Thursday 12 October 2023

2023 Topic 10: Tags {by Riikka Kovasin} with France Papillon stamps

Moikka moi, it's Riikka from Paperiliitin here today to share my take with tags and typography.

The monthly theme of typography was an easy one as I love to use text and fonts in my makes. I usually opt for scribbled kind of font and use either a stamp or just handwriting to bring that to the project. This time I wanted a bit more variety for the look and I added typography in a couple of ways - collaging, scribbling, writing and typing!

My first idea with tags was to use them as a layer in a card - like to make a really mixed media tag and then attach that to a white card base. But I also wanted to come up with something else. I played with the idea of a tag book or a journal, even a dimensional box constructed out of tags or an accordion holiday table decoration, but what popped in my head a couple of times was to use the tags as texture, like feathers. From that my thoughts went to tassels and flapper girls and evening wear. When I put that train of thought together with a stamp set by France Papillion (FP014), I then had a project to pitch. 

What I also love to do when doing projects, is to conjure stories. I often have some kind of story line in my mind when crafting. It might then represent itself as a form of journaling or some details, but often it's just a kind of part of the process. In this project I tried to visualize the story a bit more in the form of journaling in her dress. I thought to write a short story to those tags, but when I started writing, it became more a thought dumb in the form of a short story. I did started writing about the girl in the project but the story trailed to all kinds of directions. And that was very OK. 

I hope my project inspires you to try something similar. If nothing more, to write your thoughts and feelings out and make something out of those words. You can use them as an essential part of a project or collage them away, but the main thing is to get them out.

I started the project by gathering supplies. Ideally I would have wanted a long but narrow canvas for the project. When I went to buy one from a local craft store, they didn't have a nice size, only too small or too big, so I decided to go with a rectangle instead and continue the dress made out of tags with some dangling ones. I also got some ready tags in two sizes. 

I also lifted the stamp set I chose (FP014) to my craft table. As I was using France Papillion stamp set, I thought it to be nice to use a stencil by her, too. After some pondering, I chose a stencil (PS379) with two smaller patterns and two bigger ones. I believed especially the smaller patterns to be handy when making the background for the girl. Instead of a stencil I could have just hand painted some patterns or used another method for mark making. 


When I pitched for the project, I thought about making it in autumn colors using orange and red and yellow. But when it then got to the actual making, I kept seeing the dress in blue! Talking about a drastic change, an opposite color to the one I first imagined the project in! Somehow the whole atmosphere of the project was different, probably reflecting my current mood, and the color scheme changed. 

I often use my little color swatches as a jumping off point, when I choose the colors for PaperArtsy projects. This time I picked two blues and a neutral tone of beige as the first trio. I knew I wanted two blue tones to get a bit varying to the dress. I could have chosen just one blue and then for example black and white, but as I needed a color for the skin anyway, I didn't want to have that many different paints. In the end I did need the white anyway, but at this first stage I thought to get away with just three colors. I chose Blue Jeans (FF168), Glacier Ice (FF132) and Vintage Lace (FF18) as my trio.

To have even more varying look to the dress tags, I also picked one Infusions color. To keep the color palette cohesive, I chose In the Navy (CS15). By using both acrylics and a "watercolor", I knew the outcome of the dress would be nice, eclectic and diverse.

I started the make by stamping the focal point, the girl. I used the France Papillon stamp set (FP014), black ink and a stamping tool. Like in the previous project I blogged here (link), the first stamped image is just a sketch to help me with the coloring. Because I used acrylic paints, a wet medium, to color the image, I needed an ink that would handle the moisture. Depending the medium you use to color the image, choose either a water based or an oil based ink. 

Next I then used the acrylics to color the image. I didn't need to mind the lines but could go boldly over them as I was going to stamp the image again on top. I used Fresco Finish acrylic Vintage Lace (FF18) for the skin and Glacier Ice (FF132) for the hair. After letting the paint layer dry, I then put the piece of paper back to the stamping tool and stamped the image again.

