Tag Archive for 'gelatin printing'

Tips for Making Quality Kusudama

Gelli arts kusudama

A friend inquired yesterday about how to make one of the kusudama balls that Matt and I make each year for Christmas ornaments. I realized I never shared the ornament we made for Christmas 2017.

Gelli arts kusudama

I thought I’d pop in again to share the ornament and some quick tips that might help make your ornament go smoother. We’ve done it now for 10 years! Only 7 actually fit on the tree, because I kept having to relearn the same mistake for the first 3 years. That brings me to tip #1.

#1 Start with 3″ square papers for a 6″ diameter ball.

Unlike origami where you start with one piece of big paper and it folds down to a tiny size, the finished kusudama ball will actually be roughly twice the size of one square paper that you start with. The first year we probably used a 6″ square and ended up with a foot wide “ornament” that is really just table decoration now. The next year, trying to learn from my mistake, I think I referenced the instructions again and made 5″ squares, still not small enough. The third year, I thought I was going smaller yet, and still did a 5″ piece, both of these ended up being 10″ balls that are also too big to fit on a tree, and sit alongside the gigantic one for holiday decorations.

Gelli arts kusudama

#2. Origami paper is not preferable for a long term keepsake kusudama ball.

We’ve done a few in origami paper and after a few years of storage and use in between, the corners have all gotten mangled. The paper is just too thin and flimsy. In previous years, we have used recycled magazines, origami and wrapping paper. Christmas 2016 was the first year that it occurred to me to use a paper I decorated myself. I picked a color scheme and used regular office paper with gelatin prints on the front and back. I use basic, cheap craft paint ($1-$2 a bottle) on my gelli plate and the added layers made the paper firm, but not too heavy to fold, or the ornament too heavy to hang from a branch of the Christmas tree.

Gelli arts kusudama

3. It takes a lot longer to make one than you might think

You fold down and glue 60 squares of paper, into 12 flowers with 5 petals each.

I remember the very first ornament we made, I started out thinking if it went quickly enough, maybe we could decorate a whole tree with these handmade ornaments! That was a joke. One, because we made it TOO BIG, and Two, because the paper was so big, it took us way longer to fold and glue Three Since it was our first time doing it, we were learning as we went, and we had to reference the tutorial a lot and that added time and Four, we used white craft glue like the instructions said. Now, we have it down to a science, don’t need to reference the tutorial, and can pump it out in an efficient manner. Still, it takes the two of us working continually about an hour to make an ornament (just the folding and gluing, not including the printing of paper and cutting it down to size, etc.). It takes 2 hours for just me to make one. 10 years later, we have 10 ornaments (7 that actually fit on the tree) and I like having one for every year as a mark of our tradition.

Gelli arts kusudama

4. Use a hot glue gun

The tutorial we originally referenced instructs you to use white glue. Um, no. That will easily triple or quadruple your assembly time and will result in a lower quality finished piece, with a shorter life span. I also tried a double sided sticky tape (like a tape runner), also a no! Every year when I take them out again I have to kind of “fix” the original 3 (white glue and tape runner) and that means gluing them back together again because these adhesives start coming apart over time. We now use a glue gun and it goes SO FAST and the pieces have stayed together marvelously. You have to know how to use a hot glue gun, be safe and efficient. There’s no take back if you glue something together wrong and you want to get the pieces together with fairly good precision. That being said, Matt glued this year and maybe last year’s pieces together, while I folded. If you look at our pieces you can see the meeting point tips aren’t perfect, but off much more and things might not meet together to glue.

Gelli arts kusudama

5. Make sure you work space is clean

There’s nothing worse than soiling a piece you’ve invested a lot of time on.

Here are all of my previous kusudama posts, so you can see the other ornaments we’ve made, individually as well as in the collection.

The original tutorial we referenced has changed, and is now asking for donations and that people don’t share or direct people to the instructions? (how will people be able to donate if you get no traffic), but I’m sure there are tons of other instructions out there by simply googling it.

If you make one and share it to your blog, I’d love to check out the link. Thank you!

2016 Kusudama Ornament

And the finished result #robayrekusudama made from #gelliarts printed paper #gelliprinting I'll post more to the blog shortly.

