Making Paste Papers

Over at Slamseys Journal, the Creative Summer Challenge is in full swing. The aim of the challenge is to have fun, perhaps involving children over the school holidays or just making some time for yourself as you let go of any insecurities you might have about your artistic talent and focus on enjoying the process.

This year, the Challenge is to make a regular habit of being creative with a suggestion every weekday for things you might do. Day Two of the challenge was Making a Mark, a wonderfully liberating exercise in adding a wash of colour to paper and then flicking, dribbling and blowing paint and ink. An activity that involves absolutely no skill but a degree of messiness and haphazard results. Right up my street.

In a serendipitous twist, on the day of that post, I was at a collage workshop with Mark Hearld, which involved a great deal of mark making with paste paint to use in our collages. In fact, that was probably the bit I enjoyed most about the day as my dexterity with scissors leaves much to be desired.

I first tried Paste Painting as a youngster (it’s in the book Fun with Art by Martin & Cherille Mayhew) and later used it on MDF to make ploughed fields as part of a farmyard set for my children. One summer holiday we spent a very happy afternoon puddling about with paste paint and I remember one of the children doing a wonderful bowl of spaghetti picture. Since then, it’s another of those techniques that I’ve tried and dismissed. Until now! I have a new found enthusiasm and have been making a pile of decorated papers.

Paste papers were originally used by bookbinders as end papers and for covers. The paste paint is made from a mixture of flour and water, which is then brushed or spread onto paper and marks made with fingers, scrapers, combs and any number of other items to form a pattern. I used dry copy paper, brown paper and (plain) newsprint for my first experimentation but heavier paper may need to be dampened first.

At the workshop, the paste was made with strong flour but as we have someone in the family with coeliac disease (a bit of a downer for a family that grows wheat!) who may give paste painting a go, I used cornflour and it worked just as well. In fact, I think the cornflour gives a slight sheen to the paper. The recipe is at the bottom of the page.

When you’re ready to use your paste, put a couple of tablespoons into a small bowl or plastic pot and mix in some acrylic paint or artist’s ink. It’s a bit trial and error for amounts but I started with a small squirt of acrylic paint and added more paste or colour as needed.

Paste paper made with cardboard comb

Use a wide brush (I used a cheap set of decorator’s brushes) to brush the paste paint onto your paper generously, going both crossways and lengthways. Then take your marking tool of choice and drag it across the paper to make a mark. You can leave it as it is or repeat with another colour. on top. The pattern above was made with two card combs. One was cut with wide teeth and the other cut with pinking shears.

 

paste paper made with rubber tipped brush

These marks were made with a rubber tipped paint brush (brown paper).

 

paste paper in dark blue

Brush on the colour, fold the paper in half and prod with your fingertips. Additional marks were made with a broad tipped cotton bud.

 

Dark blue patterned paste paper

A light blue coat was covered with a darker blue and the dark blue lifted off with scrunched up newspaper.

 

Paste paper in dark blue

This time the paste paint was dabbed onto the paper with a piece of scrunched up newspaper. It would make a great background to a collage. Stormy sky? Crashing waves?

Making these papers is so easy and by the end of a session you’ll have a heap of wonderfully textured and patterned paper. Let’s be honest, it’s only a small step up from finger painting.

Leave the papers to dry but don’t stack them one on top of another because they’ll stick together. If you use thin paper, it may curl up at the edges as it dries. This doesn’t matter if you’re using it for collage as it will flatten when you spread PVA glue onto it, but you could press it under something heavy or iron it.

How to Make Paste Paint


Textured paint made with flour and water

Ingredients


1 part flour or cornflour
6.5 parts water

Directions


1. Measure the flour into a saucepan and slowly stir in the water.

2. Heat it gently, stirring all the time, until the mixture comes to the boil. Simmer for about a minute, still stirring and you should have a thick sauce-like mixture.

3. Pour it into a bowl and cover with a circle of baking parchment or a tight fitting lid and leave to cool. Pop it in the fridge if you’re leaving it overnight.

