From the Artist Tribe - Patchwork Sari Scrap Belts

The Artist Tribe has been taking it a bit easy this summer, but today Linda Edkins Wyatt is joining us to share how she made these fantastic patchwork sari scrap belts!

3 belt views

She's used embellished sari scraps and Turkmen jewelry parts to put these together, and the results are just spectacular! Make sure you stop by her blog for more photos and lots of details.

An Artist Book Cover with Stencils and Embossing Powder

Hi all, and welcome to my stop on this week's blog hop with StencilGirl and Emerald Creek! At this point I don't think that it's really any secret that I love me some embossing powder. It's such a versatile medium, and you can use it in so many different ways! Of course, embossing powder also pairs perfectly with stencils, so I was thrilled to hear that StencilGirl and Emerald Creek were teaming up to do a second blog hop (we also did one in December of last year. If you missed it, make sure to check that out too for even more inspiration!)

This time around, I decided to decorate the cover of a handmade artist book that I've been working on. I wanted something that was extremely textured and grungy, and yet still fit with the overall theme of the book, which is courage.


Of course, I also put together a short tutorial so that you can see how to recreate these effects in your own projects. Ready?

To start, I coated the cover with black gesso, let it dry, then used a gold texture paste with my Chinese Garden Plum Blossoms stencil to get the flowers onto the background. You could do this with pigment or embossing ink and embossing powder, but I knew that I was going to do quite a bit of layering and melting in the vicinity of this design and I didn't want to lose the crisp lines, so I used the texture paste instead.


Once the texture paste was dry, I took out some scraps of tissue paper, matte medium, and a brush, and started laying the foundation of the texture in the background. It doesn't really matter what the pattern is on your paper, (or if there is one!) as it will all be covered up in the end. (Old sewing patterns also work great for this.) 

I coated the background in matte medium, scrunched up some tissue paper and then coated the back of that as well, and then laid it on the wet background, manipulating it with my fingers as I went so that I created lots of peaks and valleys with the paper. I kept doing this until most of the cover was coated, leaving the flowers peeking through.

I worked fairly quickly at this point - this was partly to keep myself from overthinking the positioning of the tissue paper, and partly because I needed the matte medium to be wet for the next step, which was the application of a lot of Baked Texture embossing powder.  I started with Rocky Road, sprinkling it around the edges and right along the areas next to the flowers - I wanted something very textured and crusty looking, and this was the perfect way to get that look. I tapped off the excess powder and returned it to the jar, then I used Dirty Sand, making sure to leave some areas open, then repeated one more time with Chunky Rust. I put the extra powder back in the jar each time so that I could use it again later.


Once the entire background had its first coat of powder, I pulled out my heat gun and went to work. I kept it pretty close to the surface so that the medium and powder would bubble as it melted. The effect you achieve with this is fabulous! (Just a note that you may have heard from me before, but because you're heating acrylic mediums here, you get fumes. I always cover my nose and mouth for this process - I even have a respirator in my studio for really extended embossing sessions!) 

After the first layer was melted, I took out Ancient Amber, Deep Sea, and Patina Oxide and alternately re-melted the surface with the heat gun, sprinkled powder on the hot surface, and then heated to fuse it into the surface. The result is a gorgeous, mottled look that you really can't get any other way!

Once I'd gotten the texture I wanted in the background, I pulled out a blend of gold leafing flakes and applied some on the background, then used some gold wax from PaperArtsy and applied with my finger on the tops of the texture - it adds depth and shine, all at the same time.


Next I used Seth Apter's Never Again stencil along with clear embossing ink and Charred Gold embossing powder to add a few words into the openings of my flowers.

To this point, I'd done a pretty good job of adding the grunge factor, but I needed some boho - bright colors to the rescue! I used my Posca paint markers to color in the flowers. I like to add in a few shades of the same color or two similar colors and blend them with my finger while they're still wet.


I also pulled out my Marabu Art Crayons and added bits of color into the background, using my finger and a water brush to spread it out a bit.

Finally, I took some Emerald Creek Fleur brads, poked holes in the cover with an awl, and then inserted them to give a subtle, decorative touch to the cover. I used my finger to wipe a bit more of the gold PaperArtsy wax over the surface - the raised design on the brad really picked it up beautifully!


Voilà ! The finished cover!


Here are a few close-ups so that you can get a good sense of the amazing texture you can get by using embossing powder in your mixed media work:


I hope you enjoyed today's project... I know I did! Of course, now for the part you've all been waiting for!

One lucky winner will receive $50 in Gift Certificates to Emerald Creek and StencilGirl® Products!

SG and EC blog hop GIVEAWAY image
Enter to win by leaving a comment below, then be sure to visit the other blogs in the hop and comment; the more blogs you comment on, the more chances you have to WIN!
One winner will be chosen at random from all blog comments. (One comment per person per blog please.)

You have until Tuesday, August 21st at 11:59PM Central Time to leave your comments.
The winner will be announced on the StencilGirl® Products Facebook page and Emerald Creek’s Facebook page on Wednesday, August 22.

Make sure you check out all of today's posts for lots of fabulous inspiration!

From the Artist Tribe - Romantic Collage with Stencils

Hi all - Linda Edkins Wyatt is joining us today, showing a few beautiful examples featuring one of her favorite ways to unwind... collage.

IMG_2199 change crop
IMG_2199 change crop

Linda has layered a variety of papers and ephemera and then added journaling and stenciling on top. She used my "Not Afraid to Try," Art Deco Alphabet, Ornamental Compass Screen, and Art Deco Flower Medallion stencils.

Make sure you stop by her blog for more photos, and to hear more about her process for how she chooses the different papers and brings these lovely collages together!

My First Online Class - Boho Grunge!

I've had requests to do online classes for quite a while now, and I'm thrilled to share that it's finally become reality! Today I'm releasing my first online class, "Boho Grunge," with StencilGirl on their StencilGirl Studio website.