Every year since 2008, Matt and I make a Kusudama ornament. I always reminisce about how the first year I thought we’d make enough to decorate the whole Christmas tree. Two hours later (racing each other the whole time to make as many petals as possible) we had ONE ornament finished and it was the size of a soccer ball. Now, we finally make them ornament sized and only aim to make one a year. We are up to 9, though only 6 of them are small enough to hang from the tree (it took us a while to get the size right).

Making messes

This year, like every year, I wondered “what are we going to make the ornament out of?” The first few years we used old catalogs and magazines. Then for a few years we used origami paper, then wrapping paper and finally last year an old page-a-day calendar. This year it occurred to me that I could MAKE my own paper. I looked at my Color Inspiration board on pinterest and was instantly taken with this picture of a pillow on a chair. So, pinks and rust as a base with pops and accents of color and pattern.

Trimmed down, hand printed papers for our annual kusudama ornament

I printed, double sided, on the paper using my gelli arts plate and hand cut paper stencils, and trimmed down the paper to 3″x3″. It actually worked better than a lot of the other papers we’ve used because with the additional layers of paint, it was that much more sturdy. The origami paper ornaments have a tendency to get banged up corners because the paper is so thin and fragile.

See previous Kusadama ornament posts here

We follow this 2 step tutorial each year.

Robayre100Days part 5

Day 44/100 #robayre100days did some more printing tonight but didn't hit the same groove from yesterday. I should have spent my time 1. cutting new stencils to truly get fresh materials or 2. drawing or painting over some of the prints I pulled yesterday

For the final installment of my 100 day project recap I’ll be covering my gelatin printing and work that came from that, over the 100 days

Day 45/100 #robayre100days cutting paper stencils

We'll see how this paper stencil goes #gelatinprinting #gelliplate #gelliarts

I just posted a bunch over on snapchat about the paper I use for cutting paper stencils. username : robayre (same as everywhere else) #gelatinprinting #gelliarts #gelliartsprinting #paperstencils #robayrepaperpiles

I have some catching up to do. Day 86/100 #robayre100days #robayrepatterns a new handcut paper stencil

From the get go, I’ve been working with my own hand cut paper stencils on the gelatin plate. I want the resulting work to be mine alone. Part of my interest in cutting comes from 7 years doing paste up at the local newspaper. I just may have been told I have a way around an Xacto knife! For a while I tried some acetate, but I think the fact that the plastic is non-porous, just resulted in prints I wasn’t too crazy about. Now I stick exclusively to paper or cardstock, but mostly paper. I’ve been printing for a few years now and still have all the stencils I’ve cut. The first few prints using a new cut stencil are very sensitive and fragile and could tear easily, but after you build up some coats of ink or paint, it makes the stencil stronger and stronger. I haven’t had to retire any yet!

Day 42/100 #robayre100days tonight I worked on some gelli prints because I want some fresh material for some #paperproducts. Fresh material = stuff to cut and paste. I'm kind of excited because I set up a table in the basement to work on, seeing as my wor

#robayrestencilstack pushing back, trying to push through

Day 63/100 #robayre100days I worked on some sewing and some printing and talked with some folks to work out some things about pieces in progress (thank you @shealwayslovedlarking and @murojewelry) but didn't really have a picture that captures that, so pl


Good morning! #robayrestencilstack #handcutstencil

Whenever I’m working on gelatin prints, the stencils will get new layers of color, so they are ever changing. As I flip through the folder I keep them in, I’ll notice beautiful compositions of color and pattern in the layers. I’ve been keeping a collection of these captured images at #robayrestencilstack  It is my hope some day to permanently adhere some of these, and either incorporate them into other work, or make them their own Art pieces. The only problem is that it means I’d have to remove them from my usable collection, and/or cut new ones to use again.

Today for #robayre100days I once again worked in my studio but don't really have anything to document and show. So I present to you this #robayrepaperpiles which still technically fits in with my paper theme. If you haven't seen it yet, don't miss the giv

scraps from collage cuttings

After 5 printmaking classes (serigraphy, lithography, relief, intaglio and an independent study) where I never really did monotypes or monoprints, I never really think of my gelatin printing as printmaking. But every once in a while when the color build u

Day 75/100 #robayre100days playing with scraps and #robayrepaperpiles to design a new stationery paper

 Pushing paper around

Just looking at some #robayrepaperpiles. Pattern prints made from my hand cut paper stencils and a Gelli arts plate

Gluing paper down. To see the full thing, check #littleartbook 63/100 #robayre100days #robayrepaperpiles #the100dayproject #cutandpaste #collage

