny LEDs in warm white. My floating niche proved quite useful as I just had to wrap the string around it, no need to fuss! I still made sure a few of them were illuminating the big clock at the back. Much easier than I had anticipated!

And tada! I am thrilled with the result. The contrast between the warm glow and the white building really works like I hoped.

The top was a nightmare to cut but I really love it once finished. I think the capsules are really fun elements, helping bring even more dimension to the project.

Here is a close-up of the light up inside. I think it really embodies my initial idea! I like how the spiral and hands are silhouetted by the light from the clock face.

Taken all together this project was quite involved but each part was actually simple (if not always easy). My main take away is that I should plan more carefully for projects of this scope! I like that that my shrine has two different looks and atmospheres, depending on the lights. Without going full on, I think the concept is easily transferable to smaller pieces, like a light up card for example, with the LEDs between two layers of stiff paper.

I love the effect of the pill capsules. Using card and not grey-board, they are a quick way to create dimension for a polished look, and you can also fill them to display tiny treasures. For me, it was also therapeutic to make something associated with illness into beautiful art!
I hope this inspires you to give light up displays a try!

Stay creative
Dounia x

Wednesday 28 December 2022

2023 Topic 01: Shrines - Topic Introduction {by Dounia Large}

Hi everyone, 

Dounia here to introduce our first topic for 2023 that will also fall under the quarterly theme of tracks. 

For the next few weeks, it is going to be all about SHRINES here on the PaperArtsy Blog! An opportunity to explore what we deem sacred, significant or representative of our feelings enough to be worthy of an extra special artistic display. How do we go about building the housing and how could we explore the relationship between container and contents?

Shrines in a mixed media sense, might not be religious, but they are often used as a way to frame something special, particularly an assemblage of objects, 3 dimensional art made from found items, or trinkets that hold some personal significance. Let's take a look back at the history of shrines, and then some ideas will follow that might inspire your creativity around this topic over the next few weeks.

Shrines are present in most cultures and religions, in an incredible range of size, styles and uses to honour gods, saints, ancestors. They have always been an expression of art and human emotion, be it the aspiration for serenity, or an icon of comfort to ease the pain of loss or the uncertainty of life.

'Shrine' certainly evokes striking imagery of all around the world, from churches, to mosks and temples, like the iconic red laquered gates of the Japanese Inari Shrine .

Inatori Shrine by M yanagisawa

The definition of Shrine is quite flexible and can extend to be an entire worship space, but for this topic, we are going to restrain ourselves to more modest (in size) personal and portable shrines. 

Historically, Romans and Etruscan homes had personal altars for their household deities, the Penates and Lares, protectors of the land, the family, the household and the larder. It was a central point of the house next to the hearth used for daily worship.

Household lalarium in Pompeii By Claus Ableiter

Bringing your altar with you can be crucial for travellers and non-sendentary communities, resulting in stunning and clever compact works of religious art, like this Portable Buddhist shrine.


By necessity or convenience, these beautiful objects often served several purposes, like the illustrated boxes of Kavad Art. Both a sacred story-telling device and a portable temple.

Even smaller and more personal, Roman Catholics carry images of their faith everywhere with them thanks to pocket shrines. You can admire a whole collection of them by Saint Martha's Guild or try your hand at one with How to make a wallet shrine by Diane Gilleland.

Catholics are well known for their extravagant bejewelled, metal embossed  reliquaries, still fervently worshipped around the world.

Attributed to Jean de Toul, Met MuseumWikimedia commons 

Adapted from these traditions, the Nichos of South America frame saints, ancestors or skeletons in personalised and colourful displays. The variations are infinite as illustrated by this Mexican nichos collection by Ingrid Pfohl.

These are only a few examples of worship-art existing in the world, to use as reference or inspiration. As this is an existing practise among many cultures, please remember to be considerate and respectful of the religious and cultural significance of shrines to many people.

If religious links to shrines are a conflict for you personally, there are other words that capture their essence too: memory box, niche, cloche or art-window for example.

Artists often re-size the subject of a shrine, to re-interpret, re-invent and yet still allow the end result to be a representation of the core concept.

Minimalist shrines are an interesting exercise in focusing on what is essential for us to display and what is necessary for others to recognise. How far can we simplify and still have the classic iconography immediately tell us what we are looking at?