If you wish to color the image the same way, it's handy to use a stamping tool as that way you can avoid missing the placement by a millimeter. Just remember to keep the stamp in place while you color so you can then stamp the line work on top. Also, if you use Archival Ink like I did, remember to heat set the image to be on the safe side as it needs heat to set on top of non-porous surfaces. Acrylics seal the paper, creating a non-porous layer. 

Now that I had the image stamped and colored, I then cut the piece loose and added some shading using just a soft pencil. I saw a pencil appropriate for the image as it has these sketch-like lines. I also added some lines to her hair to disguise the blue tone a little.

Now that one of the key elements was done, I turned my attention to the background of the piece. I started that by collaging some old paper pieces to the canvas using a matte medium. I chose some newspaper pieces and musical notes the monthly theme in mind. Newspaper goes to typography without saying, but I thought musical notes could pass, too. They are markings of another kind and they do need to have specific structure to be understandable. Besides the papers with markings, I also grabbed a couple of pieces of tea bag paper to be attached in the background.

After adding those little snippets in place, and letting the layer dry, it was then time to add some more color and texture to the background. For that I decided to use all the colors I had chosen and the stencil. I first added the two blues, Blue Jeans (FF168) and Glacier Ice (FF132), to the background, letting the two mix in places and then used the darker blue, Blue Jeans (FF168), together with Vintage Lace (FF18) to add some pattern on top using the stencil. You can see the result of that a bit later in the post.

What you can see from the picture below, however, is the placement of the collage bits. I placed them deliberately more to the right side as I knew the girl would occupy the left one. This was to give space to her gaze. 

The last element I needed to tackle before getting to the assemblage part, was the tags for the dress. I didn't want to paint them totally blue, but have more like a hint of color. For the acrylics, Blue Jeans (FF168) and Glacier Ice (FF132), I went with "a swoosh" - a term I used in an older blog project (link). For those I grabbed a cheaper, sturdier brush and added just one brush stroke to the tag. I really like the feathered, rugged look. 

I also used the Infusion (CS15) to color some of the tags. To half of them I first sprinkled the stain crystals on top of the tags and then added an abundance of water on top. For the other half I used the left over stain on my craft mat and just pressed the tags to the pool of color. I then let all the tags to dry.

Now that I had all the elements done or at least started, it was time to add story line to them before assembling the project!

I wanted to add a bit more visual texture to the background. I did that with the soft pencil I already had used to add some lines and shading to the stamped girl. This way I also could add another connection to the monthly theme of typography. I added loose scribbles across the background as well as some doodled circles.

Even though the pencil lines added some contrast to the background, I felt that more was needed. So, I chose a couple of stamps from the France Papillon set (FP014) and added a couple of elements in. Depending on the surface I was stamping, the image is more or less visible. To echo the circle more I also drew a circle, a halo of sorts, around the girls head. For that I used a white paint pen. The circle also guides the eye in to her face.

Now that I had the background done, or so I thought, I then started to make the main element of the piece. I used different methods to add the story to the colored tags. I wrote some by hand using a black ball point pen, some with black and white paint marker and some with the pencil. I also typed some using my mom's old typewriter. 

As you can see, I wrote some of the tags horizontal and some vertical. What's probably not as visible, is that I wrote some tags upside down and some the right way up. Partly the idea was to keep the tags looking interesting, but also partly to make them unreadable. As it wasn't about the story as such, it was about the whole element what the little parts make. The story part was something just for me, something that I could share if I wanted but it wasn't the most crucial part of the project.

If you are not a storyteller or inventing and writing stories isn't your thing, you could just doodle the day's grocery shopping list to the tags. Or you could copy our favorite lyrics or other literary source to the tags or even daily news! These tags are meant as a visual thing. To me the story brings in another element, but you can just follow the visual line. 

Now that the background was finished, the girl was done and the tags were written, it was time to put everything together. So, I placed the girl on top of the background and started laying the tags on top to make the dress, just to test the elements. And it was good I did, because I realized that something needed to be changed.

