Monday, March 5, 2012

A Fairy Tale Fulfilled

Once upon a time, there were six young princesses who lived together in a cozy bungalow in the woods. 

Wait. Not the woods. A city neighborhood on Queen Anne, in Seattle.

And technically, not a bungalow. More of a brick Tudor-styled cottage.

But still, these lovely girls lived in a house that looked like something straight out of a fairy tale. And they worked hard, scrubbing from dawn till dusk, borrowing and creating and improvising until they had turned a college rental house into a charming home. Wanting to honor their efforts and determination with some sort of sweet handmade art, a local craftswoman (that's me) desired to create something that might add a tiny splash of personalized beauty to their space. 

Let's peek inside and see what was wrought - monogrammed wall hangings, one for each girl, showcasing the initial of her first name. With their usual style and flair, the princesses transformed these meager gifts into a precious gallery wall:

As you can see, the princesses gathered together a variety of handmade collages, printable art, assorted frames and even a postcard or two to bring this arrangement to life. Woven amongst and between the other pieces are the six monogrammed collages, which were created in this way:

1. Gather together: 
  • 8 x 10 canvas panels
  • tacky glue
  • a variety of coordinated scrapbook paper, 2-inch-wide ribbons, and colorful buttons.
I wanted the patterns and colors to not only coordinate but also jibe with the vintage vibe of the house. I found six similar-but-different damask fleur de lis-style patterns that fit the bill perfectly, and then chose button and ribbon colors to unify the colors of six different papers.
2. Wrap each canvas panel with a sheet of the scrapbook paper; trim off the excess paper. Use plenty of tacky glue on both the front and the back of the panel, and place each one under a stack of heavy books to dry.

3. Play around on Microsoft Word or a similar resource to create the letters you need in an appropriate size and font. 

4. Print a hard copy of each letter and lay out a single layer of color-coordinated buttons over the top of the initial on the page, tinkering with the various button shapes and sizes to get a good fit and an interesting look.

All of these buttons are green, but the variety of shapes and shades bring interest and subtlety to the piece.
5. Once you're happy with your design and your canvas panels are mostly dry, transfer the buttons onto the panels. I did not actually draw out the letters on the panels to guide me in this process; I just eyeballed it and continued to tinker and improvise till I liked the layout.

While I didn't bother to trace out the entire letter on the scrapbook paper, I did find it helpful to mark the extreme points of each letter, such as the four corners of this M.
 6. Use tacky glue to glue the buttons in place. I found it super helpful to have a second pair of hands for this step: one person pulled each button up while the second dabbed a puddle of glue in just the right place and then the first person put the button back exactly where it belonged.

7. After the glue has set up for a half hour or so, go back and stack a second layer of buttons here and there across the base layer. The variety of heights adds another dimension of interest and detail to your work.

8. Let the buttons dry overnight. The next day, cut a 24-inch length of ribbon for each panel. Tie a cutesy bow in the middle. Flip over each panel (onto a dish towel for stability) and secure the two ends of the ribbon in place on the back side, adjusting the length of the straight bits of ribbon to look nice.  I aligned mine so that about 4 inches was showing between the knot of the bow and the top of the canvas.  I trimmed the extra ribbon to allow for about 2-inch tails to be affixed to the back, and I angled the ribbons to minimize the funny bunching and gathering along the top edge of the canvas.

I used clear packing tape to secure the ribbon to the back of the canvas panels and that has proven to be a big fail. The slippery ribbon cleverly slides right out from the tape and the art falls to the floor. I would suggest using a big blob of tacky glue and maybe masking tape to more effectively keep the ribbons in place.

You can see that I positioned the ribbon to cross the top edge of the canvas panel with about an inch of margin on the far left and far right.
Here you can get a good idea of how I placed the ribbons at an angle, to help them lie smoothly as they flow down from bow. 
 9. To finish off the back, I trimmed white card stock to fit and decorated each girl's art with a different and {hopefully} inspiring Bible verse.

 And so the beautiful princesses made magic with my humble gifts, and every time I enter their cozy forest cottage, I am greeted and warmed by their lovely creation.

And we all lived happily ever after. 

P.S. This photo, from Letter Perfect Designs on Etsy
was one of several inspirations for my work. 

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