Creative JumpStart 2019!

I'm super excited to announce that I'll be participating for the fourth time as an artist in Creative JumpStart (CJS) 2019, run for the 8th year by Nathalie Kalbach. If you're not familiar with CJS, it's a one-of-a-kind online event to kick your creativity into high gear in January 2019. 

Learn techniques, discover new materials, and connect with other artists and crafters. 

Throughout January participants get access to 31 downloadable videos from 31 featured artists. I'm proud to be one of those artists, called “JumpStarters.” See for yourself:

CJS19 Promo Video from Nathalie Kalbach on Vimeo.

Interested? Head on over to Nathalie's site to sign up or to get more details.

You get 31 videos - over 5 hours worth of video content -  for just $40 (USD) if you sign up by November 26 2018 11:59 pm EST. Afterwards it will be $45USD until November 30th 2018, and $50USD until December 31st 2018, before it goes to its normal sale price of $60USD on January 1st 2019. 

 So what are you are waiting for? Sign up today! I hope to see you there!

Black Friday Shop Sale & Cyber Monday Teasers

It's Black Friday, and you know what that means... sales! I've got a few deals to share if you're interested, starting with a sale + Black Friday coupon for my shop.


I'm downsizing my store, so most of the items are already on sale from 10-50% off, and for this weekend only you can also save an additional 20% (plus it's 20% off the non-sale items like stencils, embossing powder, and sari scraps) when you use the coupon BlackCyber2018 at checkout.

For all you stencil fans, here's a heads up that all of my stencils (and all stencils at StencilGirl) will be on sale starting Sunday, 11/25 through Tuesday 11/27 for 20-25% off - look for the details in the banner below and make sure to use the coupon codes!

StencilGirl 2018 Cyber Monday Banner

Finally, one more teaser... I'm an instructor in Art Walk Alchemy 2019 and there's going to be a little Cyber Monday sale for those of you who are interested in signing up... details coming Monday, but you can learn more about the course now.

Art Walk Alchemy Cyber Monday

Winter Wishes with Emerald Creek & Eileen Hull

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends, and welcome to my stop on today's blog hop with Eileen Hull and Emerald Creek! Eileen, Kim and the teams have created a fun blog hop challenge to kick off the Winter season and holiday festivities... we're bringing you Warm Winter Wishes!

For my project, I've created a winter-themed mini art journal using one of Eileen's Scoreboard Dies and plenty of embossing powder


To show you more about how I made my journal, I've put together a little tutorial.

Starting off, I used Eileen's Sizzix Passport Book die and cut the covers, spine, and several inside pages.


I set the inner pages aside until I was ready for them, then attached the covers to the spine with a strong glue. When it was dry, I pulled out a few collage papers and adhered them onto the front and back covers with matte medium.

Embossed-Mini-Art-Journal---Step-2-3---Gwen-LafleurNext I took my Winter Cardinal & Holly stencil from StencilGirl and stenciled in a few places on the front and back covers using gold texture paste. You could do this with an embossing ink and embossing powder, of course, but I knew I was going to be using a lot more layers of EP and doing quite a bit of heating and I'd lose the outline of the design if I didn't use a texture paste that wouldn't melt. Once I had it the way I liked it, I let it dry.

With the stenciled texture paste dry, I used some Marabu Art Crayons to add a few spots of color in the background, blending them out with my fingers. I also added a bit of a frame around the edges of the cover with StazOn ink pads in brown and black.

Embossed-Mini-Art-Journal---Step-4-5---Gwen-LafleurI also pulled out some bronze acrylic paint to integrate some of the background elements.

Finally it was time to start embossing... I used a VersaMarker and embossing ink to trace around the outside of the holly sprigs and coat the background, then I coated it with Vintage Beeswax Baked Texture embossing powder. I let it cool, then repeated the process to make sure the coat was nice and thick. It also tends to smooth out more and give better clarity to the layers underneath when you add 2-3 layers of the Vintage Beeswax. I also used my heat gun to re-melt the Vintage Beeswax and embed some small metal star embellishments in a few places on the front cover.

Embossed-Mini-Art-Journal---Step-6-7---Gwen-LafleurNext I used my VersaMarker to color the berries of my holly design and used a tiny spoon to scoop in some Chinese New Year Classic embossing powder, tapped off the excess and put it back in the jar, and melted it. Then I repeated the process inside the holly leaves and used Patina Oxide Baked Texture embossing powder as my green color.

