The last time I showed you these ships they were getting their final layer of paper mache, the newsprint layer. Then I abandoned them. I didn’t feel inspired in any particular direction color wise so I left them alone. Weeks later I still didn’t feel inspired in any particular color direction so I started experimenting. I like newsprint and almost always use it as my final layer and I like it to show. I paint in washes (there is a video of this whole process here). I use water color and mat acrylics. I don’t use any clear coats on top, I like the matte quality of the paint, but I do burnish them with a soft cloth when they are dry, it just smooths them a tiny bit and makes a pretty surface.
I also love to splatter them with a fine spray of white or ivory. I found that bristle brush at a flea market, an old toothbrush works too.
Next I add buttons for the rigging. Lately I like lots of buttons and I’m always on the lookout for antique mother of pearl buttons. You should hide yours when I come over… The three ships below are made from the paper mache ship pattern collection. I did modify the sides of the large ship, I do it a little differently almost every time I make one.
Each ship is getting a gentleman sailor owl captain (the small and medium sizes from the little owl pattern).
I love turn of the century fabric and lately I’ve come across some contemporary fabrics that remind me of some of my favortite antique small prints. The fabric I used for this owl’s face is from Cotton and Steel, below on the left and the tiny black and white print on the right is by Seven Berry.
This weekend I’ll finish the sails and rigging and start more paper and fabric ships. I want to begin the year with a substantial fleet, an auspicious and nautical beginning to 2018.
There is nothing wrong with sewing in bed. As long as it is your choice and pins and things are kept track of. I don’t do it often but on a cold snowy day it’s irresistible, the perfect place for sewing tiny things. Plus I got dressed which makes it even more OK. Not exactly going out dressed, more day appropriate lounge wear, but still.
I’m working on small things, mischievous cats, tiny ladies, bundled up birds and lamb folk among them. The lambs are made using the mr. socks sewing pattern with modifications you can find here. Some of these things will be in the shop tomorrow (if you are on the list for new artwork you’ll get an email).
I sure do love a lamb in pants
I’ve also been making some paper mache progress. Paper mache is good for busting out of stuckness. The paralysis and not knowing what to do that creeps in when there is too much to do. When my brain rebels and just won’t work properly. Paper mache has a magic effect. It does not require much thinking activity and progress is immediately apparent. Those little pieces of paper becoming something else. That part is satisfying and just getting my hands moving get’s my wheels turning again.
I always do all the edges first, using the littlest pieces of paper to negotiate the smalls curves. Once the edges are done the filling in takes no time. Each complete layer, the brown paper followed by the news print, take less than an hour to complete. These ships are all made from the paper mache ship pattern collection. I did modify the sides of the large ship. I do almost every time I make one, I like to experiment with the shape. This time I made it higher in the back and lower on the sides at the middle.
This little boat is made from the free boat ornament tutorial you can find here. My plan is to finish all the ships and boats this weekend. And to festoon the Christmas Tree (my beloved norfolk pine). I’ll show you next week.
Paper mache is good for my brain and spirit. It requires just enough attention – all those little pieces of paper – It’s a very effective antidote to stress and anxiety and good for percolating ideas – my hands are busy and my mind wanders gently around. It takes me a little while to settle into it but it never fails to bring a quietness and presentness – a sense of equanimity- whatever might be swirling around me. I think its meditation sneaking up on me.
I’m building ships and boats – besides the psychological benefits I miss having them around – I’m currently ship-less. The large ship above is made using this pattern with a couple modifications to the side and back templates. I’ve started the second layer of newsprint over the first of brown paper. I don’t usually wait for one layer to dry before starting the next and 2 layers should be enough for this ship.
The very mini boat below is an experiment – I wondered if the little felt boat pattern template would also work as a paper mache armature – it does! I taped it together with lots of masking tape and added two coats of paper mache. It’s so little the paper mache part was quick – about 15 minutes per layer.
If I was starting over I would have made the little boat 10% bigger – it shrunk a bit when it dried so t’s a tight fit for the gentleman sailor mouse I made to captain it (find the free pattern here). He’s fancy – with his lace ascot and looks pretty pleased with things.
P.S. – if you’ve never tried paper mache you can find a free project here and another here – both are a good place to start.
I’ve put together a little collection of things made from my patterns – I love seeing these – beautiful work and tons of imagination. Thanks for sharing your photos!