This course will walk through the creation of a mixed media panel, done in my signature Boho Grunge style, from start to finish . I didn't have the project pre-planned other than to bring some likely options to the shoot, so you get to see the organic process as it really happens in my studio!

Here's the project that I make in this class - it's called "Crossroads."

Boho Grunge Full Promo - Gwen Lafleur

In the workshop, I'll share the background technique that I used for this piece, as well as some stenciling tips, how I created the layers, and how I selected and assembled the elements of the focal point. I'll even show how I made different metals look the same and applied a faux rust effect! You can use these techniques to create a similar piece on your own, or apply them individually to your projects.

I'm very happy with how the class came out, and it was a lot of fun to film it... I hope you'll enjoy taking the workshop just as much! You can check out the introduction video and intros to each of the course chapters for free, or register now! I hope you'll join me!

Blockprinting for Mixed Media - My Tips & Tricks

Over the last year or so I've received lots of questions about how to use woodblocks for printing, especially on paper. I love to use block-printed images in my work... they make beautiful focal points for collage, and there are also a lot of stunning patterns that are great for backgrounds and patterned papers. One of my favorite things about them is that they give you the ability to create your own unique collage fodder as you can change the colors of your paints and colors and types of papers, the arrangement and combination of the blocks when printing, etc... so that you can create something that brings your personal flair into your work!


While I'm definitely not a pro at printmaking, I've been fortunate enough to get some good instruction that's helped me find what works for me. First, I was at Artistic Artifacts in Alexandria Virginia a few years ago and had a great demo from the owner, Judy Gula. (She has a video out there too that's also helpful!) They carry lots of blocks, and they work directly in families in India to have them made, so they're Fair Trade and support the artisans directly.

I was also very lucky to be able to attend several demos and workshops while I was in Jaipur, India last year. I got some real hands-on experience, observed masters at work, and was able to talk to one of the workshop owners about some of the details of the printing process, especially how they set up their printing tables.

This was a demo of Dabu block printing. It's similar to Batik, only they use mud as the resist instead of wax and coat it with sawdust while it's drying.


At another workshop in Jaipur, we observed and then got a chance to participate in more traditional block printing on fabric. This gentleman appears in my video below:


And here I am, printing a border on my fabric (the final product was pretty nice, if I say so myself! And the owner of the workshop asked me if I was an experienced printer... lol. I was proud of my meager skills.)


The workshop was filled with inspiration... blocks were piled on shelves under every table, and vats of ink sat in the sunlight, waiting to be used...


We also had an opportunity to see how the blocks are carved. There are videos of this process online if you do a search - it's mesmerizing and awe-inspiring.


A close-up of his work - gorgeous.


You could buy blocks from the street vendors! I had one follow me with some gorgeous border blocks and I was able to negotiate a crazy good price for them... between that and the workshops, I came home with a lovely selection to add to my collection.


With that introduction, on to the tips and tricks!

I put together a video which includes a clip that I took in one of those workshops along with my tips for printing surfaces, choosing and applying paint, printing, and cleaning your blocks. I'm also showing the two main types of woodblocks that I use in my own work, and then below I've broken out the highlights in case you want a refresher or just want to skim instead of watching the video (it's about 18 minutes.)

1. Printing Surfaces

Blockprinting for Mixed Media - Printing Surfaces - Gwen Lafleur

You need something with some give under your paper or fabric while printing; traditional rubber stamps are usually mounted on some kind of cushion, but blocks also need that "give" in the surface in order to get a good impression, especially since these are all hand-carved and the surfaces may not be completely even. A few options:

  • My surface is a sheet of foam core that's been covered with four layers or 1/8" thick fun foam from the craft store. I made sure that they all fit together very tightly so there are no gaps in my surface. This works for me because it's large enough that I can print on parent sheets of paper (usually around 24" x 36") and then cut them down, and I can also pick it up and put it away when I'm not printing.
  • You can use something like a mousepad or a yoga mat. In the video I show a mousepad, a Pergamano mat (Pergamano is parchment craft where you emboss and pierce vellum to make beautiful designs... I'm not kidding when I say I've tried everything!) I also showed a thick piece of something like craft foam that also works great.

2. Paints, Papers, & Tools

First up, paint. Generally speaking, ink doesn't work - it dries too quickly (although after a conversation on Facebook, I do want to experiment a bit with some types of pigment ink, just to see if I could heat emboss one of these images.) The "ink" they use in India is like a very thin paint, and they have shallow open boxes with thick pads in them that soak up the paint from below and they use it like a stamp pad, refilling it when it starts to get low. While that's practical in a professional printing workshop, it's hard to find a way to store and maintain that sort of thing at home, so I just stick with paint, a palette, and a brayer.

I use acrylic paint - student grade is fine for this... I save my Golden and other professional grade acrylic paints for other applications, especially because you can go through a fair amount of paint in a printing session and it could get expensive fast if you're using the good stuff.

Blockprinting for Mixed Media - Paints - Gwen Lafleur

That said, paint on its own dries too quickly to print with, so you need some kind of extender. That has the benefit of both thinning the paint for better application and printing with the blocks, and extending the open time of the paint so that it doesn't dry before you can print with it.

Blockprinting for Mixed Media - Paint Extenders - Gwen Lafleur

I use a fabric or textile medium as my additive. You could use something like the Golden GAC-900, but again, I tend to save the expensive stuff and use the craft product here. The other one I've got in the video is from Delta, and you can find it in the aisle with the craft paints. It works just fine, and it will save you a lot of money! Of course, you can use other extenders, but this lets me print on both fabric and paper without having to change mediums. (You can print on fabric with another medium, but if you want it to be washable, you'll need to make sure you're using a fabric medium and then heat set it later.)

Blockprinting for Mixed Media - Mixing Paint - Gwen Lafleur

I just put the paint out on my palette (I use a metal inking plate - the one I have is Jack Richeson and I like it because it has a lip that goes over the edge of the table to help anchor it.) I add in my medium and mix it up with a palette knife. In the video I said that it's thinner than heavy body acrylic but not as thin as fluid acrylic, but that's personal preference. The ink in the workshop in India was quite thin, and I've used some other paints that were thin and those worked great too. You can also premix your paint and medium and store it in an empty bottle - I do this sometimes as well.

