At first I was tempted to call this tutorial ‘Fabric Paper’, however it would appear that there are already several tutorials on the web about fabric paper. It seems a cheat, though, to just slap paper onto a fabric and call it ‘fabric paper’. The technique I’m going to describe here really does make paper into a surface that can be used like a fabric – but there is no ‘fabric’ in sight.
Materials and Equipment. These are simple, but relatively specific.
Firstly, you will need a plastic surface on which to work. I use polythene – a bin liner is fine, but for the purposes of this tutorial I have used a clear plastic bag to give a lighter background for photographs. It doesn’t matter if it’s crumpled – but just be warned that if there is paint residue from another exercise you could find that this transfers to your surface. Does this matter? You can decide when you have read through the rest of the technique.
You will need a paintbrush and some glue. I don’t use a large brush, as sometimes the pieces of paper you are dealing with are small, however, make sure that it is cheap and cheerful as we are using an acrylic based glue, and the brush will be damaged if you don’t wash it with great care as soon as you finish working.
Liquitex Matte is my preferred medium. You can also use PVA which has been diluted to the consistency of thin cream, but the result is not quite so durable. We’ll come back to the paper in a minute.
You will also need a selection of pieces of coloured tissue.
I use tissue of all weights that I have coloured myself. Have you ever tried to colour your own tissue? It’s fun, and these paints are ideal as the colour is intense.
They are water-based, and totally intermixable, so the effects are endless. The papers I’m using in this post are all coloured with them. You will see that I have used some in various intensities, including a very dilute form. You can also include purchased paper serviettes or napkins. There’s that other paper again, it’s the ‘secret’ ingredient, so we will talk about it soon. Whichever paper you use make sure that it is completely dry before you start this following exercise.
Now for the secret ingredient.
Abaca tissue is available in several weights. It is PH neutral, and has no grain so tears with ease in whichever direction you need. However, the one that I use (also known as Conservation Tissue as it is used for wrapping textiles etc for long term storage) is far and away the best and most stable for this technique. It too takes colour beautifully, and you can include it in the tissue used for this technique. I have also used it as an addition in the various collages that you can see here and here. The secret to this technique is that the tissue is built up on a base of this wonderful tissue paper, and it then becomes strong enough for stitching!
So, off we go. Place a piece of the conservation tissue onto your work surface and begin to tear your coloured paper into strips.
Continue to add strips a few at a time. It’s a mistake to arrange everything and then ‘paint’, everything will move and you will become frustrated. Overlaps are fine, if the paper is coloured and covered properly more colours will result which is fun.
Above is the reverse of part of the paper fabric after it has dried. See those white ‘flecks’? That’s where the matte medium hasn’t fully penetrated. Tiny areas like this are OK, but large areas will just pull away. That’s why it’s important to work the medium into the layers as you work little by little. Here’s the same part from the other side.
Make several and then you have a selection ready to use.
I usually leave the papers overnight to dry. When they are ready they can be folded, pleated, manipulated in a variety of ways. They can easily be cut with scissors, and can also be used in ‘cutting’ machines like the cuttlebug. Use them for book covers, with or without stitching, as panels within other works of art, as a surface for making bags, boxes or other 3D items. I don’t trim them until I know I’m going to use them. The overhanging bits, presuming they are covered with medium, make useful additions to another surface and can be added to cards etc.
If you decide to buy the paper or the paints from the links above make sure you let me know and I’ll include a small piece of my hand-dyed tissue in your package. Have fun – that’s the main objective!
(Oh, and if you want a really special metallic finish to your paper fabric why not give a quick squirt or two of one of these metallics while the matte medium is still wet!