With the front covers done, I turned it over and painted the inside covers red, then used clear embossing ink through my Art Deco Sunburst Background stencil and embossed that with Charred Gold Allure embossing powder.


Once I'd finished all of the paint and embossing on the inside and outside of the covers, I took the inside pages and attached them through the die cut holes in the spine. I just used some waxed linen thread and lined up two pages stacked inside of each other with each set of holes on the spine and then ran the thread through the holes so I could tie it on the outside. This is how it looked inside:


Above, you can see where I pulled the threads through to the outside of the spine and tied them off. I repeated it until I had all three mini-signatures attached.

For the finishing touches, you can see below where I wrapped some fabric around the outside of the spine to cover the threads, then I used some washi tape on the inside to cover where the covers and spine are joined together.

Embossed-Mini-Art-Journal---Step-11-12---Gwen-LafleurVoilà! A finished mini winter art journal! I just took a scrap of red sari ribbon to use as a closure for the book when I'm not using it. Here you can see the finished insides and outsides of the book:


Heat-Embossed-Passport-Winter-Art-Journal---View-3---Gwen-Lafleur Heat-Embossed-Passport-Winter-Art-Journal---View-3---Gwen-Lafleur

That's it for my project today... now for all the details on how you can get a chance at the big giveaway! To join in all you need to do is follow along and comment on every blog. If you play along and link up your own creation using Eileen and Emerald Creek products, you will get 2 bonus entries for the draw. Contest Closes on Sunday November 25th, with the Winner announced Cyber Monday!
The prize includes an Eileen Hull Journal Die and a $50.00 gift certificate to the Emerald Creek Shop.

Make sure to go through all of today's blogs for lots of inspiration and more chances to win!

Mixed Media Boho Fish Art with Ampersand & StencilGirl

Hi all, I'm excited to be joining in today on a fun and fabulous blog hop with StencilGirl Products and Ampersand (the makers of some truly fabulous panels, art boards, and other art products.) For today's project, I tried out some new-to-me products including an Ampersand 8" x 8" Gessoboard Shadowbox and a package of Ampersand Stampboard - I used the 1/2 lb bag in assorted sizes. I combined that with stencils, paint, fabric, beads, embossing powder, and a few other supplies to make this underwater-themed mixed media shadowbox. 


Of course, I also put together a tutorial showing how I made the fish as well as some of the details on the box itself. Ready to get started?

To begin, I took my Boho Fish stencil and stenciled one of the images onto a .20mm thick piece of acetate using black StazOn ink and then traced over the lines with a black Sharpie.


I cut the fish out and then flipped it over and used some metallic alcohol inks and Vintaj Patina inks (both from Ranger) and dabbed color onto the back of the acetate with a felt pad. I wanted it on the back of the image so that none of the ink would be scratched or wiped off of the plastic as I added layers onto the front.

Next, I took out some of the pieces of Stampboard and started laying them out - I had the idea in my head to do a kind of layered, cubist approach (with lots of boho flair, of course!) and so I played around with the arrangement of the tiles until I liked it, then auditioned several different materials for fins and accents. For those, I landed on a few types of shell beads. Once I had everything laid out the way I wanted it, I took a photo so I could match it all back up as I worked on each layer.


Once I had a plan for how it would all come together I took the Stampboard and coated the front and sides of each piece with black gesso then laid out the bottom layer on top of the acetate fish and glued the pieces down. (I used Weldbond glue - this works especially well when I'm gluing anything to glass or plastic.) When the glue was mostly dry and the tiles didn't wiggle, I took some gold embossing paste, lined up my Boho Fish stencil so that it matched the outline of the acetate one on the base, and then used a palette knife to add the texture paste. I carefully removed any overhanging bits of paste and let it dry.


Once my texture paste was dry to the touch, I used some iridescent paints (I used Finnabair and Viva paints here) and added some color to the first layer of stenciled Stampboard blocks.

When the texture paste and paint were both dry, I repeated the process with the next layer of Stampboard, adhering them in place and then lining up the stencil and stenciling with more gold embossing paste. I also tucked some small green vinyl disc beads into place to give the suggestion of scales. Since they're fairly thin, I cut some of them so they'd follow the contours of my fish.