A few other thoughts on paint and ink...

Printing ink like Speedball works great. But, it's generally water soluble so if you're going to use your papers for collage, it smears. A lot. (Take it from someone who knows!)

There's a brand of printing ink called Akua that works really well and prints beautifully, but it has some drawbacks that make it so that I, personally, prefer not to use it. It's made from an oil (it smells like tung oil to me, and I don't care for the scent,) and it's crazy messy to clean up... it gets under your fingernails like nobody's business and good luck getting it back off. The other thing is that it dries through absorption, so if you print on thinner paper or print multiple colors on top of each other, if there's not enough paper to absorb all of the ink, it will never dry. (But, you can leave it out on your metal inking plate and walk away for a few hours and you're golden when you come back!)

Also, Golden OPEN acrylics work great - I do thin those with the OPEN medium. They print beautifully and the open time means they don't dry before you can print, but they're very expensive and because they're meant to have that really long open time like oil paints, your prints can take up to several days to completely dry. I don't know about you, but I sure don't have time for that! LOL.

To apply to the blocks, I use a brayer:

Blockprinting for Mixed Media - Brayers - Gwen Lafleur

Soft rubber brayers tend to work best, especially with the hand-carved and slightly uneven surface of the blocks. If possible, it's nice to use a brayer that's about the same size as your block or a bit larger - this helps to keep lines from the edge of the brayer from showing up in your print. The one I used here is my favorite - it's a 6" Japanese brayer, but you can definitely get more budget-friendly brayers from Amazon or your local art or craft supply store. (I said in the video that I thought the name of the place I get them from was MacPhersons, but it's actually McClains - close!)

Finally, choosing your substrate...

Woodblocks are designed for printing on fabric, so obviously fabric is going to work perfectly. I usually just use cotton, muslin, or even like a duck cloth or canvas and they've all worked great for me. But paper is where it gets tricky, and I have a lot of people tell me that printing doesn't work and half the time it's because of the paper they're printing on.

I'll just say this, cardstock has never worked well for me. The combination of thick and stiff means that it's pretty much the antithesis of fabric, and that means that it doesn't mold to the block when you're printing, even with the right surface underneath. Try and find paper that has a lot of the same qualities as fabric. For me, that means something very flexible and fibrous - my go-to papers are rice and mulberry, but I've also used printmaking paper like BFK Rives with a lot of success. It's thick, but has the other qualities you need.

Blockprinting for Mixed Media - Paper Types - Gwen Lafleur

My friend Jill takes a lot of printmaking classes and she shared a good tip with me that I've used successfully... if you have a thicker / stiffer paper, you can spritz it with water and then blot it with a towel. The water will help break down the fibers so that the paper loses that stiffness, but you need to blot it so that it's not actually wet - you don't want your paint to seep or spread after you print. (Unless you do, of course... that could be a cool effect if you wanted to do it on purpose!)

3. Printing

Wow... that's a lot of build-up before getting to the main event, right? But the printing doesn't work if you don't have the right surface, paint, and paper.

You'll want to ink up your brayer, but make sure you don't get it too gloppy or you'll get gloppy prints (probably best to watch the video for this part.) Then I put my block face up on the table or in my hand and apply the paint, making sure to get good coverage. You'll want to make at least one or two test prints on scrap paper (I use deli paper) because you generally need to prime your block the first time you use it in a printing session before you get consistently good prints... the first few usually have gaps and faint spots.

Blockprinting for Mixed Media - Test Prints - Gwen Lafleur

To print, just carefully place the block where you want it, then press down with both hands - even pressure, and make sure that you press all areas of the block. I do this standing - it gives the best leverage. (And as I mention in the video, I've had sore abs the next day after printing for a few hours straight!)

Blockprinting for Mixed Media - Printing Pressure - Gwen Lafleur

If you want to see how they do it in India - which is painful to watch AND do yourself, make sure to check my clip in the video! It does work, though!

Also, as I mentioned, you can use a baren - I usually only  do this with my smaller blocks... it helps to apply even pressure on the block so that you get a complete print without having an uneven application of paint. (If you want to do this on larger blocks, you can make or get a press - there are lots of different ones available.)

Blockprinting for Mixed Media - Using a Baren - Gwen Lafleur

4. Clean Up

The last question I get is whether / how to clean your blocks. Yes - I clean them. I try to clean them as quickly as possible after use so that the paint doesn't dry in the nooks and crannies of the design. I use water and a bristle brush called a mechanic's nail brush so it's fairly gentle. Of course, this also has the benefit of doubling as a way to clean your hands - mine always get covered in paint! This particular type of brush has a line of bristles on the back that's meant to get under your nails. Very handy!

Blockprinting for Mixed Media - Bristle Brush - Gwen Lafleur

In addition, I sometimes use a gentle soap - I like this Savvy Soap that I get from McClains - it also smells nice! They say it has a "citrus scent," but it actually smells more like cinnamon to me. Either way! Again, this is good on both the blocks and your hands. If you use the blocks that have the white stain to show the design, usually the white is still there after you clean them. It depends on what the maker used when the block was created - some will rub off, but most of mine come back - the block below has been used and cleaned a few times and still looks great.

Blockprinting for Mixed Media - Block after Cleaning - Gwen Lafleur

Whew! That's a lot of information, but hopefully it helps! And if you're interested, I do have a few larger woodblocks from India now available in my shop, plus various smaller designs, elephants, and borders as well.

 Happy printing!

From the Artist Tribe - Stitched Boho Bouquet Art Journal Page

We've got another fab project from the Artist Tribe today... Lynda Shoup is sharing her stitched boho bouquet art journal page!


Lynda used my new Boho Star Circle stencil along with my Decorative 6-Petal Flower Screen and Ornamental Petals Screen stencils, peacock feather washi tape, Dresden medallions, and sari ribbon to make her fun and fabulous art journal page. Make sure you stop by her blog for more photos and details!

