Pretty on paper
“Artists are drawn to our hand-silkscreened mulberry papers because they introduce fresh colorways blended with a mix of contemporary and traditional designs,” explains Meredith Lee, owner of The Rare Orchid (therareorchid.com), an e-commerce site specializing in fine Japanese paper, particularly Chiyogami. “They are versatile and ornately pigmented with a fabric-like quality, so both professional and hobby creatives use them for everything from mixed media to scrapbooking to event décor.”
Chiyogami is popular with card and invitation makers for layering, belly bands and envelope liners; and also for decorative origami or iris folding. Bookbinders use it to make vibrant covers for hand-bound journals and notebooks.
One of the biggest new trends in Chiyogami is the DIY wedding, Meredith says. Bouquets, invitations, favor boxes, and giant paper-flower backdrops are all being made with Chiyogami to add color and elegance. Lisa Lambeth, owner of the Etsy shop A Spotted Butterfly, says, “I just love how special my projects look and feel when I use Chiyogami washi. A simple card is transformed into a piece of art!”
Washi is a traditional Japanese paper that’s tough and absorbent. Throughout history, washi was used to make clothes, household items and toys; to craft Buddha statues for Japanese Shinto priests and to mend books. It’s made by hand, usually from the inner fibers of tree bark or paper mulberry, but also from bamboo, hemp, rice and wheat. UNESCO regards it as an Intangible Cultural Heritage object, for its significance to Japanese cultural heritage. It remains a favorite today among artists and crafters, especially for origami art.
Chiyogami washi, or yuzen, is washi paper that’s been hand-stenciled or printed with traditional Japanese imagery, often inspired by kimono. First produced in the 18th century, Chiyogami quickly gained popularity among origami artists because it’s less costly than other washi papers.
The Rare Orchid specializes in art supplies for the modern maker. Meredith sells traditional large-size Chiyogami sheets and various smaller sizes, as well as unique products such as Chiyogami washi tape and adhesive-back sticker washi. The washi tape, made from real Chiyogami sheets, is especially popular in the decorative day planner community for embellishing planner pages, Meredith says.
“The detail and registration of Chiyogami silk-screening is unparalleled, and makers are thrilled to see a refreshing selection of designs and colors. Many of our papers have never been sold outside of Japan, so artists are excited for the chance to incorporate these new patterns in their work,” she adds.
The Rare Orchid’s washi papers are Kozo-based (from the paper mulberry plant) and very fibrous – they have a thick, fabric-like quality. The Chiyogami is silkscreened at an artisan factory in Japan, and the process is tedious. Hand-silkscreening requires one worker to go down an aisle of carefully placed kozo washi with one silkscreen, followed by another worker with a different screen, says therareorchid.com. A third person washes the screens right away so the paint doesn’t dry and ruin them. The process is repeated until the final design is complete. Most average five or six different screens (colors) per design, but some intricate patterns use even more!
Meredith is a social worker turned entrepreneur. Over a decade ago, she moved from California to Hawaii on a whim, and began selling her hand crafts at local art fairs. She launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund her Chiyogami stock manufactured by traditional Japanese washi makers.
“I create stuff for others to create with,” says Cathy Simon of Global Solutions in Seattle, Washington. Global Solutions is a wholesaler of “organic and elegant, funky and fine” elements that inspire creativity. “I help stores sell things that customers didn’t necessarily know they wanted,” she adds, like vintage watch parts and custom wax seals.
“Watch parts remind me of found treasures,” says glassblower Augusta Simmons. She creates small glass bobbles and fills them with vintage watch parts from Pots of Parts, a Global Solutions collection gathered from across the U.S., England, Switzerland and Germany. “It’s interesting to think of who owned a watch before it was taken apart. Was it worn by a doctor, lawyer, businessman or famous person? Did a romantic couple from the 1930s exchange them, or a father hand it down through generations? They come from everywhere, and each is a piece of a person’s heart and life, and has a story.”
Vintage watch parts are especially popular with artists in the Steampunk community who embrace the aesthetics and subculture of Victorian-era fiction and art nouveau design. “They appreciate that these little treasures are unique, and use them to adorn clothing and jewelry,” Cathy says.
Sculpture artist Susan Beatrice of All Natural Arts turns vintage watch parts into tiny Steampunk and nature-inspired antique pocket-watch sculptures.
