A Birthday on a Birthday (with a tutorial gift!)

22 Sep

I swear to you I did not plan this. It’s a wonderfully fantastic coincidence that today is both my mom’s birthday and the official birth of the Silver & Chalk blog!

(okay, the only thing I planned was that, after realizing what day it is, I decided to get the post up before midnight, so that I could still make use of my precious birthday coincidence)

And the inaugural tutorial? My mom’s birthday present!

Before we get there, I suppose I ought to tell you a bit about Silver & Chalk, which was originally conceived as my photography business. (You can see my Photo 365 project over at Carte de Visite) It is also the official blog of my Etsy store – which is currently empty, but soon to be filled with treasures galore. When the camera’s not in my hand, an implement of art (almost any will do) is. Paints, pens, markers, mud, stain, bleach, paper, photos, books….. and matchboxes, which I’m going to show you today!

On to today’s post….

For the longest time I marveled at altered match boxes – I had always worked on larger canvases, cigar boxes and the like. So the thought of applying the same techniques to something roughly a tenth the size was an irresistible challenge.

Here’s the one I made for my mom, based on her love of the sea, as well as our family’s history with the beach.

Want to see what’s inside? Find out after the jump!

I purposely wanted a rather simple outside to this box, since the greater treasure is inside.

Still, I wanted something that evoked the sea, and so I started with the paint.

I started with a base coat of gesso, to cover the red and blue of the matchbox and give the glossy acrylics something to grip. Before getting to the texture, I layered on various greens and blues, just in light coats.

It’s not evident in most of the photographs, but there are a few worn down areas where those colors show through. (Plus, I find that layering paints at the beginning kind of ramps up my brain and gets me thinking about the rest of the project.)

After the base colors came the glooping – one of my favorite techniques! And because it’s cheap paint + a tiny surface, it really doesn’t take much. After squirting about a tablespoon of paint onto the top of the box, I used a small brush to both create the swirled texture as well as carry some of the texture and color around the other sides.

Using thick paint is key to getting the really great peaks and swirls. (You can also add molding paste to your paint, if you’d rather go that route.)

My next step was adding dimension and additional color using stamping inks. I ink my pinky finger to get into the smaller grooves of the waves, and use the pad to distress the rest.

I used a combination of metallics, including silver, antique gold and even a metallic green. Don’t neglect the back and sides of the box with this step – they benefit a great deal, especially if you’ve gone with less texture in the paint on those areas (as I did). The light sweep of the ink brings out every little swirl, no matter how subtle.

My only complaint? Traditional stamping inks just don’t dry on glossy surfaces.

Which is why I emboss.

I am aware that there are inks out there that dry on any surface. But I just don’t like them as much. Overall, I mean. It’s a weird sort of prejudice to have, but there you have it. (Sealant doesn’t work either, for the record – but if you have a secret for making it work, please enlighten me!)

My solution is clear (in this case) embossing powder, which sticks to the ink I’ve already put down, so I don’t have to use any additional glues or embossing pads. The peaks of my acrylic waves don’t even notice the heat gun, and I end up with an awesome glossy finish that also locks in my inks.

Next I turned my attention to the inside of the box. I knew I wanted beach elements, but didn’t want to fill the box with shells and sand –  there were treasures to be included later!

I lined the bottom with a shimmery blue-green cardstock, and used gel medium to brush on a similarly colored textured tissue paper along the sides and corners.

Once again using my one true love, gel medium, I spooned together a gooey mixture of sand and medium. I then pressed it into one corner of the box, being sure to leave a little shoreline along the bottom.

Because the gel/sand mix was sooo gooey, I was afraid it would dry to a strange high-gloss sandpile – the opposite of what I was going for. A little extra sand sprinkled on top of the gooey dune and lightly pressed in solved the problem! To be safe, I added more sand and then cleaned out the excess once everything was dry.

Now for the final embellishments. I rarely use glitter in my work, but in this case, the pretty blue glitter reminded me of a fanciful version of the sun glancing off the waves.

The addition of a colorful coquina (butterfly shells, we used to call them) was not just about the shells and the beach, but about the memories. Coquinas figure so brilliantly in my memories of the beach with my family – including the horrid-yet-delightful practice of digging them up out of the sand and capturing them in buckets of seawater (which were inevitably forgotten out in the sun).

At the same time, I attached a little “drawer pull” – a tiny auger found during our last trip to the beach.

I used the almighty 527 adhesive to attach both shells, as well as the moon shells that adorn the front of the box.

Every good beach has treasure, right?

The booty in this case was tiny photos from a few of our last trips to the Outer Banks – complete with ocean-inspired quotes on the back (a few may have required the use of a tissue).

My favorite:  The Sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.

Jacques Cousteau said that, and I’ve a feeling that Hemingway, Conrad and Melville might agree.


2 Responses to “A Birthday on a Birthday (with a tutorial gift!)”

  1. dale ocasio September 23, 2010 at 1:11 pm #

    What a beautiful gift! The cover is gorgeous enough with the texture and lovely color, but then when you open it…wow. It’s very cool.
    Thank you, so much, for sharing your technique.

    • Megan September 23, 2010 at 1:16 pm #

      Oh, thank you so very much – I’m so glad you like it!

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