From the Artist Tribe - Mixed Media Under Water

Jackie Neal is jumping in from the Artist Tribe today with a fabulous ocean-themed mixed media panel, "Go Your Own Way."


Jackie used my Stupendous Sea Life Collage & Embellishment Pack (currently sold out, but more will be coming!) You can also find the individual handmade Boho Fish and downloadable collage cutouts in the shop available for purchase separately. I just love how she's captured that underwater vibe so perfectly! Make sure you head over to her blog to see all the details, including the ways she invoked the feeling and even some of the texture of water!

From the Artist Tribe - Stenciled Mixed Media Portrait

Linda Edkins Wyatt is joining us from the Artist Tribe today with a stellar stenciled mixed media portrait!

Stenciled Mixed Media Portrait - Art Journaling - Linda Edkins Wyatt

For this piece, Linda used the stencils from my July 2018 Ceramic Tile collection for StencilClub (these have already shipped to members, but you can always order any of the older sets after joining the club!) She also used several other StencilGirl designs as well as the Ornate Border Dresden trim from the shop. Make sure you head over to Linda's blog to learn more about her beautiful art journal page!

From the Artist Tribe - Boho Embroidered Pincushions

Lynda Shoup is joining us from the Artist Tribe today with some gorgeous embroidered pincushions that she made using one of my stencils as a pattern!

Traditional vs. Bohemian pincushion

She used my Boho Star Circle stencil for these - personally, I think it looks pretty fabulous this way! Make sure you head over to Lynda's blog for all the details and lots more photos!

Textured Abstract Art with Paint, Stencils, and Embossing Powder

I'm up today with my first quarterly column on the StencilGirl blog, focusing on paint and texture. Today I'm sharing a tutorial for this abstract mixed media piece called "Sands of Time."



I've used stencils along with a few different acrylic mediums and paints, collage, embossing powder, and a few other fun dimensional elements. Make sure to head over and check out the step-by-step tutorial and lots more photos!

From the Artist Tribe - Dimensional Stenciling

I'm excited to have Jackie Neal jumping in from the Artist Tribe today with her stunning mixed media panel called, "Are the Stars Out Tonight?"

Are the Stars out tonight.. (1)

Jackie is doing all kinds of fabulous dimensional stenciling using my new July StencilClub collection, "Ceramic Tiles." (This set of three stencils is available exclusively to StencilClub members, so if you're interested in getting your hands on it, make sure to check out the club! If you join before July 15th, you'll start with this set, and it comes with a mini online class too!)

Jackie has also added and then totally transformed some Dresden trim, and she's also thrown in some Turkmen / Kuchi jewelry parts.

Make sure you stop by her blog to see lots more photos and details!

From the Artist Tribe - Turmeric Flip Journal, & A Stencil Sale!

Today Lynda Edkins Wyatt from the Artist Tribe is kicking off July with this fabulous turmeric flip journal:

Stenciled Turmeric Flip Journal - Linda Edkins Wyatt

Linda used my new Boho Striped Circle stencil along with some our our Tribe favorites, the ever-popular Turkmen jewelry parts. Make sure you stop by her blog to see lots more photos and details about this fabulous journal!

And... I'm excited to share that it's time for Mary Beth's Birthday Sale over at StencilGirl!

Stencil sale stencilgirl gwen lafleur

Receive 14% OFF all my StencilGirl stencil designs! Make sure to use code MBS14 at checkout.

  • $100+ orders** CHOOSE 1 FREE Large STENCIL***
    • ***You MUST put the L### in the comment box at checkout. Sorry, no exceptions.
  • **6 of the same size 10% discount is applied first! $100+ orders post-discount.
  • *Sale does not apply to wholesale accounts or StencilClub membership.
  • The stencil sale begins July 6th and ends July 8th at 11:59 p.m. CST 

Introducing... Ceramic Tiles!

Surprise! I bet you thought that with last month's stencil release that I was done for a while, right? Nope! I'm thrilled to share that I'm the StencilClub designer for July! This month's collection is called Ceramic Tiles - I think you can see why. Here's a little peek at the stencils that will ship to members on July 15th:


I also filmed a quick introduction where I share the background on the design inspiration as well as a few fun little tips and tricks about how the stencils can work together:

Of course, I also have few samples using this months designs... (and seriously, now that the cat is out of the bag, I'm going to be using these all over the place!) First up, I've started yet another new artist book, and the first two spreads both use these new stencils. This is a handmade book, and the pages are a bit under 8" x 8." On the opening page, I used the 6" x 6" Fleur de Lys tile and cut out the center - that's backed with a vintage letter written in a beautiful Slavic script, and then I used the center of the 4" x 4" design in the middle.


On this second spread, you can see where I used one of the medallions from the 9" x 12" repeating Circle Tile stencil as part of the focal point:


One of the perks of StencilClub is that each month's collection comes with a mini online class... you get a sneak peek in the video above, but here are a few photos of the project we'll make in the class, which is a mini art journal made from a single sheet of paper.

July 2018 StencilClub - Mini Art Journal Closeup - Gwen Lafleur

In the close-up here, you get a better idea of what the 4" x 4" stencil looks like when you repeat it to create a full medallion:

July 2018 StencilClub - Mini Art Journal Closeup - Gwen Lafleur

During the video, I also create one of my collage papers as part of the process:


These stencils are exclusively available to StencilClub members, but it's only $25 a month and there's no commitment. You get all three stencils, plus the online class and downloadable PDF! Not to mention the fabulous and supportive Facebook group and a monthly coupon. If you're interested and you aren't already a StencilClub member, you can sign up before July 15th and this will be your first kit. (Plus, club members can order any previous StencilClub collection, including my December 2016 collection, Heraldry.) So what are you waiting for?

From the Artist Tribe - Translucent Art Journal

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to teach a few classes at Papercraft Clubhouse in Connecticut, and Artist Tribe member Jill McDowell was there to join in the fun. Today she's sharing the translucent art journal that she made in class and then finished up at home (we only did the backgrounds and the front side of the accordion journal in class, so she added a lot!)

