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I think I may have mentioned before that some major changes were planned for Artful Kids this year – well the moment has finally arrived to reveal what those changes will be. After much thought and soul-searching the decision has been taken to scale down the retail side of Artful Kids in order to focus on the blog once again. This was very much a personal decision to allow me the time to pursue the things I most enjoy – sourcing, curating and sharing imaginative creative products for both kids and the ‘Young at Art’, and also developing and sharing new art projects and resources. Less admin, more creativity! In order to accommodate this new vision, Artful Kids is undergoing a complete site redesign.

The existing store will remain live on the site for a few more days if you had something on your Christmas shopping list, and after that, a selection of the existing Artful Kids range of products will remain available in our store at Notonthehighstreet.com.

Watch this space as there will be more news coming soon!

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This project is one which has evolved out of my recent experiments with fused plastic. It’s a way of recycling old crayons and plastic bags creatively and I love the finished ‘leaf-like’ feel of these. The finished leaves can be used for a wide range of purposes, or alternatively you could cut the fused plastic sheets up into any shape you like.

Materials
  • Plain white plastic bags – or bags with large areas of white that can be used.
  • Roll of Cling film
  • Old wax crayons
  • Metallic Gold Ink Pen
  • Baking parchment
Equipment
  • Old kitchen grater
  • Domestic iron
  • Pinking Shears
  • Heat Proof board (I used a toughened glass chopping board)
Preparation
  • Cut up your white plastic bags into pieces that will fit onto your ironing board – my pieces were about A5 sheet size.
  • Grate your wax crayons into separate colours, and place in different pots – I used cake cases for the purpose, which worked well.
  • Place the heat proof board onto your ironing surface, and lay a protective sheet of some sort over it (I used an old tea-towel).
  • Place the heat proof board on top of this, and then cover this in turn with a piece of baking parchment bigger than your plastic.
  • Place your base sheet of plastic on top of this.

Method

I like to start by ironing the plastic smooth to begin with, so place another sheet of baking parchment on top, and switch the iron onto a medium heat non-steam setting. The actual setting will vary slightly depending upon the thickness of plastic bag you are using. Thicker bags require higher heat to fuse – just experiment. Iron the sheet smooth for a few seconds.

Remove the top layer of parchment paper and you are ready to start decorating. I found that the most effective way to do this was to build up the design in layers of different colours one at a time, separating and sealing each layer with cling film. If you don’t do this, and put all the colours on together in a single layer, you are in danger of creating a muddy mess as all the colours mix together. The designs shown here all used about 3 or 4 different layers. Because each was separated from the other, the colours do not physically mix, and each layer acts like a glaze creating beautiful bright and colourful designs.

Less is more – you don’t need to sprinkle very much on – as you are not looking to cover the plastic completely with each individual layer.

After you have sprinkled on your first layer, place a sheet of cling film a little larger than the base plastic over the top of the sprinkles, and then a sheet of baking parchment over this – again, this should cover all the plastic layers so it doesn’t melt on your iron.

Iron the layers together – you will see the wax crayon sprinkles melt very quickly, but you may need to press a little harder and longer to enable the cling film to fuse to the plastic beneath depending on the heat of the iron and the thickness of the plastic bag used – just experiment and you will soon get a feel for it.

Repeat this with different colours, sealing each layer of crayon sprinkles with cling film, and fusing them together using the baking parchment to protect the iron. Small air bubbles will become trapped and the plastic will wrinkle, creating an almost leather like marbled surface. You can see each individual stage below.

Once cooled, trim the extra cling film away from the sheet and cut it into whatever shapes you like – using pinking shears makes a particularly decorative edge for leaf shapes.

You can draw on the fused plastic with sharpies, or other pens – for example I used a metallic gold ink pen to draw decorative stylised veins on the leaves.

If you want to make a bookmark like I’ve done here – punch holes in the end of two of the leaves and attach together with ribbon leaving the ends trailing. Alternatively this would also make a decorative gift tag.

If you make lots of leaves, you will have enough to make a garland, or simply hang them individually onto twigs and branches placed in a pot. There are plenty of possibilities!

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No, that’s not a typo!

