Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Wooden Shoe Love a Pair? How to Make Paper Clay Molds with Stencils and Carving Rubber

Hi Friends.  It’s Jill McDowell here sharing another way to use stencils in your upcycled, art, and home decor projects.

I recently had one of those rare a-ha ‘peanut butter meets chocolate’ moments when I spied on my work table a package of Paper Clay sitting on top of a package of Carving Rubber.  I started experimenting and discovered that YES, you absolutely can make a mold out of rubber and then use the mold to make a pair of paper clay shoe buckles.  Who knew?  Keep reading and I’ll show you how I used my own Four Bells Trivet stencil to do it. And as a bonus, I’ll also share how I turned a wooden shoe into a vase by repurposing packaging from a common bathroom toiletry item.

Previous to my a-ha moment, I had scored a child sized, mismatched pair of wooden shoes at the thrift shop.  One shoe was clearly an old souvenir, while the other, stamped Holland on the bottom and the number 16 in its heel, proffered to be an authentic Dutch Wooden Klompen.  (Don’t you just love how the word Klompen rolls off your tongue?). I gave myself permission to repurpose both clogs since a quick check online turned up a rather large number of wooden shoes available for sale.  Turns out wooden shoes are neither rare nor precious artifacts to anyone except us creators.

At $1.99 each, (a wapping $3.18 for the pair after my Senior discount) these wooden shoes were an absolute steal so I scooped them up and into my cart.  Back at home, I poured over Pinterest in search of nuggets of inspiration down that rabbit hole known as cyberspace.  (No sense in reinventing the wheel if I can find a way to put my own spin on a good idea….) And I pulled together an Wooden Shoe inspiration board on Pinterest .  Check it out for more wooden shoe upcycling ideas or if you just want to feast on some yummy eye candy.

Inspiration under foot, (pun intended) I set about developing a plan to repurpose my shoes.  I appreciated that they were an odd couple and decided to subtly exploit their mismatchiness, (ok, I confess that I may have just made that word up to frustrate spell checker).  I liked to think of them as a matched pair who let their distinct personalities blossom during their senior years.  
Eventually, I opted to fashion both shoes in an old vintage style with big honking aged metal buckles. One shoe, I’m calling the artist, would become a vessel to hold paint brushes while the other, the naturalist, would be transformed into a flower vase. Ultimately, I wanted them to live together on the magnetic inspiration board I have in my art room, (LOL, It’s really just the side of my flat files). 

So let’s get on to the actual making….

How to make a Mold from your Stencils with Carving Rubber Blocks

Tools and Supplies

Clockwise from top left: 
  • Carving tools (I have a variety of tools in the basket, all work but my go to favorites are my Palm and Micro carving tools made by FlexCut); 
  • A rubber carving block, (I’m using an Inovart Eco Karve Printing Plate.  It’s both thick and easy to carve); 
  • A brayer, (I picked up this vintage one a a thrift store a few years back.  A rolling pin, smooth bottle or can would also work to roll out the Paper Clay); 
  • Corn starch (I like to keep mine in an old salt shaker.  Baby powder is a good substitute if you don’t happen to have any in your pantry); 
  • A variety of clay shaping tools, (use whatever you have - the end of a paintbrush, an orange stick, a pen cap, anything that will help you smooth the clay); 
  • Metal files, an Emory board, or sandpaper* to smooth the edges of your pieces once it’s dry;
  • A stencil, (of course I recommend StencilGirl®️ Stencils); 
  • A stamp pad and your choice of ink applicator* (I used a cosmetic wedge);
  • A Sharpie Marker*; 
  • A craft knife * used to cut the rubber;
  • Air Dry Paper Clay*, ( I used Creative PaperClay Modeling Material but most any brand of air dry clay will work);
  • A piece of thin plastic*, (I recycled a bag from the dry cleaners);
  • Key: *=not pictured

Creating the Mold from Rubber

Before we get into actually carving the design, let’s go over a few notes on carving safety; 
  • Always remember that carving tools are extremely sharp and should never be used without adult supervision.  
  • Always carve with your hands pointing away from you to avoid being cut if the blade slips.
Carving a mold is similar to carving a stamp.  You’re just carving deeper into the rubber knowing that the area you carve out will become a relief printing. This means that any marks on the bottom and sides of your channels will show when you fill it with clay and unmold it.

I choose to use my Four Bells Trivet  to create my shoe buckles.  Then I began making my mold by applying ink onto a the surface of a rubber block with a cosmetic wedge.  I used a Sharpie Marker to designate where I wanted to carve out the channels of the mold. (Keep in mind that you don’t need to carve the entire design; you can pick out just the shapes and patterns that work for your project.)