On the other hand, leaning into the dark imagery of some religious objects like ex-votos, can be a reflection of myths and mysterious legends. A style that can be also represented in an shrine-like assemblage of rusty pieces and found objects, such as this example by Michael de Meng below.

Religious imageries can be contrasted to express how much other subjects matter to us through art, maybe to question what is worthy of a shrine nowadays.

Personal shrines are also a way to build a personal monument, representative of our values, beliefs and creative style; it could be an exploration of what is the sacred for us personally.

Shrines are by nature an expression of personal concepts and beliefs magnified by art. We hope you will create your own shrine as you explore your artistic journey alongside the inspiration of this topic.

In our crafty circle, shrines are popular among makers, as a way to honour, preserve and display crucial pieces of our life. Modern shrines can also celebrate the importance of the mundane by finding beauty in overlooked objects and showcasing little treasures or trinkets. Here we are going to share a few ideas to spark your creativity to create a shrine personal to you!

You might find kits or boxes, shrines or theatres available online to purchase and decorate as a useful starting point. Maybe you already have them in your stash!

Leandra Franich

But do not be afraid to explore other substrates! You can make your own shrine from card board, clay or papier maché to mix up the textures.

Upcycling is always a good solution. It might be time to make use of that cigar box you have been saving with Laura Carson's video tutorial on Creating Armoires from Cigar Boxes.

Or you could explore even more unusual bases. How's a chocolate box for a multi-compartment shrine? Lots of food or supplies packaging could also work.

Don't hesitate to think outside the box! How about a more organic shrine. Check this Ceramic Shelves collection by Marika Säppi. Could you recreate these shapes out of cardboard?

Let's also play with size. Miniature shrines might be less intimidating! Take a look at this Little Boxes collection by Carol Leibel to get an idea of the possibilities! You can also follow this video tutorial on Matchbox Shrines by Aimee Bishop for personal and organic tiny shrines. 

Altoid tins, or vintage metal tins can be a really interesting substrate for miniature shrines too. Check out charity shops, antique shops or brocante markets, flea markets, garage sales or online market places, auction sites too for items that are already aged and worn with an inherent history to explore as your 'container'

A shrine does not have to be a stand alone box either! How about wearable shrines? Lockets are already shrines to loved to ones, why not develop the idea?

Staying with jewellery, the subject and meaning can also be more obscure, difficult to decipher at a glance. Its meaning can be known only to you and those who matter, leaving a beautiful object for everybody else to observe.

Your shrine does not have to portray a deep meaning. Nobody can dictate what matters to you! Insignificant things that bring you joy might also be worthy of a shrine, be it your pet, beautiful leaves, found shells or French chocolate!

These tips may help you along your creative journey and if you crave more inspiration, do not hesitate to check these two collections, Shrines & Altar I and Shrines & product ideas. 

Finally, Shrines are not a new topic on the PaperArtsy blog so you might want to explore:

We hope this introduction made you curious to follow our bloggers projects in the weeks ahead. Do not forget that they will also offer a 'nod' to our Quarterly Theme: TRACKS.  We hope to inspire you to make your own shrine. 

To help make something from a template, we have compiled a few resources. For your base, here are two tutorials on how to make nichos by Right Now Crafts. The technique can easily adapted to other contents and forms. If you need inspiration shape wise, check this extensive Shrine Shapes collection by Fee Berry.

If you want your shrine to be shaped like a house, Mel Stampz has you covered with her collection of 124 house templates.

For more basic containers, All Free Printable has lots of boxes templates, from basic to cutesy, in PDF format. Template maker creates box templates to your chosen dimensions. Among others, you can make matchboxes and shadow boxes with multiple possibilities for the resulting file, including PDF to print and Cricut.

For ornamentation, lots of inspiration can be found in architecture. Wikimedia commons compiles thousands of public domain images, free to download and use. You might like the Arched Windows and Meyer's Ornement categories for example. 

More inspiration and resources will be made available on the PaperArtsy People Group on Facebook during the topic run. If you want to create along with us we would love to see what you get up to! An album will also be accessible for you to share your own shrine creations within the group. We really love to hear about how the blog topics have inspired you, so don't be shy!!

Don't forget to tag us on Facebook and Instagram with @paperartsy if you follow along with this inspirational, creative theme.