Friday, April 29, 2022

Stenciled Staircase Showcase - by Claudia Neubacher

Hi, servus and thanks so much for stopping by today! This post is actually going to cover several topics - making cheap but beautiful wall art totally from trash - in this case from various furniture- and dish wrappings (yes, I am a hoarder of packaging materials and when you get to furnish a new home you really end up with loads of these), focusing on mindfulness during the creative process and - again - wabi-sabi (which mainly means the beauty of imperfection and which I talked about in my last column HERE). 

But first let's take a look at my finished wall art piece that now decorates the staircase in our timber house. I really love how it turned out but it is difficult to capture in a single picture - so I've made a collage that hopefully makes everything clearer. 

I've actually used a long press board strip that came as part of the packaging of a long sideboard (I think it protected the outer edges of the piece of furniture inside the delivery box from being dented during transport) as a base, the ATC sized panels were all die cut from old cardboard mail envelopes and I used the lovely StencilGirl® stencils on different kinds of crumpled tissue wrapping paper (which had all been used to move dishes from the store or from our flat in Vienna to our house) and one piece of glossy tissue paper from a chocolate box- so this is a pure up-cycled project and I love the idea that this piece of wall art is as sustainable as our timber house! 

StencilGirl® stencils used: 

by Natalie Kalbach

by Traci Bautista

by Valerie Sjodin

by Valerie Sjodin

I especially fell in love with the ATC Mixup stencil from Natalie Kalbach - not just by single ATC background designs on that stencil but rather the combination of them all! I just love how they all interfere with and enhance each other. So my plan was to create a project where all the beautiful different patterns would either be shown in a grid as on the stencil (so one idea was to look at the stencil as one large design instead of nine different small ones, do variations in colour and paper and put these in frames and hang them on a wall side by side) - or shown side by side on a long narrow panel (this idea was mainly sparked by the long press board strip I had managed to save from going to the waste disposal site and by my plan to use it to decorate our staircase as it was a perfect fit there).

As I recently went through another series of stressful dental treatments and had to get an implant as well, my stress levels went up again - especially as some old traumas from complications during dental treatments were triggered - all of which brought back the shaking hands and panic attacks. So right now I am on recovery (and it has already gotten so much better during the last weeks!) and this means I have to make sure I practise awareness and good self care. 

Working with the beautiful stencil designs and all the crumpled tissue papers was a good means to heavily indulge in some visual and tactile joy. 

I also make sure I have an inspiring and calming workspace with some eye candy nearby...

...beautifully glazed cups that hold brushes and other stuff, storage that holds my favourite go-to items and can be put aside in a breath. All of this helps me to relax and enjoy myself sitting and working at my studio desk. 

The picture above shows the press board strip going to be covered with a stippled on layer of DecoArt Americana Chalky Finish paint "relic". Why stippled instead of brushed on? Well, the texture you get by stippling heavy body paint on is just beautiful and adds so much to the whole project! See?

I also used a variety of stipple brushes to do the stencilling on the tissue wrap. I had several sorts of tissue paper - a brownish one, a whitish one and a blue-greyish one...I used Natalie Kalbachs Mixup stencil on all three of them so I could use them all for layering and making wabi-sabi style collages. So instead of using different acrylic paint colours I just went for a single red (a tube of cheap red acrylic paint from a no-name set) and let the different coloured papers do the "tinting". 

I cut all the different ATC designs out by hand, making sure I didn't cut too precisely (remember: wabi-sabi is about imperfection and it's uniqueness of the hand-made). While the paint had dried I had die cut thirteen (and some more) ATC panels from old cardboard envelopes using my BigShot and one of my oldest cutting dies - the Sizzix "ATC & Corners" die designed by Tim Holtz. 

What really helped with focusing on enjoying instead of having to do a lot of planning during the process, was the fact that this project's steps all were quite repetitive ones by nature - perfect to get into a flow and enjoy the rhythm: the rhythm of turning the BigShot handle and inserting a new piece of cardboard, the rhythm of stippling red and dark grey paint through the stencils, the cutting out by hand and sorting the different designs into piles of threes...all of this while feeling the crumpled paper and looking at beautiful patterns and designs. 

Making thirteen small ATC-sized collages was real fun! I just started with one base layer on all thirteen panels and then tore the other ATC sized stencilled sheets to size as needed while I let the designs and how they interfered with each other take the lead. I used DecoArt satin Decou-Page glue and sealant and a soft wide brush to layer and glue the tissue papers in place. I didn't care about smoothing out the glued on layers - more crumples = more texture! We love texture, don't we? 

The dark grey ATC layers were done by using the "relic" Chalky Finish paint again with the whole Infinite rose stencil and then using a "seeker" (a left over frame from die cutting the ATCs earlier on) to find interesting sections in ATC format. 

The striking designs in red from the stencils of Valerie Sjodin were done on the transparent glossy chocolate box tissue paper - which is really cool for layering as it tones down the colours underneath (which adds another tone to the mix without having to use additional paint). 

Final touches were added by randomly scribbling paint from a DecoArt media "Carbon Black" Mister using its nozzle across the finished collages. That really helped fuse the designs beautifully. 

Time to mount the finished ATC sized panels to the press board strip! I played around a bit to find the order  I liked best and then fixed them to the strip using double sided sticky foam tape. I didn't measure - I just eyeballed (wabi-sabi!). 

The panel was easy to mount to the staircase wall - six small nails with flat wide heads hold it in place and as it is very light-weight this is pleasingly sufficient. 

I think I need to do more of these on more tissue paper! This is for sure one of the most relaxing and enjoyable projects I've ever made! Just seeing the lovely patterns being transferred in bright red to delicately crumpled and torn paper is a reward on its own (you know - anything weathered and textured makes me happy). I also see a lot of other ways to use this kind of ATC sized collages...on cards, book covers, gift wrapping paper, bookmarks, more wall art,....sigh...;) 

I hope you've enjoyed this post! Stay safe, creative and calm! 
(if you want to take a closer look at all the single panels simply click on the images to enlarge the view).

Claudia xxx


  1. Bravo Claudia! Loved your post.

  2. This was a joy to read and learn about your process. There is another Artist I think you would love her work, Robyn McClendon. She can be found on YouTube and Instagram. Thank you for sharing this.

    1. Thank you, Laurel! Will love to check her out. x


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