Here are a few peeks at her journal:

Translucent Art Journal 1 - Jill McDowell
Translucent Art Journal 1 - Jill McDowell

Jill used several of my stencils, including the Decorative Stamen Medallion and Boho Birds stencils seen here, as well as some Mahjong Tiles washi tape from the shop.

Make sure you head over to her blog to see the whole thing, including a video flip-through!

From the Artist Tribe - Textured & Stenciled Art Journaling

Today I'm excited to share a post by Jackie Neal from the Artist Tribe... she's been using a few of my stencil designs in her art journal to make some gorgeous pages!


In today's pages, Jackie used my brand new Collage Textures and Patterns, Circles stencil along with some favorites from my Decorative stencil collection. She also added some embellished sari scraps and some collage images from my downloadable butterflies collage sheets. Make sure you head over to Jackie's blog to see lots more photos and details!


From the Artist Tribe - 9 Patch Paper Quilt

Hi all! Linda Edkins Wyatt is joining us today with a fabulous nine-patch art quilt made from paper!


She's using my "Not Afraid to Try" and Art Deco Sun Medallion stencils, along with a few others from StencilGirl. Make sure you stop by her blog to see her whole process as well as lots more photos!

From the Artist Tribe - Boho Cell Phone Case

I'm just loving today's project from the Artist Tribe... Lynda Shoup made this fabulous bohemian cell phone case!


Lynda used Irresistible India downloadable collage sheets, sari yarn, Turkmen jewelry parts, Japanese Chiyogami paper, block printed paper from my Irresistible India Collage and Embellishment pack, and more goodies. Make sure you check out her blog for details on her project and lots more photos!


From the Artist Tribe - A Mixed Media Journal Cover

Jackie Neal is joining us from the Artist Tribe today with a truly mixed media creation! She's combined lots of different types of products and techniques to make a journal cover full of fabulous details!


Jackie has used embellished sari scraps, my Decorative Flower Stamen Medallion stencil, block-printed elephants from my Enchanting Elephants Collage & Embellishment Packs, and some Chiyogami papers. Make sure you head over to her blog to see all of the details and lots more photos!


My New Boho Bird, Butterfly, and Fish Stencils

Welcome to part two of my posts highlighting my latest release from StencilGirl... my Boho Collection! (If you missed part 1, you can check that out here.)


Today I'm sharing more details and examples using the three Boho animal designs: fish, birds, and butterflies. I'll start with the original Boho design... the fish. This actually came about more than 10 years ago when I was trying to find a way to fill space on the huge walls in the stairway of the townhouse I lived in at the time. I was still pretty much a mixed media novice, but I had an idea to make a series of 16" x 20" canvases and cover the background with textured shapes and patterns and then put collaged animals on top. Heading down the stairs was all cool colors and I used fish, collaged in paper. Heading up the stairs was all warm colors, and I used birds collaged from fabric. It actually turned out really cool, and I kept those installations in place for years, even after moving to Connecticut!

Fast forward to about a year ago... I still have the original collaged fish, and I took one and traced it to make an updated version - my handmade collaged Boho fish. (My original design was a basic hand-drawn shape made from cardstock and I carried that over.) 


I was really surprised out how popular these little guys ended up becoming! I continued to make and even teach similar versions of these fish, and then this last January it evolved into what I call my 3D Boho Collage technique. I hand-drew a new fish design for one of my early versions of this technique, named him Gus, and instantly fell in love. That exact drawing was then scanned and became one of the fish patterns on my new Boho Fish stencil.

Boho Fish Stencil - Gwen Lafleur

You may have seen it, but in case you missed him, here's Gus:


I also used the new middle fish design as a beaded embroidery pattern for one of the pages in a new artist book I've started... it's on a transparent page that layers on top of a paper page that has a collage version of the fish on it - they line up so that when you layer them, it looks like this:


(You can also see where I used my new Collage Textures and Patterns, Circles stencil in the background.) Here you can see the separate pages:


The third fish on this stencil is actually the exact same body as my original pattern, and then I added fins and some other details.

Of course, if I did fish, there had to be birds as well (had to close the loop on that original concept from more than a decade ago!)

Boho Birds Stencil - Gwen Lafleur

While I was playing around with the Boho collaged fish, I also drew a stylized bird pattern and made a collage of that:


Like the fish, this guy was traced and scanned and became the first of the birds on my Boho Birds stencil.  Of course, I had to try out my 3D Boho Collage with the birds as well, so he also became Rusty:



Rusty needed some friends, so I drew two more less stylized birds to keep him company and added a few words and phrases to the design. One of them cried out to become another 3D collage, so this one is the "Queen of Her Nest."




Finally, I wanted to branch out to something new for the third stencil. Butterflies are a motif that I use frequently; for me they symbolize change and transformation. I drew three designs, including a Peacock butterfly, of course! and added those words to this stencil:

Boho Butterflies Stencil - Gwen Lafleur

I pulled out my art journal to work with these, starting with the largest butterfly and some soft pastels on top of a collaged background:


On another page, I stenciled the other two butterflies and the word "change" and then used watercolors to fill in the designs.


Here are a few closeups:


Here again, you can see where I used the Collage Textures and Patterns, Circles stencil in the background.

Whew! That's it for my introduction to this new stencil release! I just love all of these designs, and I hope you do too! I took pictures of the process for several of my samples, so watch for some tutorials in the near future. In the meantime, all of my stencils (including the new ones) are available in my shop, and of course they're also available from StencilGirl.


From the Artist Tribe - Not Afraid to Try Art Journaling

Today we're taking a brief break from the new stencil love to showcase one of the designs from my last release in this powerful art journal page by Linda Edkins Wyatt.

IMG_1873 final twk lg

Linda used my Not Afraid to Try stencil along with recycled paint skins from her craft mat. In her post she discusses both the idea fear as well as overcoming it, and she's also sharing several other art journal pages with this stencil. Make sure you stop by her blog to read more and see all of the details!