When the texture paste on this layer was dry I used clear embossing ink and a VersaMarker to coat the areas where I wanted color and then used some Baked Texture embossing powder from Seth Apter and Emerald Creek to add the colors. I added the powder one color at a time and then heated it all at once. You have to be careful with this step as the heat will curl the acetate in the base layer if you don't watch what you're doing. If that starts to happen, just press the plastic back into place while it's still warm and put something flat and heavy on top until it cools again.

I added one more layer of Stampboard and more embossing powder, then I adhered my shell bead accents in place. I put some vintage rhinestones in the bead hole openings, then used a mix of Rocky Road Baked Texture embossing powder and chunky gold glitter and added it like shading around some of my elements, then carefully heated and melted those sections. I also added a glass Nazar bead as the eye of the fish. I used a bit of gold wax over the tops of the shells and embossed sections to highlight the raised areas.


When the fish was done I moved onto the shadowbox. I painted the inside with a few colors of Matisse background paints and then used bronze gesso on the front edge around the opening and let it all dry.


I used a bit more paint to add a cruciform in the background, then stenciled Seth Apter's Spinner stencil in the middle in bronze paint and layered my Decorative Medallion stencil over top and carefully stenciled so that the design looked like it was coming out of the one already in the middle (I love to do this with my medallions - you can mix them with other circle elements to create something totally new!)

I knew I wanted to "float" some beads as bubbles coming from the fish, so I used an awl to bore some holes inside the shadow box where I could insert some wire, as well as a hole in the bottom where I was going to anchor my fish focal point.


I didn't really take pictures of the decorating portion, but I had some embroidered and embellished fabrics that were shaped a bit like sea plants and added those to the background (I adhered those with soft matte gel,) as well as some gold glitter circles from a holiday floral pick I'd bought at a craft store.

For the bubbles I took some beads that I'd coated with Deep Sea Baked Texture embossing powder that had some glitter and microbeads embedded in the enamel and strung them along a wire that runs from the top to the bottom inside the box - I used crimp beads between the "bubbles" to hold them in place. I also used a coat of Dirty Sand Baked Texture embossing powder along the bottom - it seemed like the obvious choice and it gave me the perfect texture and color to mimic the ocean floor.

For the focal point, I took a thick gauge of wire and attached it to the back of the fish with Aves Apoxie Clay, then ran the wire through some beads and into the hole in the bottom of the box, anchoring that with more Apoxie Clay. I used some props to hold the fish in place while the clay cured. To finish it off, I added a piece of white Kuchi beaded trim along the inside bottom and glazed that to integrate it.

Finally, I did some more stenciling around the outside of the panel. First I collaged on some pieces of newspaper from India, then I used my Collage Textures & Patterns, Circles stencil as well as one of the splats from Seth Apter's Text and Texture Discovery stencil and added a few of the circles along the top and sides with some molding paste and a palette knife.


When the molding paste was dry, I coated it all with a brown glaze, then added some paint around it (I used PaperArtsy paints,) leaving a bit of the newspaper in the background showing around each stenciled design. I highlighted the raised areas with some gold and indigo wax. I also drilled a hole in the top and inserted a cool vintage drawer pull as a handle.

Voilà! My finished layered and stenciled cubist-esque boho fish shadowbox (that's a mouthful! lol.) Here are a few more photos so you can see some of the details:




And now for the part you've been waiting for... the giveaway!

One lucky winner will receive a $50 Gift Certificate to Ampersand
AND a $50 Gift Certificate to 
StencilGirl® Studio!

StencilGirl & Ampersand 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 to win. 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, November 20th at 11:59PM Central Time to leave your comments. The winner will be announced on StencilGirl® Product's Facebook page on Wednesday, November 21.

Make sure you visit and comment on all of the blogs in today's hop to increase your chances to win - here are all the links:

Fall Texture with Stencils, Molding Paste, and Acrylic Skins

Hi all! I'm up today on StencilGirl Talk with my quarterly blog column focused on paint and texture. This month I've taken inspiration from the fall season and made a mixed media panel with a tree bark-esque textured background, and fall leaves made from acrylic skins.


Of course, there's also a tutorial for both the background and the leaves, so make sure you head on over to check it out!


From the Artist Tribe - Boho Stenciled Clutch

Lynda Shoup from the Artist Tribe has a fun new project today that's going to make you want to run right out and make your own stenciled boho phone clutch!