Always gluing some down into little art books

I'm gonna say 49 AND 50/100 #robayre100days because I worked on a whole bunch of projects including computer work, test printing and gelatin printing. I revisited my master project list and I'm feeling much better. #the100dayproject #100dayproject #worksp

Pushing things around before gluing anything down. Day 96/100 #robayre100days

Another shot of day 70, a stack of envelopes. Now to design an accompanying stationery paper 🙌

Pushing paper around this week, day 88/100 #robayre100days stay tuned to see the a stationery paper that I made from this #robayrepatterns #robayrepaperpiles #robayrepaperpilecollage

Day 80/100 #robayre100days glued some paper down #Robayre

I put together some collections to make some letter writing stationery set headers, using the gelatin printed papers

Day 90/100 #robayre100days I wanted to make a BW collage using my gelatin printed patterns as a stationery header. You can see the original had a little bit of color in the previous post, and other minor adjustments. Also featured, my black flag notepad p

Day 91/100 #robayre100days test printing this color collage stationery header

I just love how these two sets came out, a color version that comes with handmade envelopes from original prints available in my shop here, and

Who wants to send some fun mail? Day 93/100 I added this #stationeryset to my shop. It includes the collage header letter /writing paper and envelopes made from one of a kind gelatin prints (using my handcut stencils) The inside of the envelopes are print

What is black and white, and read all over? This stationery set, and many others, in my shop right now. Day 94/100 #robayre100days

and a black and white set that comes with gray envelopes available in my shop here

That wraps up coverage on the 100 day project, whew! Read the other installments First part, Second part, Third part, Fourth part







Strike Away Show 2

Last month I posted about the upcoming Strike Away Show. Did anyone else participate? I’d love to see links to your pieces.

It took me forever to come up with an idea for my piece. It took me so long that I debated participating at all. I don’t know why it always takes me so long to have my aha moments. Immediately afterward I will feel like a genius, but then shortly thereafter I realize “that was the most simple idea. Why did it take me so long to go from A to B?” My GENIUS idea was to make a #LittleArtBook from a matchbook cover. Similar to this  LittleArtBook, I worked almost entirely from my own gelatin print papers.

11.13.09 materials Chalkboard matchbook notepads #littleartbook

The matchbook was actually a perfect theme for me. When my SIL’s parents used to own a local bar/music venue when I was in college, we would sit at the bar and draw on all the matchbook covers. Then, I used to make little matchbook style notebooks to give away as freebies in my etsy orders (pictured above circa 2009 and 2011). And, as I mentioned on the last post, I apparently hoard vintage matchbook covers.


While my contribution to the #strikeawayshow is in transit to CA, I thought I'd share a progress photo from when I was working on it. Surprise, surprise, I made a #littleartbbook, accordion style. I had so much fun working on it! #matchbookart

I decided to make an accordion fold book, so that the panels would open up for display purposes, but each page is its own composition.

My contribution to the #strikeawayshow going on right now at Paxton Gate, a little accordion book in a matchbook cover. It was so fun to make! Thank you so much @ccerruti and @adorndesign for all your hard work organizing the show! #littleartbook

As shown in the previous post, I had a lot of vintage matchbook covers to choose from. While many of the books I had were from Ohio Blue Tip, the vintage matchbook I used as a cover was a brand called Superior Match Co., from Chicago, which was perfect because I’m from the Chicagoland area-ish. The book had the remains of the matches that had been pulled and used on the striker pad, so it had plenty of love and use. I was able to remove the staple and take out the old match stumps and staple in my own pages. The cover also had birds on the cover, and for a girl with a bird-like name, I felt it was appropriate. In addition, the cardinal has been a bird with a lot of meanings and symbols in my life. The cover images were so beautiful and I wanted to keep them intact, otherwise I might as well just build a whole matchbook from scratch, so I just did minimal mark making to alter the covers.

Strike Away Show
Strike Away Show
Strike Away Show

Some close ups of the panels. The finished piece was something like 1×2.25 inches. So TINY! It reminded me of back in the day on flickr when I’d see people doing “inchies” and thinking to myself “That looks like fun” but if I sat down and tried to make any it felt like a lost cause. Just way too small. BUT, in an accordion style book, it worked and it was so much fun I might do more!

Here is a little video I captured really quickly to show how it opens. I was going to have Matt help me film a better one, but then I got too impatient to send it off, and forgot to record a new one.