Introducing... My Boho Stencil Collection!

I'm thrilled to share that I have seven new stencils releasing today from StencilGirl!Boho-Stencil-Collection---Gwen-Lafleur

This release includes six "Boho" stencils (hopefully there will be more, but we'll see!) as well as the first of what I hope will be many in my new Collage Textures & Patterns collection. I've been working hard to create samples for these new designs and there's a lot to share, so I'm going to break it into two posts so they don't get too long. Today I want to focus on the circle stencils.

First up, the Collage Textures and Patterns, Circles stencil. The inspiration for this collection came while I was making collage papers in my studio. I started thinking that it would be great to have stencils that had been specifically designed with the idea of making the types of collage papers that I use most frequently, so why not design some? I hope there will be many more, but I wanted to start with my favorite motif - circles.

Collage Textures and Patterns Circles Stencil - Gwen Lafleur

The top section was designed to create random areas of texture and pattern - large or small, and it's great for filling in spaces. The middle can obviously be used as a border, or you can mask off specific areas to use them on their own. The bottom was tricky to design, but I'm so thrilled with how it came out! You can repeat this both horizontally and vertically to make borders and backgrounds, or just use part of it for a section of pattern. The whole stencil works beautifully with molding and texture pastes as well (just make sure to clean it thoroughly so the pastes don't gunk up the openings.)

I've used this stencil on several of my samples, starting with this one - "Crossing Paths," which also features my Boho Striped Circle stencil (more on that one in a minute.)


This piece is 16" x 12" x 2" on canvas and has lots of layers of collage and paint. You can see where I used the top section of the stencil for random pattern, and then the border design was used to decorate and emphasize the lines in the cross behind the focal point.


The focal point of this piece is an assemblage of found metal objects and jewelry parts all layered on top of the Boho Striped Circle stencil. This design was inspired by a hand-carved woodblock I found in India last year.

Boho Striped Circle Stencil - Gwen Lafleur

I used gold texture paste through the stencil onto some painted deli paper and then tore it out and collaged it onto the canvas. You can also see how I've used it on the top and bottom of the "Ornery Ostrich" mixed media piece below:

Ornery-Ostrich---Mixed-Media-Artwork---Gwen-LafleurOf course, this piece also showcases another design; the Boho Star Circle stencil, again inspired by a woodblock from India.

Boho Star Circle Stencil - Gwen Lafleur

Here's a closeup of "Ornery Ostrich" so you can see some of the details:


The ostrich is a digital sketch I did on my iPad that I printed out and accented with colored pencil and an acrylic glaze. The stenciling was done with molding paste on cotton rag paper, then I cut out the star-shaped center of the design and used it as a frame, surrounded by beaded embellishment.


The last stencil I'm featuring today is my Boho Mandala Circle stencil. Again, inspired by a woodblock from India as well as traditional mandala designs.

Boho Mandala Circle Stencil - Gwen Lafleur

On this piece, entitled "Stolen," I once more used the stencil as the base for layering various dimensional elements, then repeated it around the sides of the wooden panel.



You can also see where I used the top and bottom sections of the Collage Textures and Patterns, Circles stencil to add to the background:


For a different look with the Boho Mandala Circle stencil, I used it to create a layered and collaged focal point on this art journal page:



Also, the title of this page - "Away," was done by rearranging the letters from a phrase on the Boho Fish stencil. I stenciled them onto the fabric background with black StazOn ink and then stitched over top with gold thread.


That's it for today... I hope you love these new designs as much as I do! Check back on Saturday for a more in-depth look at the new Boho Fish, Birds, and Butterfly stencils. Of course, the whole collection (along with all of my other stencils) is available now in my shop as well as at StencilGirl.

(Part 2, featuring the Boho Birds, Butterflies, and Fish is here.)

"Phoenix" Mixed Media Artwork - Phases from Start to Finish

Recently I posted one or two work-in-progress photos and then a picture of the finished product for a new mixed media painting that I called "Phoenix." As it happens, I took photos at the different phases along the way... not a full on tutorial, but I thought it would be fun to share how this piece progressed and maybe a little bit of my thought process as I worked.

To start, I had an inspiration piece in mind - vague, and totally subject to change, as always. I began by gathering supplies to do some collage on the background (as you can see, I always use really cheap, beat up brushes with gesso and matte medium - then I don't feel so guilty about gunking up the ferrule.)


I pulled out my easel and set up my canvas - 24" x 30," and got to work. Here you can see what it looked like after I wrote all over the background (a highly cathartic part of my process that I do quite frequently on everything from canvases to art journal pages - it shows up in various layers of my work, and here it happened to be the base layer. I also frequently write in French - using a second language seems to make it easier for me to express thoughts and feelings. Weird? Maybe!) On top of the writing is the collage and white gesso.

Next I started painting. I just grabbed Indian Yellow and Prussian Blue because they look good together and they were right there in big bottles, conveniently sitting out as if waiting for me to use them on this. Over the last few months, I've been very drawn to the plus sign or a modified Maltese cross - for me it symbolizes positivity, healing energy, and renewal.


As I worked, I used my typical process of cleaning off my paintbrushes on scrap paper, creating some fabulous collage fodder in the process...


While I was making these papers, I had no intention of using them in this piece, but the artwork seemed to call for some of the specific motifs that had ended up on those collage papers, so I tore them out and added them onto the painting.


My original inspiration was already fading fast at this point, and as I continued to work I suddenly started thinking about my visit to the botanical gardens in Singapore four years ago. Don't ask me why... I still haven't entirely figured out how and why my brain makes the connections that it does, but I have learned that it's usually a good idea to go with it. So with that in mind, I sat down and sketched out some flowers and then colored them with soft pastels and then used an aerosol acrylic spray to seal them so I could collage them onto the painting without smudging the color.


After letting the sealant dry overnight, I cut out the flowers and collaged them onto the piece.


