Friday, 30 April 2010

Recycled Paper Flowers

As I was wandering the web I came across this amazing video of a technique called ‘origami crumpling’ developed by Vincent Floderer. Of course, being me I had to try it out; here is my first attempt using tissue paper – I dipped the base into Brusho and let it bleed up the paper to get the colour.

But then I wondered what would happen if I used just any old paper, and started with a page torn from a magazine. The result was so much like a flower that I kept going until I had a bunch of them – aren’t they great?

recycled paper flowers

To make these flowers I used a simplified version of the origami crumpling technique. Start with a page torn from a magazine and tear a strip off it to get a square – you don’t need to be too precise. It is a good idea to choose a page with a bright colour on one side only to start with, so you know which way up you are – this will be the inside of the flower.

Step 1
With the brightly coloured side of the paper on the outside, fold the square in half and then in half again to get a quarter size square.

Step 2
Now fold your quarter size square in half crosswise, open it out, fold it in half the other way and open it out again. Turn it over and repeat the process, folding diagonally this time.

With a bit of pinching of the folds you should have a star shape like this.

Step 3
Hold your star shape by the tip and squeeze the paper together so you end up with something like this.

Step 4
Open out your crumpled star and unfold one of the original folds. You will have one point pointing up, and one pointing down. ‘Pop’ the downward point up so you have something like this.

Put your 2 points together and squeeze, just like you did in step 3. You can roll the paper gently between your hands to help with the crumpling.

Step 5
Open your paper right out. You will have 2 points pointing up and 2 pointing down. With the bright side of the paper facing up, ‘pop’ the upward points down so you have this.

Turn it over and pinch all 4 points together (like making a fortune teller/cootie catcher – remember those?) and repeat the crumpling/rolling one last time. Gently open out your flower.

I have pushed some thin 18” canes into the centre of my flowers to make stems; I think those green plant support canes would do pretty well too. The stems stay put quite well but you could add a bit of glue or double sided tape if you wanted to.

finished recycled paper flower

And there you are – a bunch of flowers for next to nothing! When you get bored of the colour, or they get dusty or faded, just recycle the paper and make some new ones! I think they are a great idea for low cost eco-friendly party decorations. And of course if you wanted to go all sophisticated you could use proper origami paper, or wrapping paper – the possibilities are endless… recycled yellow pages might look good… or pages from the Financial Times…  This ball is made from 6 of the 'flowers' glued together with string threaded through the centre.

If you enjoyed the video, do take a look at this one where Vincent Floderer makes the most amazingly realistic mushroom out of tissue paper!

ffflowers in print!

Some very exciting news here - my ffflowers are featured in the new issue of Popular Crafts magazine!  On sale 5th May - I shall be rushing out to buy a copy...

And who should I spot on the front cover but my old friend NiftyKnits - another good reason to rush out and buy a copy!

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Making Plaster Moulds

This week at college I have been making plaster moulds. For my final project I am hoping to make some lightweight translucent hanging forms (more of those later) and a necessary step in the process has been to make some rather heavyweight moulds.

I started by making the forms I wanted out of clay, using a wooden board as a base. The forms were quite large so to cut down on the amount of clay needed I used some off cuts of wood in the centre and moulded the clay over them. Actually, I would have liked to go larger but I almost couldn’t lift a couple of them as it was so I thought I had better stop! I covered the clay loosely and left it overnight to dry out a bit, until the surface was firm but still workable. It is really important at this stage to get the surface of the clay as smooth as possible as the plaster will pick up every little dent, bump and imperfection.

The next step is to build a retaining wall around the clay form about an inch to an inch-and-a-half out from the form. This stops the plaster from going everywhere but also gives you something to judge the thickness of the plaster by when you are pouring. As you can see, the retaining wall does not need to be as tall as the form.

I am not going to go into the quantities for mixing plaster as I am really not an expert – I am sure you can find more reliable info elsewhere! I used fine casting plaster for my moulds. It takes quite a bit of mixing to get to the right consistency - Greek yoghurt (not the set stuff!) is probably a good description. It is important that the plaster is not too thin or it will overwhelm the retaining walls. But you do have to act quickly at this stage as it thickens up really quickly – with my first mould the plaster was a little too thick and I ended up with a couple of air bubbles on the lip of the mould where the plaster hadn’t flowed. This bit is down to experience – I got better at it!

So, your plaster is like Greek yoghurt. Pour the plaster over the clay form, making sure it is all covered. If you do not have enough plaster you can add another layer to thicken the mould up, but the first layer must cover the whole form. You can pat it down and spread it out as necessary; it thickens and sets quite quickly. Remove the retaining wall and use a scraper to take off any rough edges or unnecessary thickness – and leave to dry. The plaster does get surprisingly warm while it is setting!

Once the plaster has cooled down and dried out a bit you can remove the clay. Turn the mould over – mine were so heavy I had to get someone to help with one of them!

Lever out the wood and if the clay is quite thick, gouge some of it out from the centre, keeping well away from the plaster. Then peel the clay back from the plaster – I found pushing it with my thumbs worked well. Once I had pulled away a few bits of clay from the edges the rest came out in one piece – although with each one it seemed like it was never going to move – until it did! I might in future wear gloves for this part – I tried hard to be gentle but I did catch the plaster with my fingernails in a couple of places.

So I am now the proud owner of 4 rather large plaster moulds with lots of possibilities…

Monday, 26 April 2010


I find beginnings difficult. I often don’t know where to start and can spend hours, days, sometimes weeks, procrastinating. But as soon as I have taken those first few steps, then there is that sudden rush of enthusiasm where I can see potential in everything I try. Then along comes the next stage of doubt where I don’t know which of the many ideas to pursue further and all that potential seems to have vanished anyway… I am amazed when I look back over old sketchbooks at the number of perfectly good ideas I have abandoned at this stage… so here are a few of the many experiments which never went any further.

And let’s hope I manage to get this blog over those tricky stages!


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