Speaking of mailing, this piece was a nightmare in the postal system. In almost 10 years of running an etsy shop, I have had the utmost faith in the USPS, never losing or damaging any of the hundreds of packages I have sent out. This package, however, has altered my view. The piece had to be in the hands of the curators on May 3rd, which is a Sunday, meaning it needed to arrive in the mail by Saturday May 2nd. I sent the package 2 day priority mail (using a postal machine) on Tuesday, April 28th (I think). That meant the package would arrive in plenty of time, even if it was delayed a day OR TWO, as sometimes happens and is understandable. On the Friday night before it should have arrived, I checked my tracking and it said it was still in the Chicagoland area! I’ve been noticing a nasty trend lately, that all mail going through Chicago is delayed by days, and there is no excuse. I was already pretty annoyed when I checked again right before bed, in hopes that the tracking would be updated and show it had really been in transit to CA all along. Well, it had updated, but not in the direction I had hoped. Somehow it had made its way to FLORIDA! Yes, FLORIDA. My package from Northern Illinois, headed to California, took a trip to Florida. I knew immediately that my piece wasn’t going to make the deadline cut off. I immediately emailed the curators with the tracking info and explained that I would be going to the post office the next morning to find out what happened. The next day I explained to the postal employee at the counter what has happened, in hopes that they would explain that it would still arrive on time and that they just ship things like that sometimes (who knows? I know it doesn’t make sense, but I was trying to give them the benefit of the doubt, ya know, because of above said utmost faith). As soon as I explained though, the clerk said “oh dear, they’ve made a mistake” and immediately rushed off to get a manager. My eyes got big. The manager took my receipt and came in to tell me in the most positive and happy voice “your package will arrive in 5-7 business days, Mam”. I said “But I paid for 2 day shipping” to which she responded that 2 day is not guaranteed and went on to explain that it even says that it is not guaranteed and is only suggested and that sometimes packages just travel that way (to CA via FL?). I could tell she was trying to defuse me and get me out of there ASAP, even though I had gone in there on their side, not angry at all. Her attempt at trying to make it seem like it was no big deal, and that everything in the world was happy-happy-joy-joy actually worked to make me FURIOUS! It was then that I asked to make a formal complaint and she responded with “you’ll have to do that online” and with tears in my eyes, knowing that my piece wouldn’t arrive in time for the cut off date, I stormed out. When I got to the car I started thinking more clearly and went back into the lobby and photographed each page of the mailing machine that I used and NO WHERE, and on NO PAGE does it say that 2 day is just estimated or suggested. Fortunately, before I got home I received an email from Courtney saying that they would make space in the show for me, and I was so grateful. The package got lost, and really, I understand that, but what really made me angry was this employee’s response. She lied to me and denied any wrong doing, when the previous employee had already told me that it was a mistake. I’ve always heard that taking responsibility and apologizing goes way further than trying to deny guilt, blame shift and redirect anger, and I experienced that first hand here. If she would have said “I’m so sorry, we are going to look into this” and then promptly threw away my tracking info as soon as I left the office I would have still left feeling like they cared. This woman was doing it all wrong and I really hope that it was just this employee’s own way of dealing, and not a reflection of how the USPS teaches their managers to respond to patrons. End rant.

My piece, up at Paxton Gate for the #StrikeAwayShow

The show opened last Friday, May 22nd at Paxton Gate in San Fransisco, CA. It was so much fun to see all the images of the opening and I snagged this picture someone shared that included my piece. If you’d like to see more, use “strikeawayshow” hashtag on instagram. So many of the pieces are just amazing. And tiny! Tiny and Amazing! Just my type of artwork!

Gelli Arts Plate and Printmaking

Last week on pinterest I found the above pin via Jodi Hurt for a blog post by JournalGirl about Gelli Art prints.

That pin was all it took. I have fallen down the Gelli Arts printing hole.

Monoprint/Monotype is a printmaking technique where (generally) only one (or at least one unique) print is pulled from a block or plate.  Gelatin printing is a monoprint/monotype technique where you use a gelatin plate (a printing plate basically made of gelatin). Because gelatin plates are biodegradable, animal and water based, they are only good for so long before they start to show wear and dry up. Gelli Arts brand designed and manufactured their product that mimics gelatin, but is mineral oil and polymer based and so it is long lasting.


One of my very first prints pulled from the Gelli Arts Plate.