I knew I wanted even more flowers, so I took out my Chinese Garden Plum Blossoms stencil and stenciled some more blooms into each of the clusters, then used acrylic paints to flesh them out.


You can see hints of it in the photo above, but my work wouldn't be "boho grunge" without the grunge - I love a nice, dark texture paste, and I'd added some all over the canvas here, and also used several word stencils and stenciled a series of words on top of each other all around the border of the canvas. More catharsis, plus it framed the artwork quite nicely! I also used my Ornamental Compass Screen stencil here and there in the background for the added impression of texture.


To me, the symbolism of the cruciform motif and plus signs inside circles along with clustered blooms of flowers seeming to burst out of the grit and darkness made me think of a phoenix - rising from the ashes to be reborn and start anew. (If only it was that easy to break through and overcome our challenges in real life, right?)

Here are a few close-ups of the finished piece:





I'm really pleased with how this painting came out... in fact, it's the first piece of my own work that I've ever displayed in my living room where visitors can see it! In any case, I hope you enjoyed this little glimpse into my process :)


From the Artist Tribe - Beaded Art Journal Cover

Jackie is here from the Artist Tribe to finish out the inspiration for the month (I can't believe it's almost June! ) She's sharing this gorgeous beaded cover for her sari journal:


Jackie used my Decorative Flower Stamen Medallion stencil as the pattern, then added some sari scraps and a few other goodies from a Curated Stash Pack. Make sure you head over to her blog to see all of the details!

From the Artist Tribe - Scrap Fairy Art Doll

I just love this gorgeous scrap fairy art doll that Linda Edkins Wyatt is sharing on her blog today... isn't it fabulous?


Linda used some orange embellished sari scraps, Florentine paper, and Turkmen jewelry parts... I love how it all came together to make this lovely "paper" doll! Make sure you head over to her blog to see all of the details!

For those who didn't see the latest newsletter that went out yesterday, I'm having a Memorial Day sale in the shop! You can save 20% off of supplies and downloadable collage sheets today through Monday - just use the coupon Memorial2018 when you check out.


From the Artist Tribe - Global Inspired Art Journaling

Are you ready for some truly global mixed media inspiration? (Not that we aren't going global pretty much all the time over here! LOL!) Today Lynda Shoup is sharing a beautiful art journal page with influences from India and the Middle East.

Longing---Art Journal Page - Lynda-ShoupLynda is using hand-printed papers from some of my collage and embellishment packs, along with my new "Not Afraid to Try" stencil, some sari scraps, Turkmen jewelry parts, and an image from my Irresistible India digital downloads. Make sure you head on over to her blog for more photos and details!

P.S. A little birdie told me that there might just be a little sale coming up to celebrate Memorial Day... keep an eye out, just in case!

Stenciled & Collaged Art Cards

I started a project almost two years ago... making small pieces of stenciled & collaged artwork on oversized playing cards. I had originally planned to continue and make lots of small pieces that would be available for sale, but then never made the time to get back to working on them. This week I pulled those cards out again and started reviving that series, and the first three new cards are now done. It was fun... fulfilling, even, to work on these!


I started by sanding the glossy surface of the back of each card so that my mediums and paints would stick well. I decided to leave the suits visible as the back of the piece. Each card was then coated with colored gesso, then I layered collage elements on top - Japanese and Florentine papers, vintage book pages from France and Germany... old typed ledger pages... and, of course, my own hand-painted and hand-printed papers. 


I added layers of paint and stenciling on top of that (stenciling was also done with acrylic paint,) and then some rub-on letters and numbers. I followed that with painted elements and emblems, some asemic writing, and some actual writing and mark-making with a black graphite pencil. I finished each piece with a small scrap of sari fabric or trim, attached with six mini staples shaped into Xs. I also added a few stenciled words for the titles and a few splatters of paint to finish things off.

Here are the individual pieces, starting with "Positive Change:"


Next is called "In Disguise"


The last one (for now!) is called "Warning."


I'm looking forward to getting back to this series a little more frequently, I hope! These were so much fun to make, and I really love how they turned out. All three of these are also now available in my shop, just in case anyone is interested.

From the Artist Tribe - Boho Mixed Media Flower Pot

It looks like Spring is finally here, and Lynda Shoup from the Artist Tribe has a fun idea for a boho, mixed media approach to your gardening with her gorgeous embellished flower pot!


Lynda used a sari applique from the Irresistible India Mixed Media Happy Pack, as well as hand-printed papers from a variety of different packs and kits. Make sure you head over to Lynda's blog to see details and description of how it all came together!

Mixed Media with Relics & Artifacts

I'm thrilled to share that I'm the Guest Ambassador this month for Relics & Artifacts! I've been a fan of Sandra's line since it first launched, so I was excited to have this opportunity to put together a project using a variety of the awesome products available. Here's what I made:

Ancient-Energy-Mixed-Media-Canvas---Gwen-LafleurI used resin blanks, wood shapes, Bohemian jewels, Dresden trim, and one of Sandra's rubber stamp designs along with my Art Deco Bookplates stencil, sari yarn and a large Kuchi patch from the shop, and lots of paint and collage. Of course, there's a tutorial to go with it, so make sure you head over to the Relics & Artifacts blog to see my full post with lots more photos and step-by-step instructions.

Top 10 Most Unexpected Must-Have Tools in my Studio

A while ago, I realized that many of the tools I reach for most frequently when working in my studio are not the ones you'd expect to find on a most-used tool list for an artist. Sure - stencils, paint brushes, canvases, etc... are all at the top of that list, but I've found that there are a few more unusual items that I have to have, so I've compiled them here:

10. Respirator & Particulate Masks


The respirator was a Christmas gift this last year, and one I was super excited to receive! Why? If you've followed me for more than a few months, you know that I like to make things melt and bubble, and this frequently creates fumes and smells that seem like they're probably not healthy to breathe. A respirator is also great for using with spray paint, certain varnishes, and anything else with fumes. I also do some sanding and working with wood and foam, and the particulate mask is great for helping to keep me from breathing in any of that nastiness.

