Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Tutorial: Making a Papercast Bowl ~ Donna Albino ~

I am pleased to present this excellent tutorial by the multi-talented, Donna Albino, proud Mt. Holyoke alumna, a friend of mine and of the environment. Donna likes to turn her junk mail into beautiful recycled papercast bowls. I own two of them and can't even begin to tell you how gorgeous they are! Each is surprisingly sturdy, while at the same time delicate.

Ms. D. has other interesting tutorials on her web site where she also sells paper moulds, if aren't inclined to make your own. Check it out when you have some time to click around on all the interesting links.

These are the resources you will need in order to make paper:

* a water source
* an electricity source
* a blender
* a Rubbermaid dishwashing pan (or some other deep pan)
* a towel
* cloth-like shop towels - you can buy these in a roll at any auto supply store.
(Don't use paper towels for this!)
* a paper mould
* a sponge
* mould-release spray
* metal or glass bowl with no foot, and a smooth surface
* gel medium
* craft paint brush

The first step to making a paper bowl is to create a stack of paper. For a small bowl, you need about 8-9 sheets. For the bowl I used in this tutorial, I needed 20 sheets.

The metal bowl will be the mould that I use for creating the paper bowl. The can I'm holding is mould release spray; I've found that a light coating of Pam cooking spray works fine too, but don't use too much or it will leave oily residue on the paper. I bought this mould release spray from And the pile of handmade paper is stacked between shop towels in the right hand side of the photo. Note that they are still wet. They are freshly made, and should not be allowed to dry before making the bowl.

Tear the sheets into smaller pieces.

I like to make very thick paper when I'm making paper bowls; it tears more easily and it's more sturdy. And I'll have to make fewer sheets, too.

Tear up two or three sheets before continuing.

The mould release spray can instructions state that you should spray the mould immediately before laying down the casting, and having a stack of paper ready to go is best.

Spray the mould. Make sure the whole thing gets covered, especially the rim.

Now you're ready to start making the bowl.

Each sheet of paper has two sides: one side that shows the screening of the paper mould, and one side that shows the texture of the shop towel. I think the texture of the shop towel is more appealing than the screening, so I lay the torn pieces of paper with the towel-texture down. Overlap the pieces as you go. Pat the seams down with your fingers. Make sure all of the bowl gets covered.

After the first layer is done, switch over to laying the torn pieces of paper with the towel-texture up. The outside of the bowl will end up have towel-texture showing too.
Use at least three layers of paper to make your bowl. If you only use one or two, your bowl will be very flexible. You want a bowl that will be sturdy.

After all three-plus layers have been laid on the bowl, take a sponge and carefully press down over the entire surface of the bowl. With pressure, you are creating a smooth surface to the inside of the bowl, and binding the three layers of paper together into one strong layer. Water will flow from the pressure; just keep wringing out the sponge and keep going until you feel all the seams are strong and the paper has been pressed as hard as it can.

After the sponging, the bowl looks like this.

Notice it still looks wet; it is still quite wet. Let it dry in front of a fan for at least 24 hours. Do not skimp on the time. If you pop it off too early and it's still wet inside, it may stick or warp.

If you sprayed it well, you should be able to separate the bowl from the mould by just pulling the two apart with some gentle pressure.

If it refuses to give at first, just keep turning the bowl around and try from a different angle.

You may want to put the bowl in front of the fan again for a few hours just to make sure the inside is completely dry.

This is what the bowl looks like fresh off the mould.

I made this one with old bank statements, old credit card statements, and old utility bills. I also shredded some multicolor flower petals, which shredded into the threads you see in the paper, and added some irridescent confetti for some shine.

At this point, I give each bowl two coats of matte gel medium, to seal in all the confetti and flower petals so that they don't peel off the surface of the bowl with handling. This is what the bowl looks like after the Mod Podge; it's a little darker than the raw bowl, and has a bit more of a sheen to it.

