Monday, June 15, 2020


As we enter the second half of 2020, it doesn't appear that life is going to switch back to the "before" that we are all more comfortable with. In fact, it seems that a huge reckoning is in action at the moment and Mother Nature is at the helm of it all. The theme for June is typography and I wanted to create a project that best represented where I believe I need to focus and how I suspect everyone wants to feel. The project evolved considerably but it always revolved around the idea of creating balance. The world is navigating disease, political strife, unnecessary deaths, racism, gender bias, and so many other oppositional areas that it has become difficult to remain balanced. So, my desire was to create a piece that I could use to become more mindful, focus on what I can personally achieve, and balance my part in the world. 

You will find that the project begins with a very linear piece of board and then is cut away to reveal only the part that will best serve me. I hope that the idea of cutting away the unnecessary and striving to reveal the inner truths of yourself is compelling enough for you to make your own piece, whether a personalized version of my piece or an entirely alternative piece that serves you in your own need. Remember that the intent is to create a vintage arched piece that has a homey and handmade feeling to it--one that reveals the "getting back" to a simpler time, one that allows us to represent ourselves through natural tendencies. Resist the urge to make your lines precise. Instead, embrace the wholeness of existing in the space and time in which you create. While the project is titled Balance, the intent is to create inner balance not the outward type that requires linear acts and thoughts. And isn't that what art asks of us anyway?


S710-Chinese Garden-Lotus (Gwen Lafleur)

L169-Crackle Stencil (Nathalie Kahlbach)

L758-Kyoto (Nathalie Kahlbach)

L696-Floral Waterfall (Kate Thompson)

L636-Fly Away Home (Roxanne Evans Stout)

Craft Materials:

MDF Board or similar (18 x 24 to make this project but you can use a smaller size)
Paper Clay
Acrylic Paints (Anita's: Classic Gold, White, Hot Pink, Bark Brown, Espresso Bean, Hunter Green, Heather Gray, Rivera Tan, Antique Nickel, Crocus, Medium Blue, Sunshine Yellow, Taffeta Pink; Paper Artsy: Cerise, Slimed; Golden: Iridescent Pearl, Permanent Violet Dark)
Glitter Glue (Stickles: Grape Crush or Nuvo: Orange Soda)
Brass Shapes (Vintaj)
Large Open Jumprings (Vintaj)
Recycled Silk Sari Ribbon (Check with Ephemera Paducah)
Wax (I used  Finnabair's White Gold, Mint Sparkle, and Vintage Silk)
Embossing Powder (Seth Apter's Baked Texture in Chunky Rust and Ancient Amber)
White Gesso
Uniball White Pen
VersaMark Clear
Distress Mini Stamp Pad in Black Soot
Marker (Tombow)
Rice Paper or Tissue Paper
Xacto Knife
Clay Roller or Small PVC Pipe
Aleene's Tacky Glue
Sanding Block
Baby wipes
Heat tool
7/8 Spade bit and drill
Jute Twine that is 1/4 inch to 3/8 inch in diameter

Let's get creating!

Start by applying gesso to an 18 x 24 MDF board on front and back. Stencil using the Kyoto stencil randomly all over the board and then the Plum Blossom stencil in the lower left and right corners.

Next, prepare the paper clay and roll out flat to about 1/8 inch. You can, of course, make it thicker if you desire. Lay the Buddha stencil on top and press the stencil into the clay using the clay roller. Use the Xacto knife to cut around the impression. Complete the same process with the Lotus stencil and the dragonfly element on the Fly Away Home stencil. While the paper clay dries, return to the MDF board and paint in the flowers and leaves with the acrylic paint.

Note that the edges of the clay may lift a bit as it dries. To help prevent this, as one side starts to dry on the edges, turn the piece over and continue this throughout the drying process. When you are gone from the piece for more than an hour, place something light and flat like a notebook on top. However, I like the slightly lifted look and find it more visually appealing. The thickness of the piece and the humidity in the air will determine drying time, which can be as long as several days or as short as overnight.
After the flowers have dried, sketch out the arch top on the left side. Place a piece of rice or tissue paper over the sketch and copy it. Cut the edge out, flip it over, then lay that piece on the right side and draw the line to create the other part of the arching top. Use a jigsaw or a sabre saw to cut the non-usable side pieces off and smooth the edges with a sanding block.

Lots of fun coming up!

Using the acrylic paints colors, paint the lotus so that you have an ombre effect from darkest to lightest. Use wax to highlight the piece. Use glitter glue to enhance your piece, especially the dots and the veins.
You will want to do the same thing with the dragonfly and the Buddha. The dragonfly is developed more by using layers of acrylic paint to denote its body sections. Use the wax and the glitter glue to further enhance it. Paint the Buddha antique gold, add the wax, then add the glitter glue. Allow to dry overnight. For the Buddha, use acrylic paint to more fully develop the eyes, nose, and mouth areas. Use a Tombow marker in dark grey to highlight shadows.
For the bottom of the final piece, you want to include something that jingles. While I used jewelry components in this project, you could also use Noah bells and highlight them in pretty much the same way. Take the sanding block and lightly brush it over the brass pieces to highlight the design. Emboss the inner areas of the medium and large pieces. Glue the pieces together with Aleene's Tacky Glue and allow to dry overnight completely.

Drill a 7/8 inch hole at the top and three at the bottom using a spade bit. Stencil the word "balance" using green acrylic paint and the Chinese Garden-Buddha stencil. Dry with a heat tool. Take the new arch piece and place a glaze on top of it using dark brown acrylic paint and a bit of water. Mix the paint and water then liberally apply the glaze to the piece. Allow the glaze to sit on top of the arch piece for about a couple of minutes. Use baby wipes to remove the excess glaze. Your piece should be browned with no white showing. Dry with a heat tool. Using either the same glaze or a new glaze made of a slightly darker brown, flick droplets of various sizes onto the arch piece. Allow to dry naturally or by using a heat tool.
On the bottom right, you will see a set of sketch lines that mimic what a window or an arch might have. Remember, avoid linear drawing. Freehand this! Use various acrylic paints to create depth and design. Using a variety of colors will give the appearance of a well-used arch or window. Use the Floral Waterfall and Crackle stencils to create an aged design around the edges and at the bottom. Lay the stencils down and use a baby wipe to wipe away the design from the slightly wet paint.

Once this is all dry, take your paper clay pieces and lay them out on the arch piece to get a sense of how the piece is coming together.
While you have your paper clay pieces on the board, determine where the Chinese characters from the Chinese Garden-Buddha stencil best fit. Use the dark gray Tombow marker to stencil these characters; paint may be too thick and opaque for this. The marker will create a softer more vintage mark. Create detail and highlights with the Uniball White Gel Pen.

Take the sari silk ribbon and wrap it around the arch piece at the bottom. Alternatively, you can wrap the ribbon in and around the holes. Tie the ribbon through the holes and on top of the other ribbon piece. Place the metal bits onto the large open jump rings then attach them to the ribbon. Loosely wrap the sari ribbon around a piece of twine about a foot long and then tie to the top hole. Glue additional metal pieces at the top using Weldbond. One dry, use the Distress ink pad to run along the outer edges of the piece and give them a "sooty" look.


Hang your piece outside, in your reflection room, or as the backdrop of an altar.
Just remember that the piece is wood and paper clay and should not be left in wet conditions.

It's all ZEN in the garden!

Anne Marie

MSS Blog 
or email me at

1 comment:

  1. Delightful project! I really love the quiet and lovely feeling it projects.


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