Stenciled Boho Clutch - Lynda Shoup

Lynda used my Art Deco Borders stencil to create the pattern on the front of the clutch... make sure you head on over to her blog for more photos and details!

From the Artist Tribe - Rust, Embroidery, and Stencils

I'm excited about today's Artist Tribe project from Jill McDowell... she's combined two of my favorite things in this fabulous mixed media piece - rust and embroidery!

Rust and Embroidery - Jill McDowell

Here you can see where she's used my Decorative Folk Flower stencil as an embroidery pattern, along with a lot of other fabulous elements! Make sure to head over to Jill's blog so you can see the entire piece and read about all the details!

From the Artist Tribe - Splendor Mixed Media Canvas

Jackie Neal is jumping in from the Artist Tribe today with a stunning mixed media canvas!

Splendor by jpn (7)

Jackie used my Art Deco Sunburst Background stencil along with my Art Deco Borders stencil, Fabulous Florals skeleton leaves, and some embellished trims and fabric scraps from India to make this beautiful piece! Make sure you stop by her blog for more details and photos.

From the Artist Tribe - Art Journaling for the Soul

Happy Friday everyone! Today we have Linda Edkins Wyatt from the Artist Tribe sharing a new art journal spread that shows how she uses her journal when she wants to relax, regroup, and re-center.


Linda used several of my stencils on this spread, including my July 2018 StencilClub collection, the Art Deco Floral Medallion, the Ornamental Compass Mask, and she used my Not Afraid to Try stencil to create her own words! Make sure you head over to her blog to see the full post with a step-by-step overview of her process.

Join Me for Art Walk Alchemy!

I'm excited to share that I'm an instructor in a new year-long online art retreat from Mystic Springs Studio called "Art Walk Alchemy 2019." The theme for the year is going to be focused on totems and talismans — those ideas, objects, and emblems that represent something significant in our lives, and I couldn't be more excited.


Each month you'll receive two lessons - each with at least 1-1/2 hours of video, from two different professional artists... 24 in total! There's a diverse and amazing group of artist mentors joining us this year, and I'm thrilled to be a part of it.

I can't share peeks of my project just yet, but I can tell you that it's going to be part sculpture, part totem, a bit goddess-inspired, and chock full of some of my favorite mixed media tricks and techniques. We'll create a 3D mixed media piece that’s kind of a cross between a spirit doll and a totem. I'll share techniques for creating a basic armature by working with clay, foam, cardboard, a wooden dowel, and aluminum foil. Also, some alternatives for faces aside from sculpting – I’ll provide ideas and even a few sources. We’ll create some embellishments, including items for the totem that go through and inside the doll – starting with a headdress. We’ll embellish the entire structure using beads, trims, paints, fabrics, broken jewelry, small found objects, and paper. I’ll also share alternative ideas for representing the totems aside from creating them from scratch. The entire piece will be based on a pedestal of some kind, with options to be discussed in the class. I'll be providing patterns that you can download and use at home - it's going to be fabulous, if I do say so myself!

For just $99 (early bird price good through 12/31/18,) you get all 24 downloadable art lessons, a creative community, supply lists and early access to some course packs, plus downloads and freebies throughout the year. There's even a payment plan to make it a bit more budget friendly.

Here's a quick little intro video with a bit more information and a quick peek all 24 of the teachers:


Head on over to Mystic Springs Studios to get more details and register for the class!

From the Artist Tribe - Encaustic Painting with Stencils

Check out what Jill McDowell is sharing today from the Artist Tribe! She's done a gorgeous encaustic painting using several of my stencil designs:

Encaustic Butterfly Painting - Jill McDowell

Jill used my Boho Butterflies, Christmas Poinsettias, Decorative Filigree Ornament, and Not Afraid to Try stencils. Make sure you head over to her blog for more details and photos!

From the Artist Tribe - Art Journaling

Hi all, Jackie Neal is back today from the Artist Tribe with another art journal spread in her sari journal.

2 Sari JJ 8-18 (3)

Jackie used the Enchanting Elephants and Irresistible India collage cutouts and some of the embellished trim, a small Kuchi patch, as well as my Art Deco medallion and Collage Textures and Patterns, Circles stencils.

Make sure you head over to Jackie's blog for all of the details and lots more photos!

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.