The surprise with this bowl was the surface of the outside of the bowl; it looked so different than the inside, and that is quite unusual! The green freckles formed, I believe, from the seeds that were in the flower heads. I don't know why they ended up mostly on the outside papers and not on the inside. There's a mystery to every bowl! This photo was taken after the two coats of gel medium, too.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Magic Realism

Today's entry is about Magic Realism, (AKA Magical Realism), a form of painting that encompasses fantastical characters and objects in a realistic looking depiction. Magic Realism in art actually refers to a twentieth century movement which was initiated by European artists after World War I,. It was followed by a second phase that began in North America a decade later. The earliest phases of Magic Realism followed World War I and preceded Surrealism by a few years. Together the two phases spanned approximately four decades, with residual works after 1960.

The movement actually began as a reaction to Expressionism, Cubism, and other avant-garde movements. The first Magic Realism paintings were characterized by sharply focused, unsentimental presentations of commonplace subject matter.

Frank Roh identified 22 traits of Magic Realism. Important features include a sharp focus throughout the painting, the smooth and thin application of the paint, the subordination of painting techniques, juxtaposition of close and far subject matter, and the limited use of aerial perspective and atmospheric effects.

Magic Realism spread from Germany to many other European countries, and subsequently to North America. Although in many ways the movement was soon overshadowed in Europe by the Surrealist movement, it flourished to a considerable extent in the Americas, as an alternative artistic current to the mainstream Abstract Expressionism movement which developed in the 1940's and 50's.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Mosics in Calabria, Italy

Italian art includes the finest and oldest mosaics known to humanity. Calabria is a region in southern Italy where one can still find a mosaic tradition that began in ancient Rome over 2000 years ago.

This Calabria Italy travel video takes place in one of Italy's least explored regions, yet in the region of great history, culture and import, Calabria.

(Please click here if you cannot see the video above.)

Calabria is fraught with economic problems, but it hasn't always been that way. Sybaris is an ancient Greek city near Corigliano, founded in 710 BC. It was known for its luxury, giving rise to the modern meaning of "sybaritic" as a word applied to almost unimaginable wealth. Some of Calabria's most exqusit ancient mosaics can be found there.

Calabria is framed by 800 km of coast line, touching two seas — the Tyrrhenian and Ionian. In between, a dramatic, lush landscape is dotted with cities celebrating rich historic heritages worth preserving and exploring ...but there is nothing there so beautiful as the rich, intricate mosaic if you're planning a trip to Italy, know that this region is a real Byzantine treasure trove!

In Rossano, the 11th-century church of San Marco, defiantly perched on its own outcrop, is a mystical masterpiece, one of the great Byzantine monuments in southern Italy.

Vibo Valentia, an ancient Calabrian city that has begrudgingly hosted Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Normans and Bourbons, is home to the Byzantine temple of St. Ruba chock full of mosaic art.

Gerace is one of the most interesting towns in southern Italy. It has a grandiose 12th -century castle, an absolutely breathtaking 11th-century cathedral, and three Byzantine churches (S. Giovanello, S. Maria del Maestro and S. Maria del Monserrato), all full of mosaics.

Are you packed yet??

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Fashion Meets Collage - Emilia Norris

Aspasia and Steven

Out of respect for our dear friend, Aspasia, who died last night, I will be observing a few days of quiet and reflection. This will be the last blog entry here until next Monday, April 28, 2008. Thank you for understanding.


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Emilia Norris

Fashion Meets Collage

The artist Emilia Norris was born in 1973 in Skopje, R.Macedonia. She finished secondary school in 1992 in Skopje, R.Macedonia as a culturologist. Today, she melds the disciplines of fashion design with collage in some pithy statements about life.

The artist states:

Fashion is an all-pervading category. It is an outward articulation of the various segments of human existence, and as such, it is characterized with remarkable dynamics and constant changeability. Therefore, I find Fashion exciting and inspiring, and it is the basic medium for my art and aesthetic expression.


My interest for Fashion dates back to my early childhood. My first ‘works’ were an expression of my zest for historic costumes, seen first in films and later as illustrations in various history and art books. This led to my first fashion drawings, or clothes designs.

Cherry Woman

Despite of all this, when I was making my professional choice, there was no faculty for fashion design, so I took up my second passion – music, and graduated from the Faculty of Music Art. Thus, my life has been engaged with both music and visual art, via fashion design.

