Ever since we first tried making Paste Papers, I’ve been wanting to do more – it’s over a year since we did our last batch, so half term seemed like a good opportunity to have another go and try some different techniques. I had the idea to create some decorative drawer liners, which meant that fairly large sheets of paper were required, so out came the old flip chart again. This has proved to be such a good investment, as I find myself using it quite a lot. The paper is also quite thin, and is therefore ideal for the particular technique I wanted to use.
Last time we made paste papers, I made up the paste using a fairly traditional recipe – the recipe for this varies in detail, but at its most basic, is simply flour and water. However it was a little messy and time consuming to prepare, so when I read somewhere that you can use wallpaper paste instead, I thought it was worth a try. A little goes a long way, so I mixed up only a fraction of the packet. The consistency of the paste apparently will affect the nature of the finished result, but we didn’t really experiment with this.
We used some paper I had prepared the day before by giving it an overall coat of acrylic paint. I’m sure you could use tempera, but I wanted the colours to be really bright, and the acrylic gave better results. This time we used a slightly different technique to apply the paste. Last time I premixed the individual colours with the paste, and I think this is certainly the better approach for children to use. However, it also potentially uses more paint, and restricts you to a pre-determined range of colours, so this time I used a technique where you brush on the paste with one brush, and then brush the paint over the top of the wet paste with another brush. Large paint brushes were ideal for this purpose.
You don’t have to use coloured paper as your base of course, you can just as well use plain white paper if you prefer. Personally I like the added texture and depth that using a roughly pre-painted sheet gives.
Once you’ve painted your paper, achieving the decorative effect we used is really easy and takes absolutely no skill whatsoever, even if it is messy! Simply scrunch the painted paper into a tight ball, trying to keep the painted surface on the inside as far as possible. As soon as you’ve done this, carefully unfold it all again – be careful not to tear it as it is quite fragile when it is so wet. Don’t try to smooth it out too much or worry about the crumpled appearance at this stage. If you want to add a little extra ‘bling’ you can sprinkle some fine glitter on, though this is not ideal if you intend to use the papers as drawer liners, since the clothes etc. in the drawer could end up glittery! Less is definitely more here, though of course the kids tended to be a little heavy handed with the glitter given half a chance! Leave the whole thing to dry, ideally by hanging up, because the down-side of using wall-paper paste is that it can stick a little if you leave it to dry on paper as I did.
Of course you can fold the paper in any way you choose. You don’t have to crumple it, you can fold it more creatively, pleat it or do anything you like, and the effect will be different. The nature of the technique means that the back of the paper will of course get quite messy, so you might say that you are creating a double-sided decorative paper!
When your papers have thoroughly dried, smooth them out by ironing them on the reverse with the steam iron. To be on the safe side, you might want to place an old sheet or something over the ironing board, though I didn’t experience any transfer of paint.
If you want to create scented drawer-liners, place a drop or two of essential oil on some cotton wool, and place it in a sealed plastic bag along with your completed papers. Leave it for a few weeks, for the scent to be absorbed into the paper, before removing.