Mixed Media Techniques: Tiny Art Tags
Make These Art Tags
Using Garment Labels
D'you ever find yourself reluctant to throw away garment labels? Or even labels and tags from other items? Some of them are lovely and sturdy, and quite beautiful. I've been collecting mine for years now. I knew that one day I was going to do something arty with them.
Artists' trading cards have been around for years now – they are small pieces of art, often given in swaps, no more than 3 1/2 inches by 2 1/2 inches. There are lots of beautiful examples online and, indeed, there are several books devoted to these wee pieces of inspiration. This would be the perfect thing for my labels. Plus... recycling waste into art is eco-friendly.
My labels are different sizes. Some are folded, others are just a single thickness of card... and treating them as small substrates for artwork is very appealing. So I decided to give it a go. Here are the results of my first foray into the teeny-tiny world of trading cards (or home-made gift tags, or journal charms, or whatever purpose you can imagine).
The only supply that you can't manage without in this project is gesso. It covers up the existing printing on the label and provides a good surface to work on. After that, you can decorate anyway you like, using collage, lettering, paint, pens, or anything you can think of. I am including my list of supplies so that you can see exactly how these tags were created.
- Assorted labels
- Paint brushes: a large flat for applying gesso, and some small rounds for decorating later
- Acrylic inks, diluted in spray bottles
- Watercolor paint
- Rubber stamps
- Sakura Pigma Micron pen, black 05
- Assorted media such as watercolor paint, pencils and markers
- Uni-ball Signo pen, white, broad nib
- Decorative chalks
Prepping with Gesso
Remove the cords and strings from the labels. The first step is to prepare the labels for painting. Make sure you have covered up your work surface as this stage can get messy. It's a really good idea to apply gesso and leave the tags overnight. I did not do this, so the surface was a little bit soft when it came to the later stages. Two coats of gesso is recommended unless you want some of the original printing to show through. I did both sides of my labels but that's up to you. If the reverse sides are blank, you might want to leave them to add a written message.
Lay down the labels close together – treat them as one single surface. Open up any folded ones. Apply a thin layer of gesso with your large brush. Leave the labels to dry or use a heat gun to help them along. Be careful of getting too close or the gesso will bubble and burn. Ask me how I know this. Apply a second coat, if necessary. Once the first side is touch dry, you can turn them over and do the other sides. Let the labels cure overnight if you can.
Stencilling the Tags
Once the gesso is thoroughly dry, lay down some stencils on top of them. You can use anything with a pleasing design. Raid your children's stencil collection or just use things like rubber bands, paper-clips, scissors or any other object that would leave an interesting pattern.
Lightly spray one or two colors of inks over the stencils and tags, leave for a minute and then very carefully lift the stencils up. What I usually do at this point is to take my paint covered stencils and lay them face-down on clean paper or a clean page in my journal and press the excess ink off them. Instant background for another piece of art.
As you can see in the photo below, my yellow wasn't in the mood for spraying and just dripped. This is fine. I like blobs and drips.
You can also use alcohol sprays such as Tim Holtz Adirondack by Ranger, but avoid the ones that can be reactivated with water such as Dylusions. You want this background layer to stay put so that it shows as interesting shadows through subsequent applications of color.
Adding Layers of Color to Tags
You can do this in several ways. It's best to use a watercolor medium of some sort, as it needs to be both colorful and transparent enough to let the stencil sprays show through. I used watercolor paint washes. You could use Tombow Dual-tip brush pens and add plenty of water to spread out their intense hues. Or lightly scribble with Neocolor lls and activate with a water spray. However you do it, just get a transparent layer of color down over the acrylic spray.
Draw, Doodle and Stamp
Once the background is dry, you can start to play. I used a script stamp and a green ink to add a little more to the background. Then drew a few flower and leaf doodles with black pen and stamped some words with an alphabet rubber stamp set.
You don't have to follow my example - you can do faces or birds or random shapes. Or just use rubber stamps, or how about some collage?
Finishing the Art Tags
Color in the doodles and/or stamps. If you added collage, consider outlining it with charcoal and then rubbing gently with a blending tool to make it become one with the background. If you like you can add borders with pastels, crayons or pen. Use a white pen to make your design sparkle. I like to rub on some decorative chalk or pastel to make the tags even more colorful – you just can't have too much color! Don't forget to tie on the string or perhaps some interesting lengths of yarn.
Art Tag GalleryClick thumbnail to view full-size
© 2012 Bev G