I’ve always been a fan of ‘accidental’ art, and this technique is one of those eminently satisfying yet essentially very simple ways of painting, that can deliver stunning results. That’s not to say that every single piece will create a masterpiece, but that if you do a whole bunch of them, you’ll end up with at least one or two that are frameworthy, and part of the joy of this activity is the very unpredictability of the results. You never quite know what you are going to get! The result is very like the technique that the artist Gerhard Richter has used in his work (on a much larger scale) and whose work is a testament to how much you can do with this technique. At it’s very simplest, it’s a great way of making rainbows with kids! However be warned it can get messy, so if using this technique with children, old clothes and washable paints are required!

Process

Tools

The only tool you need for this technique is an old plastic credit or loyalty card of some sort. These can be wiped clean and used again and again.

In terms of paint, you need something fairly runny that will spread easily. I used Golden Fluid Acrylic Paint, but this is expensive to use, so perhaps use a cheaper acrylic if you are doing this activity with kids. These paints dry fast, so that you need to work quickly if using them, but you could try something a little slower drying if necessary.

You need to use a support or surface that is very smooth – I used Yupo paper, which is a very thin artificial acrylic paper. It also has the advantage that it doesn’t curl or buckle up when wet. It is quite expensive though. Alternatively you could also use a very smooth satin finish paper or card which would be cheaper to use, but may require a little more paint to be used because of the increased friction.

Technique

Before you start, it can be helpful to tape down the paper at the edges with masking tape, so that it doesn’t move as you scrape the paint.

Probably the best way to demonstrate the technique is to watch the video below. As you can see, you can carefully go back over the first scrape 2 or 3 times, bearing in mind that each time you do this will change the way it looks – sometimes for better, sometimes for worse! You can also add new colours of paint in between scrapes if you like as required. The amount of pressure you place on the card will also result in different effects with the streaks created – just experiment. No two sea or landscrapes will be alike!

Creating Seascrapes - YouTube

Once you are happy with your land or seascrape, you can also use the edge of the card to modify it further by adding small lines or details if you wish, you can also scrape into the paint while still wet with a cocktail stick or brush, or you can treat the whole exercise as a starting point for a picture which can be further modified once dry.

Have fun!

*Contains affiliate product links.

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A friend of mine has recently had a new addition to her family, so this project was created because I needed a small extra gift that I could give to mark the occasion – something small, unique and personal, that I could make fairly easily. In the end I decided to make this simple hanging decoration decorated with monochrome drawings (in recognition of the fact that young babies see strong contrasts most clearly). If you use ready made plain shapes, minimal sewing is required, and all you need are fabric pens and a length of baker’s twine to attach them together and form a hanging loop. I left the backs undecorated because I wanted to write the child’s name, birth date and weight on the different shapes, in order to really personalise the gift.

If you want to have a go at one of these yourself, I have added a small number of these as a kit to the Artful Kids store, which includes everything you need to get started. You can create your own designs if you choose, but I have also added below the templates for the designs used if you want to use them. You could transfer the design to the shape using dressmakers carbon paper

Heart Template

Bird Template

House Template

Of course this is also a project that kids can decorate with their own designs and messages too. However please note that this is intended to be a decoration rather than a toy, and the finished decoration should always be hung out of the reach of young children.

*contains affiliate link

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We have recently started stocking a new product in the form of rather beautiful rolls of individual washi-tape stickers in the form of individual flowers or petals. The delicacy of the paper makes them almost as beautiful as the real thing, but of course they are longer lasting and less delicate to use. They have a multitude of decorative uses, and I couldn’t wait to get stuck in and experiment with them.

There are 6 different assorted rolls available, which we are selling as a complete pack. Perfect for making cards and tags, for decorating wrapping paper and journals or anything you choose, the stickers can be used individually or combined to create your own designs. Because they are semi-transparent like real petals, they can also be layered and overlapped to create different effects as you can see below.

Because they reminded me so much of real flower petals, I thought it might be fun to try them out for creating flower fairies like the ones I did a few years ago so I have drawn a couple of templates specifically for the purpose, which I have made available as free digital downloads. Just click on the links below to download the templates. Both are designed to print out onto 5 x 7″ (portrait) sized cards.

Flower Fairy Sticker Template

Flower Fairies Sticker Template

I have also created an A4 sized summer poster ready for additional customisation either with colouring and stickers with the outline only version, or with stickers alone using the colour filled version. These are also available as free digital downloads, as follows (again, just click on the links to download the templates). Both are designed to print onto A5 landscape format card.