9. Clamps & Table-Top Vice


I have all kinds of things that clamp and lock in different ways - the table-top vice was an especially great addition to my studio, since it's perfect for acting as a third hand when I'm using a Dremel or hack saw to cut anything down. Other clips are great for hanging things to dry or holding them in place while adhesives set up, and the binder clips are integral for when I'm doing bookbinding since they hold everything in place when I'm punching holes in the signatures for my book blocks.

8. Ball Peen Hammer, Bench Block, and Safety Glasses


So the safety glasses could kind of go with almost any of the tools in this post - you can get these for just a few dollars, but they're a must-have if you do anything where something could fly into your eyes (sawdust, metal particles, etc...) The ball peen hammer is fabulous for eyelets (which I use a lot in my handmade artist books,) or for jewelry making, and just the occasional application of brute force. And of course, a bench block is the perfect surface to put below whatever you're hammering.

7. Protractor & Compass


Who says you don't need geometry in real life? I use my compass all the time for marking circles in my work, and the protractor is super helpful for getting angles right, especially if I'm designing something with a repeating pattern. These are always in my desk drawer for easy access.

6. Bench Scraper


I raided my kitchen drawers for this one... a bench scraper works great for getting dough off of counters and also for getting glue and paint off of your craft mat (of course, once you use it in the studio, you shouldn't use it with food anymore.) I also have a little mini scraper that came in a kit of some kind years ago. These get plenty of use helping me clean up quickly in between projects.

5. Copper Tongs


Remember how I said I like to melt and bubble stuff? These copper tongs are crucial when I'm doing anything with heat since they allow me to hold the items I'm heating without conducting that heat up to my fingers. The length also means that my hands stay out of harms way. I use these when I'm heat-priming metal, doing any soldering, and to manipulate any bits and pieces involved in heat embossing. Another tool that goes into my desk drawer so that I have instant access.

4. Tin Snips, Wire Cutters, and Pliers


My tin snips are used all.the.time. Most all of my light-weight metal cutting happens with these, including everything from metal findings to rhinestone chains. Of course, wire cutters for any wire I'm using, and various sizes and types of pliers for manipulating metal pieces for both jewelry and artwork.

3. Files, Rasps, and Sandpaper


I love my files - as you can tell, since I have multiple sets in different sizes. These are fabulous for wood, metal, paper, chipboard, clay, foam... you name it! Anything that needs to be smoothed or shaped, I whip out my files. I also keep a nice stock of sandpaper on hand, and of course sanding drums to use with my Dremel for larger projects that would take too long to sand and / or shape with just files or sandpaper. The rasps are also great for shaping foam if I'm using it as an armature for any sculpted elements.

2. Hat Pins


I picked up several beautiful vintage hat pins at an antique mall several years ago, just because I liked the beading on the ends. They got put into the pincushion in my studio and before I knew it, I was reaching for them to poke holes, open the tips of tubes and nozzles, and my number one use for these babies... placing seed beads when I'm doing any kind of intricate beading in my artwork. These sit on the shelf right next to my desk so I can grab them without taking a single step.

1. Music

Must-Have-Studio-Tool-1---Music - Gwen-Lafleur






Music is a huge part of my life. When I was four years old, my parents bought an antique upright grand piano for $25 and put me in piano lessons, which continued all through high school. In fact, I still lug that same piano around the country with me so that I can play - it's great for stress relief and as another means of creative expression. (That piano also weighs in at 600 pounds! It made my move in and out of my 3rd floor walk-up in Chicago... interesting, to say the least. lol.) Also, a little known fact, there is always music playing inside my head. Always. Even while I'm sleeping. Sometimes it actually gets too loud and wakes me up!

Given how integral music is to my life, it probably comes as no surprise that this is the number one must-have tool in my studio. I have several different playlists that I put on when I'm working, and I've found that I can influence or vary the feeling or direction of my work by changing the music I'm listening to. So with that said, I give you a list within a list! Here are the top ten artists / composers currently featured on my studio playlists. (These are in no particular order, except for number one.)

10. Linkin Park

9. Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns (especially the piano concertos, which are divine)

8. Depeche Mode (I've been a huge fan since People are People was released in 1984 and I don't really see that changing any time soon.)

7. Frank Sinatra

6. ODESZA (a relatively recent find, and I'm kind of addicted - I really dig their global vibe.)

5. The Mongolian Grand National Orchestra (I picked up one of their CDs after a concert in Ulan Bataar - I put this on and close my eyes and I'm standing outside my ger - yurt - in the Mongolian Steppes, looking at at some of the most unspoiled, beautiful scenery I've ever seen.)

4. Luciano Pavarotti (I can't listen to him sing Puccini's Nessun Dorma without getting emotional. It's sublime.)

3. The Black Keys

2. Muse

1. Hector Berlioz (I first fell in love with his music when we played part of la simfonie fantastique in my high school orchestra - I was a 1st violin, and that's still my favorite of his compositions. The 5th movement - ronde du sabbat, is especially incredible. Just plug in your subwoofer, crank up the volume, and sit back and let it wash over you. It gives me chills every time.)


That's it for my top 10 most unexpected must-have studio tool... what's on your list? Any overlap?


From the Artist Tribe - Medieval Inspired Art Quilt

The Artist Tribe is winding down the work week with this gorgeous quilt-inspired mixed media piece by Linda Edkins Wyatt.


Linda has used some beautiful fabric work in this piece, along with some Dresden trim, Turkmen Jewelry parts, and my favorite embellished sari patchwork ribbon from the shop. Make sure you stop by her blog to see all of the details and get the background on her project!

From the Artist Tribe - Art Journaling with Fabric

Hi all, Jackie Neal is back again from the Artist Tribe sharing another gorgeous spread from her sari art journal!

In her reflection - art journal spread - Jackie Neal

For this spread, Jackie used embellished sari scraps, Fabulous Florals Skeleton Leaves, and some gorgeous Japanese Chiyogami paper. Make sure you stop by her blog to see up close photos and lots of details!