Dilemma 1

One of the most important moments for me was the revelation of the great Austrian painter Gustav Klimt from the time of Belle Epoch. It was simply fascinated with his painting technique and the compositions in his works. I was greatly impressed by the interesting fragmentation, the beautiful colours, eroticism, as well as the way he has presented the woman and female psyche. This has led me to the idea of making an attempt of creating reproductions of a few of his paintings using the paper collage technique. Satisfied with the achieved results, I went on producing collages, trying to reinterpret Klimt and master the technique I was using.

Dilemma 2

Later, when I enrolled onto a one-year fashion design course taught by a Macedonian fashion designer, I realized that the collage is related to fashion expression and is often used in making fashion collection books. Having finished the course, I saw that I am not drawn to the technical, but to the artistic side of fashion, and started using the collage technique as a means for my fashion expression. That is how I began working on the cycle consisted of 40 collages (by now), which I named "Woman".


My works, including the last cycle, are never born out of a preconception, but are fully spontaneous creations based on my personal feelings and experiences.


I create my collages using cuttings from different kinds of paper. Then I apply pastel, acrylic or textile colors, and sometimes add cloth or other objects. Most of my works are done in 50 x 70 cm format.



From my own Stacy Alexander

I am spending time in my own studio these days, exploring the concept of women's clothing as social statement. The following collage is part of an installation that I am currently piecing together from a variety of mixed media. I used the process of flat bed scanner as camera with an original Terry Donovan photograph and paper. (click to enlarge)
Bikini of Hair and Large Diamonds
by Stacy Alexander

(Available as Giclée print)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Oh, Crop! Art from a Bird’s Eye View

This art form is fascinating. It involves fractal geometry...and attracts all kinds of people...some of whom believe it was made by aliens from outer space! ;-)

CROP ART (CRAWP art) n. A person who creates designs by manipulating crops and other agricultural products.
—crop art n.

Example Citation:
With black beans, split peas, yellow lentils, dill seed and wild rice, you can make a savory stew — or create an art masterpiece. Works by a dozen of the state's finest crop artists whose celebrity portraits have been displayed at the State Fair are showcased in "Crop Art at the King," opening Saturday evening at T Designshop Gallery in the Northrup King Building in northeast Minneapolis.
—Tim Harlow, "Weekend Watch," Star Tribune, November 29, 2001

When I was a kid, a group of us went out into a field the day before a science trip was planned by one of our rather neurotic teachers. We stomped out a huge circle and placed certain mysterious-looking objects inside it so the teacher would think UFO's had landed there. Her response seemed one of bewilderment....but in retrospect, she probably knew exactly what had transpired. We were convinced at the time that we had fooled her. Now? Not so much... :-)

The notion of crop circles is surrounded by mystique. There are those who believe they were made by creatures from outer space while the rest of us look on in amazement at the talent inherent in creating these giant works of art that can only be seen from above.

The term "crop circle" was first used by researcher Colin Andrews to describe simple circles he was researching at that time. Since 1990 the circles evolved into complex geometries but by then the term had stuck. Examples can be found worldwide.

As mentioned earlier, various hypotheses have been offered to explain their formation, ranging from the naturalistic to the paranormal. Naturalistic explanations include man-made hoaxes or geological anomalies, while paranormal explanations include formation by UFOs.

Many circles are known to be man-made such as those created by Doug Bower, Dave Chorley, and John Lundberg, and a 2000 study into circle hoaxing concluded that virtually all of them were definitely man-made. Those unexplained were less perfect in construction and were attributed to atmospheric conditions such as storms.

In 1991, two elderly Englishmen, Doug Bower and Dave Chorley, confessed to creating hundreds of crop circles, beginning in the early 1970s. This led most media sources to proclaim that all crop circles had been hoaxes. Some crop-circle scholars pointed out that these two men couldn't possibly have created all the circles, particularly those outside the U.K. Other self-described crop-circle artists, such as Circlemakers, suggest that Bower and Chorley started a trend that was picked up by others worldwide.

Bower and Chorley were awarded a lg Nobel Prize in 1992 for their crop circle hoaxing. The Ig Nobel Prizes are a parody of the Nobel Prizes and are given each year in early October — around the time the recipients of the genuine Nobel Prizes are announced — for ten achievements that "first make people laugh, and then make them think.

Here is a fun video about how crop circle artists are made. :

Stacy Alexander