Summer Sheet Coloured

Summer Sheet Outline

It should perhaps be noted at this point, that these stickers are quite fiddly and delicate to use, and therefore I don’t recommend them for young children!

You can purchase or find out more information about them here.

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It’s been a long time since I last added something to this site – life has simply got in the way, with moving home, school holidays, and lots of other things going on.  Although there are lots of other potential events on my horizon which might further disrupt attempts to get back to business as usual here, with the kids back at school again, I thought it was about time to give it some attention and make time for creative activities once more.

With this in mind, and the usual back to school stocking up with stationery, I’ve been creating some personalised pencils. These are a lovely low-cost gift to give and receive, and most of us will be familiar with the standard basic pencil with a name printed on it. But for a truly unique and bespoke pencil, why not try decorating your own? Plain natural wood pencils and pencil crayons are a blank canvas for decorating in lots of different ways, and result in a gift that is both useful and artistic. For this activity I used hexagonal pencils as the flat sides make it easier to draw on!

Here are just a few ideas for creating your own art-inspired pencils…

Dip-Dyed/Ombre Pencils

These are not actually dip-dyed – I did in fact try that, but there is a tendency for the wood to split, so instead I used Watercolour Pens to decorate and create the ombre effect. These have the advantage that because the colour dissolves in water, it is very easy to get gradual changes in colour – I also tried using fabric paint Sharpies, to achieve the same effect, but you have to work quite quickly as the colour doesn’t brush out with water so readily.

Sharpies and Masking Fluid

I rather liked this painterly effect – a very simple design was brushed onto the pencil with masking fluid and allowed to dry. The pencil was then coloured all over using a Sharpie, and again allowed to dry for a short time. The masking fluid was then carefully removed to leave the bare wood patches in a simple pattern.

Acrylic Paint

This was mixed with string medium and diluted to a consistency where it could be ‘dribbled’ onto the pencil. Although fiddly, the finished result is a decorative effect which is also ‘non-slip’ and makes the pencil easier to grip. The trickiest bit is getting it to dry evenly all round without getting too many thick dribbly bits dripping off, which I achieved by turning the pencil as it dried – as I say, a bit fiddly!

Sharpie

By far the easiest way to decorate is simply by using a Sharpie or other felt-tipped pens to draw designs directly onto the pencil. I used a limited palette of colours, and stuck to very simple geometric designs – simple dots, dashes, crosses and zig-zags etc., as these are easy to achieve and look quite effective when combined. Sometimes less is more!

Of course you can also personalise your pencils even further by using a fine pen to write a short message onto each pencil if you choose. A coat of varnish to finish will also help to protect the artwork on your pencils from smudging – though you may need to experiment with the type of varnish first depending upon the medium you have used. For example I used an oil based varnish on the pencils decorated with watercolour pens, and a water-based varnish for those decorated with Sharpies.

And finally for a different way of personalising pencils with existing artwork, check out this earlier post for Arty Pencils

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Our existing custom Children’s Art Mats have long been popular as a gift idea for grandparents especially. However they are not particularly ideal for children to use themselves, being made of toughened glass, in a standard placemat size. So we have now introduced some lower cost DIY Children’s Art Mats which are suitable as a place mat for kids, while displaying their own artwork. Complete with cut out labels which can be personalised to further enhance the mat, and a gallery template which can be used in the mats as an alternative to a piece of pre-existing artwork, the wipe clean mats come in either singly or in a pack of 2.

Designed to display artwork up to A3 in size, the large format mats offer lots of creative options for display, so instead of displaying a single piece of artwork, there is room if you prefer to display 2 smaller pieces along with a photograph or custom label, using a plain or textured piece of coloured paper as a background support. I think they would also be a wonderful way of preserving holiday memories along with photos, tickets, artwork etc…

The mats presented us with a great opportuity to get really creative and create something specially for them, so I decided to create 2 mats using both photographs and artwork. For the first I used a favourite existing piece created by my younger son, and added a cut out photograph which I scaled to an appropriate size before printing out and adding to the artwork so that it appeared to be part of the scene. For the second mat I used the Funky Fish collage we created for an earlier project, on a support of bubble paper. For this photograph, my elder son had to pose with swimming goggles to create the appropriate image to cut out and use.

I’m really pleased with the finished mats – they look great, the kids love them and they are really practical. If you want to try them out for yourself, you can get hold of them here.

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