When looking at the project, I noticed that the focal point was getting a bit lost to the layered background. There was just too much to look at in the background, it was too busy.

What I used to fix the situation was a wash. My idea was to dull the contrast in the background and thus lift the focal point more. To make the wash I used white Fresco Finish acrylic Snowflake (FF15) and mixed that with Sating Glaze (FF23). This way I could make a translucent white layer so it just dulled the contrast, not covered the whole thing. 


I wanted to highlight the figure more, so I left the circle around her head without the wash, so there's higher contrast visible there. What I also did was to scribble to the wet paint layer to tie that with the layer underneath. I used the end of my paint brush to make the markings.

After adding the wash the background seemed a lot nicer combined with the character so it was just the finishing touches to get the project done!

Now that the combination of the background and the character was balanced, I could adhere the girl in place. After that it was time to give her the flowing dress.

I wanted the dress to have some movement, a feel of flow. Because of that I didn't want to adhere the tags heavily to the background but more to delicately attach them and keep them loose looking, light. Because of that, I decided to stitch the tags in place. 

I used a sturdy needle to first push holes through the canvas and then used a thin cotton twine to sew them fast. It would have been easier to go from bottom to top, but as the crucial point was the transition between the character and the dress, I stitched the first layer first and continued downwards. 

After stitching all the rows of tags to the canvas, I then added some dangling below to give her more height. Now thinking back, the whole dress could have been stitched to a piece of tulle or other light material and then added to the canvas just from the top row. But it was quite fun and intriguing to sew the tags this way, too! 

If sewing isn't your thing, you can naturally also adhere the tags in place! If you want the same, a bit ruffled look, that in my sewn version, only attach the tags from the top, let the glue to dry and then raise the layers a little to make them more ruffled looking.

I thought the sewed tags would be the finishing touch, but another story popped in my head when I added the last tags. I think it's probably got to do with another project we're working on at my day job as a children's story called "Adalminan helmi" in Finnish (Adalmina's pearl) popped in my mind. Long story short, it's a tale about a princess by Finnish author and poet Zacharias Topelius. The princess receives a magical pearl as a gift, which makes her more beautiful, richer and wiser each day she wears it. But should she loose the pearl, she looses everything she's gained. The princess grows beautiful and wise, but also cold, proud and arrogant. She then looses the pearl, ends up being a swineherd, learns compassion and in the end charms a prince and receives the pearl back now being not only beautiful on the outside but also from the inside. 

I saw the girl as Adalmina, who has learned compassion and gotten a good heart, maybe the day she saw the prince. The pearls I added as the final embellishments refer then to the lost crown and the pearl on it. Like the crowd cheers in the end of the story - the most beautiful thing is a humble heart. 

As you may have seen from the photo on top, I secured also the pearls in place using sewing. I thought that gave them and the project a nice touch, keeping in the same method as with the tags.

I enjoyed the process with this project. It combined many things that are dear to me - mixed media, collaging, layering, adding some sewing to a project and storytelling. I wish it also inspires you to see humble tags as a way to create dimensional surfaces. When you layer them together, they make up feathers or ruffles. What else could they become?

I used ready bought tags as my base here but you could also cut them yourself or use repurposed tags. What about making the project over a longer period of time and make the dress out of clothes' and other product tags you've bought throughout the year? Or use the tags as a diary of sorts, document your life and make that into an art piece.

Now looking at the project, the trail of the dress could have been even a bit longer. As a human being is about seven, seven and a half times the head, the dress falls a bit short. But the nice thing is that I can still add tags to it, adding another layer to the story!

Thank you so much for stopping by today! I wish you find this project or a part of inspiring and can use it in your own art!

Xoxo Riikka

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I have a new online workshop about double sided adhesive sheets and the things you can do with them. There's so much more than just adding two pieces of paper together! The only thing is that the workshop is in my mother tongue, Finnish. But if you are interested to have a look nonetheless, here's the link to that (link)!

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