Thencarved into the rubber block, making the channels wide and much deeper than I would have had I been carving a stamp.  The deeper you carve into the rubber, the taller your element will be.   I’m being careful not to carve all the way through to the other side.
This mold is close to being finished.  Since I’m going for a vintage look, I’m perfectly happy leaving nooks, crannies and rough patches in the channels knowing that the imperfections will show in the clay when it’s unmolded and painted.  Once I was satisfied with the mold, I cleaned out any excess rubber pieces left in the channels with a stiff brush and then using a craft knife, I cut the mold from the big block of rubber.

That was pretty easy!

Molding with Paper Clay

I took a small piece of clay out of the package, rolled it into a ball, sandwiched it between two pieces of thin plastic, (I recycled a dry cleaner bag for this purpose), and used my brayer to roll it out to about 1/4 inch thick.  You’re aiming for an even, smooth finish with no cracks that’s just under the size of your mold. (Be sure to keep any clay not being used in a sealed plastic bag along with a wet baby wipe to keep it from prematurely drying out.)
Then I sprinkled both sides of the clay and the mold with a dusting of corn starch to keep the clay from sticking to the mold.
I used my brayer to roll the clay out over the mold and gently pushed it down into the carved channels. 

There is no need to wait to unmold the clay. Just gently pull the clay away from the rubber using a rolling motion. 
Here’s what the clay looks like fresh out of the mold.  If you’re not happy with what you see, no worries just roll it back up in a ball and re-roll it. If you need to make adjustments to your mold you can go back and carve in more details, but just remember once it’s gone you can’t put it back, so I advise moving slowly.  

Once I was satisfied with my relief print, I started cleaning up the clay.  I wet my finger and used it to gently smooth out any cracks then used my clay shaping tools to crispen up some of the details.  (You can also add additional texture with the clay tools at this point.) Finally I used a craft knife to trim the edges of the buckle into the shape I wanted and then smoothed the edges with my wet fingers.  Keep in mind, the more smoothing you do now, the less sanding you’ll need to do once it’s dry.  
Normally I would set the piece on a wire cooling rack to dry, (be patient as this could take several days depending upon your climate.). You’ll know its dry when the clay no longer feels cool to the touch.  If your piece begins to curl out of shape you can ‘lightly’ mist it, and then cover it with a piece of deli paper and a book (not too heavy) to weigh it down. Let it sit overnight and it should flatten out in a few hours.

However for this project I wanted the buckles to hug to sides of the shoes.  So I molded them over the shoes and let them dry. While the drying process takes longer this way, the fit will be perfect when it’s time to glue the buckles onto the shoes.

Once the buckles were fully dry, I sanded all the rough edges with a file, (you could use an emery board or sandpaper) and then set about aging them with acrylic paints and waxes.

I dug through my stash to find the perfect embellishment befitting their unique characters for each buckle. I wanted them to sit high off the buckle so I raised them up with and acorn cap.  

Transforming the shoes 

I used these four StencilGirl®️ Stencils in this project, two of my own designs; my Four Bells Trivet  (for the buckles) and my Four Buds Trivet stencils, along with two Linda Edkins Wyatt’s designs; her Loose Mum Stencil and a sweet little motif pattern found at the very bottom of her ATC Mixup which I used to dress up the back of the heels.

I lightly sanded and then painted the shoes with red gesso.  Then I just kept adding glazes tinted with a mixed of purple, gold, and brown until I got the worn vintage look I was going for.

Then I stenciled them using Linda Edkins Wyatt’s new Loose Mums stencil on the front and a sweet little design I fell in love with from her ATC Mixup stencil to dress up the heels.  I knocked back the stenciling with sandpaper to make the shoes feel worn.  Finally, I dry brushed Titan Buff paint over my Four Buds Trivet to the shoe rims. 

Finishing Touches

I repurposed a toothpaste tube to line the shoe that was to become a vase. I just cut the top of the tube off, washed out the leftover toothpaste, folded over the top edge to adjust the height, and painted the visible area with a gold paint pen.  It was the perfect solution and cost me nothing!

And lastly, I glued on the buckles; added strong neodymium magnets to the back of each shoe so that I could mount them and move them around my memo board, (which is actually just the sides of my flat files); and sprayed them with three coats of Krylon UV-Resistant Clear Coating to seal and protect the wood.

And that folks is the end of this project. It also draws to the end my time here as a StencilGirl®️ Columnist as I’ve decided to focus more on my family, (I just became a Grandmother!).  It’s a bittersweet moment for me and it’s hard to find the right words to express how grateful I am for the opportunities and experiences I’ve gained representing StencilGirl®️ these past four years.  I’ll always be a StencilGirl®️ at heart.  Thank you all for the support you’ve all shown me over the years.

And with that, I’ll leave you with a few more beauty shots of my Wooden Shoes.  Take care, pray for peace, and keep creating.  Hugs, Jill

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1 comment:

  1. I'll miss your columns, Jill. You're always so thorough in your explanations, and your projects are wonderful. Thank you - and enjoy your increased family time and granddaughter :-)


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