Another popular vintage accent – and great gift – is the wax seal. According to The Art of Manliness, “a blog dedicated to uncovering the lost art of being a man,” wax seals add an element of distinction to correspondence. Along with alphabet seals, decorative seals that feature everything from Chinese symbols to simple hearts, and custom seals, Global Solutions offers wick wax seals that are easy to use. They look like crayons with a wick at the end. You light them like a candle to melt the wax.
“It may seem crazy that this antique form of art or marking remains relevant today, but it’s almost carved into our psyche,” Cathy says. “Even men who don’t write letters anymore are drawn to the idea of wax seals, and like to use them in business correspondence. They love to put them on invoices. A wax seal is for anyone who wants to express the value or importance of a piece of paper.”
Etsy sellers use wax seals on packages and letterpress printers use them on the envelopes of wedding invitations. They make unique impressions, literally. The 2-3/4-inch wick wax sticks come in an assortment of colors and each one makes 8 to 10 impressions, but no two are alike. When the seal is pushed into the melted wax, the wax goes in a different direction each time.
Global Solutions also distributes lead-free pewter pieces including small decorative and letter charms; 1- to 3-inch ornate pieces featuring crosses, suns, animals and other nature or zen-inspired imagery; 1.25- to 1.5-inch vintage magnifying glass pendants and displays; recycled gift bags; various colors of glycerin-coated raffia; and extra-small to medium size rolls and reams of wrapping paper.
“Our products are shiny, beautiful, intricate and reminiscent of another time,” Cathy says. “It’s art in itself. And it helps people create gorgeous stuff.” globalsolutionsonline.com
The ancient art of marbling can be traced back more than 1,000 years to the traditional Turkish painting art called ebru – but it’s more popular today than it’s ever been, says professional marbling artist Galen Berry.
“Marbling is a fun art. With an infinite variety of patterns and color combinations, it never gets boring,” Galen says. “I’ve done it for 25 years, and I still amaze myself by coming up with new designs.
“Today, marbling is used for picture framing, placemats, note cards, desk sets, collages, origami, lampshades, even covering boxes and cans,” he adds. “With the development of fabric paints, marbling techniques are now even successful on fabric.”
Craft kits like Marabu Creative Colours’ Easy Marble Starter Set make the art of marbling easy to master. The multinational German manufacturer is known for its high-quality specialized inks for screen, digital and pad printing; but the company’s second division, Marabu Creative Colours, is recognized for its “user-friendly” range of craft and hobby paints and kits.
“Mixed media remains very popular, and marbling is one of the hottest trends,” says Michael Barrett of Creative Colours. “Artists are curious and interested in learning how to add the technique to their work. Our kit is a perfect introduction to the hobby.”
The Easy Marble Starter Set includes six basic colors in 15ml jars and instructions for achieving the marble effect. The technique is simple – just drip, dip, and done. Michael says artists are creating immersion marble effects on glass, acrylics, plastic, wood, papier mache, blown eggs, polystyrene and paper. Marbling is also all over “mommy blogs” as one of the most popular craft activities for kids.
“With so many surfaces to choose from it’s almost hard to know where to begin,” Michael says. “Artists are most excited by how easy it is to marble three-dimensional shapes. They’re designing everything from holiday ornaments and Easter eggs to sculptures and custom guitars.”
Historically, marbling was used to create decorative Turkish papers, and as a background for official documents to prevent forgery. The art form spread throughout Western Europe and in the 1600s, the intricately patterned decorative paper was used to cover book bindings, and placed inside the covers of fine books. As book printing became commonplace, fine bindings and marbled end papers became a quaint, old-fashioned thing of the past.
Marabu’s marbling colors are easy to use and require only water, no other chemicals are added. Plus, they’re solvent-based, so they adhere to all those fun but difficult surfaces to work on, like glass, Styrofoam, plastic, Yupo, wood, acrylic, metal, wax – and still work beautifully on paper.
Marabu has been in business for over 150 years, and the German company has more than 20,000 products on the market – including more Creative Colours Starter, Trend and Creative Sets featuring silk paint, fashion spray, glass art and porcelain, textile, acrylics, and more. marabu.com/creative
by Jenn Bergin