Thursday, July 16, 2020

Pocket Possibilities by Carol Wiebe

Hi, everyone! Carol Wiebe here!

“One of my mantras is, 'Embrace what makes you unique, even if it makes others uncomfortable.' I keep that with me in my back pocket. Shoot, I keep it in my front pocket! I keep it in my hair.” ~Janelle Monae

The past few months have been challenging on many levels. I thought the isolation of a Pandemic might offer an opportunity to clean and organize my studio, but the many papers in my bins seduced me into transforming them into art journals. It is always so much more exciting to create than to clean. Obviously, the studio situation had not yet reached a critical enough stage. I am presently working on art journal number 9. Each journal consists of at least 40 pages (if numbered the same way you read a book), 8 ½” x 11,” give or take the edges I have ripped off on all four sides. This means that a double page spread is about 11” x 17.”

Two art materials that are integral to my art journal construction are gel plates and stencils. And, as I have stated before, I play with stencils in a “suggestive” manner—using only part of any given stencil, and doing that in a “messy” or intuitive way, including the layering of stencils over each other. For this reason, my stencil of choice is usually an abstract pattern.

I like to create pockets within my journals, and most often use the same material that I make covers with, craft chipboard. However, on these journals I tried something new (for me) and constructed pockets out of papers printed on my gel plate, using stencils.

1–I cut a shape for the base of my pocket and glued it to construction paper. Then I folded various papers to create pockets to place on this base. I kept them fairly simple so as not to detract from whatever I might decide to place in those pockets.
2–The three pockets are doubled and folded, so that the top edge is a folded edge.

3–These inner pockets can be glued in place along the edges. I chose to stitch around the outer edge of the base with a blanket stitch, then crochet the edge with crochet cotton. This is entirely optional. You may have other skills you can employ, like adding washi tape or stitching with a sewing machine.
There are so many options for fascinating items that could be placed in those pockets! I like the idea of tags, especially specimen tags (leaves, flowers, seeds, bugs, butterflies). One could include recipe cards, quotes, interesting faces and symbols.  What about a font collection? I might even put some of my crochet motifs on cards, or buttons I’ve collected. Employ a favorite poem, or note, written out in your own hand. And, of course, we can combine all of these ideas with stencils. Once you start thinking about it, ideas will proliferate!

Another way I use stencils is by taking a photo of my stencil, after it has been painted, and then combining it with a different image in an app that blends photos together. This is a really versatile use of a given stencil, because you can resize the pattern and place it over your other photo (in a lower opacity) in a way that offers you the best composition. Once you have the photo of your stencil, you can go even further and use your favorite drawing app to change the design, or amalgamate several stencils, as I did for this stencil design.

I combined the face and stencil images, and then kept refining the image in my favorite drawing app—Procreate—until I was satisfied with the result.

I use my digital artwork in my journals quite a bit. It is wonderful to provide your own source of collage. I can paint the resulting image further, and add more stencil work if I deem it required.

Here are a few more pics from the journals I am working on. First, I put a pocket on the back of my journals as well, but there my favored approach is to use crochet and stitch.

Here is another set of pockets, on the left. Notice the Yayoi Kusama dots? This pocket set looks rather like an abstract painting.

The spread begged for more, so I added another of my printed digital artworks as collage.
(I decided the spots were no longer suitable. Forgive me, Yayoi!)
My best suggestion as an artist who both uses and designs stencils, is to employ them in creative ways you haven’t tried before. Use parts of stencils, cut them up and recombine them, photograph the stencils themselves to use as collage, merge them with digital art, use materials you haven’t tried before to apply them, use them for rubbings.

In other words, act like a Stencil Ninja, and always carry stencils “in your back pocket.”
Be fearless!

Stencils used in this article:
Organic Roots 1 Small, Organic Roots 3 Small, Organic Roots Large


  1. Loved seeing this Carol!! Thank you for sharing.

  2. Big love to you Terry! I am always happy to hear from you (and see your work).

  3. Carol,
    This is beautiful and inspiring...thank you for including details, just lovely.


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