Between high school and college I have taken tons of printmaking classes and used many techniques, but my experience with monoprints/monotypes were based on maybe a day or two of playing around, printing from a glass plate or gummed and inked up xyrox copy art. Previously, my thoughts on monoprint/monotype was that it was a lesser printmaking technique. “Meh. Should it even really be considered printmaking?” For a few months I’ve been hearing the name Gelli Art and gelli printing bandied about on the internet here and there. It wasn’t until I saw that pin that I thought “I should really look into this” By the end of the day I had literally read everything I could find and watched hours and hours of videos of people printing with their Gelli Arts plate. You can buy the Gelli Art plates online and from Dick Blick stores. They are relatively inexpensive, the medium sized plate is $30 and 8″x10″ in size. My sister was kind enough to pick up a plate for me from the Dick Blick near her and I had my plate in my greedy little fingers the very next day. I have been obsessed, spending hours every day working on it ever since. I love how it could be used for crafting or for fine art. As I said before, there are tons of videos online. I also signed up for the Carla Sonheim class (a week’s worth of private blog posts and videos for only $25). Spending so much time working on it I realized that it feels more like painting than printmaking and reminded me a lot of when I’ve done wheel thrown pottery because there are so many factors all needing to be juggled at once. With pottery it’s the composition (wet, dry, fiber, etc.) of the clay, the centering, the position and balance of your legs, arms, and hands as well as the motion you make with your hands dependent on the speed of the wheel. With the gelli prints it’s color, layers, composition (format), as well as texture and weight of paper, texture and fluidity of the paints, layers and transparencies of layers, speed in which you work (paint drying on plate), pressure you apply while transferring your image, ghosting from previous layers showing up on a second pull or even newly inked plate, not to forget textures added from other surfaces, or printing through stencils.
Today I worked on 8 pieces simultaneously according to the Carla Sonheim course. I think that was just too many for me. I should have only worried about 4 at a time. This is the only piece that I liked so far. The rest I can keep working on.
The lone print I liked from the series of 8

The second and third day I was working I got a little frustrated with how many pieces I was working on that I did not like. I had to remind myself that I was just starting out and learning a lot. Ideally, I’d want every piece to be perfect and amazing and in general I feel like I have a very high percentage of success with artwork. But with these gelli prints, I did 8 pieces and only liked 1. I was really disappointed, but was glad for the Carla Sonheim class because she really emphasized that you can keep adding layers and adjusting pieces until you like them or offered up a whole slew of alternative options for your failed prints. My favorite was to make them into art journals. There’s a little video you can see here with another artist doing the exact same thing. Right away I was almost more excited about turning those 7 failed prints into a book, than I was into reworking them.

I'm learning a lot and figuring out what works for me with #gelliarts.

I was finally getting into the swing of things

The next day I started working on 4 new pieces, as well as adding to the back sides of the previous 7 pieces. I don’t know if I had a breakthrough, started learning more what worked for me and/or switched to right brain thinking/art flow, but I suddenly got in the groove and was really pleased with more and more of the pieces I was working on. I think I had watched too many videos and had so many techniques, styles and ideas from other artists swimming through my head. I just needed to experiment on my own and break away from those to think creatively for my own work, rather than thinking “try this like so and so did”.

7.22.13 monoprint

Loving more and more of my pieces, the more I work with this technique.

All the same I do recommend looking at the videos online if you are interested in monoprinting/monotyping with a gelatin plate. So many techniques never would have occurred to me if I hadn’t seen it online first. Doing a simple youtube search for gelatin or gelli prints will provide plenty of results. I also highly recommend checking out Jodi’s pinterest board for Monoprinting, there are tons of great articles, videos and resources. edit to add another great pinterest board by Lelainia Lloyd (tattered Edge) Pinterest I love you!

Working on a stencil that will take a while

A lot of the videos use stencils for texture and I don’t have any so I’ve been enjoying cutting out paper stencils and masks.

I know I need one more art medium to work in, like I need a hole in my head, but I’m really enjoying monoprinting/monotyping. Any time I brush off a certain medium, it’s almost guaranteed that down the road I’m going to eat crow about it. Mixed media was for chumps, collage was a joke and monoprinting/monotyping was a waste of time, now I love all three. I’m sure I will be back with more pieces to share soon.

Edit to add links to two other posts:

A Little Art Book I made from collaged gelli prints

Paper Stencil Stacks