A dear lamb by Evie Barrow.
A fantastic boat by Alla (this boat is made from my free boat pattern).
The paper mache ships below are by Val – she used chalk paint – I love the pale, matte colors.
An owl family! So many wonderful details – they are by Mama with a Needle and Thread.
A magnificent paper mache ship by Kileen.
I have a long, happy history with paper mache. It’s always been one of my most favorite mediums, I loved it at first sight. I love the simplicity, the economy, and the endless possibilities. I don’t think you need a lot of skill to have fun with it and it invites improvisational thinking. I love to dive in to creating something without plan – just an idea and a pile of cardboard boxes, newspaper and masking tape. All sorts of problems and happy accidents occur – both spark new ideas. I think it’s good brain exercise. I spent part of this past weekend on an big paper mache experiment that failed dramatically but I learned a ton and it sent me in a new direction, I landed on and idea that intrigues me, a new approach to a project I’ve been stalled on for months – more on that soon.
In a similar experiment a few years ago I made a classical style bust while I was spending a weekend upstate – just for fun – with whatever was on hand. I like him, he’s silly and and I decorate him every Christmas.
Here he is in progress – lots of taped together cardboard and bunched up newspaper – I had a blast.
If you’ve never tried it before I have 2 free tutorials with templates and lots of instructions – paper mache boats and teacups. The tea cups are lovely for Mother’s day and both make great parent child collaboration projects.
The original intention was to use them on ships and boats and I do, but something else happens when I take out my box of words – I get all sorts of new ideas. It has become an intentional practice.
I started collecting words accidentally. I almost always cut paper for paper mache ships in a particular way. For my top layer I like newsprint, cut rather than torn. I separate my strips by text size and weight and I prefer that the strips are horizontal – flowing with the text. When I’m cutting newspaper, things invariably jump out at me. There is some mood or meaning, some sensation or memory evoked by a word or phrase. And so I save them.
When I’m wandering and inviting inspiration I sort through the box – a single word can spark something, shift my direction just a little, send me to a place I would not have gotten to, intersections appear.
It is a kind of listening. I love the happenstance of it.
Make ships! They twirl in the breeze and cast lovely shadows. Magical. In this PDF pattern you’ll learn my top secret ship building tips and tricks, including the simple and effective method for building graceful cardboard armatures with simple materials (the base is made from a cereal box!). There’s tons of instruction and room to experiment, improvise and be expressive no matter what your level of experience is.
Do you get my free weekly-ish newsletter? There are tips and tricks, ideas, stuff to try, all the latest news and blogposts and extra stuff, just for subscribers, delivered mostly on Friday. Pretty much.
I’ve just added a few new things to the shop ( including a dastardly owl).
And instructions. Epic instructions. They just go on and on. I hope to add more concise printer friendly instructions later but my Christmas brain just isn’t capable of it. We are making Mediterranean inspired little sail boats with lateen rigging – a single triangular sail on a relatively short mast.
What you will need:
large cereal box
newspaper- 2 colors
wall paper paste
skewers. dowels or twigs
heavy duty thread
needles – various sizes
(click thumbnails for larger images)
Download the pattern here and cut it out on the dotted line – the solid lines are for scoring – there are little triangles on one end – you can fold those back to trace the line onto your cardboard and poke your pencil through the tip of the V on the pattern to mark your cardboard.
Use a ruler to draw the lines as shown on the pattern. I’ve highlighted the lines to score in red. Use the BACK of your exacto knife to score the lines in red and then gently bend the boat into shape…… Read More
The fleet here is growing rapidly. I’m working on all sorts of new boats and ships and the little lateen rigged sailboats inspired by van gogh’s fishing boats are for you to make, I’m going to share the pattern and instructions next week. It takes me forever to work out the “how to” stuff but I think it’s pretty much there and I just need to test it on a couple people and photograph the steps. They are simple and relatively quick, I think you’re going to have fun making them.
Cardboard castle news:
Cardbaord Castle #2 is in the current issue of Elle Decor – Japanese edition. I get excited about any celebration of cardboard castle making and the entire magazine is lovely so I’m pleased and flattered to be included.
Theses are little passengers for sailboat #6.
This is the boat on Saturday. I finished it yesterday and it will be in the shop later this week.
A birthday present for my friend Judah who is 3.