4. When you’re ready to use it, give the mixture a good stir to get rid of any lumps or whizz it with a stick blender if it’s very lumpy. It should be the consistency of mayonnaise, so you may need to add a little water.

5. If you don’t use it all in one go, store it in the fridge and use within a few days before it goes mouldy.

Give it a go!

Read more about the 2019 Summer Creative Challenge.


Finding a Creative Buzz

One of the difficulties with creative activities, whether it’s printmaking or painting, knitting or sewing, calligraphy or writing blogs, is coming up with great ideas and completing a project. The initial ideas need to be exciting enough to spark the project and compelling enough to see it through to a finished piece.

Sometimes we can’t come up with an idea that’s inspirational enough or we give up because we start to question the worth of our project. Katherine explained her lack of recent blog posts: ” … It’s not that I haven’t thought about it – or been without topics to write about. It’s more that I have questioned the whole raison d’être of personal blogs …. the internet seems so crowded … who am I to add to the general digital busyness ….”

But just recently, I’ve found a new creative buzz for generating ideas. Ruth has devised some new printmaking courses that Beth (with assorted offspring) and I trialled for her. One of the first things we had to do was fill our concertina sketchbooks with washes, spatters, doodles and dribbles of ink. Quite honestly, I could happily have spent all day just doing that.

sketch of hens, pig ark, flowers and farm machinery

Next, we were sent to four places on the farm where we had to to make quick sketches. Guess what? Places are far more interesting than you might first think when you look properly!

farm track and field viewed through a circle

Or look differently. Usually, I miss things because I’m walking at a brisk pace and even when I’m looking through the camera lens, I don’t see the obvious. Thankfully, the task was as much about looking as sketching. Try it for yourself.

For another course, we had to think about lines and use our sketchbooks for mind maps, sketches and thoughts. Have you ever stopped to work out how many sorts of lines there are? Railway lines, roads, threads, music scores, ley lines, skylines, family lineage, poetry, storylines … so many lines. Everywhere.

Our sketchbooks filled with colour and energy as we spent time developing various themes, sometimes going off at a complete tangent in our enthusiasm and we explored different ways of recording what we’d seen and the objects that we’d picked up. By the end, our books were bursting with collages, prints, sketches and notes that have a multitude of possibilities for all sorts of creative projects and my head is still positively buzzing with creativity.

So much buzz, that I managed to complete this post!

 



Gorgeous Elderflower Fizz

Every year in late May and early June, the hedgerows on the farm are littered with large saucer shaped elder flowers with their distinctive heady scent. Last year I nearly missed the flowers as the hot weather turned them brown very quickly, so this year I’ve been out picking as soon as the tight buds burst into cream coloured flowers.

I used to make several bottles of elderflower cordial and elderflower fizz each summer, which were always drunk fairly quickly (apart from the odd bottle that got forgotten until it blew the lid off in the middle of the night showering everywhere with stickiness). But nowadays we rarely drink sweet cordials, which called for a rethink. The answer is to make infused water (continued throughout the summer using flowers, fruit and herbs) and a batch of elderflower fizz for special summer days.

Elderflowers are abundant across the UK in field hedges, roadside hedges, the fringes of woodland and wasteground. Pick your elderflowers on a sunny morning before they’ve endured the heat of the day and while they’re still heavy with pollen. Pick only the creamy coloured flowers and leave the flower heads that are turning brown to develop into elderberries. Shake out any insects that are lurking but don’t wash them.

Infused water is ridiculously easy to make and the Rose and Elderflower version looks pretty and tastes good. There’s no sugar, so it’s not sweet and cloying like some elderflower cordials and the taste is floral, but subtle. Sometimes the rose dominates, sometimes elderflower.

Strip the elder flowers from the main stem of three large heads – I don’t bother to remove the flowers completely, but you may wish to – and snip seven or eight large, petals from a scented, unsprayed rose into strips. Put the flowers into a jug, or a jar if that’s your thing, top up with 750ml water, cover and stand in the fridge. After a couple of hours, you’ll have delicately flavoured water. Use more flowers if you favour a stronger infusion or wait a bit longer until you start to drink it. I keep the flowers in the water for no more than a day, so if I haven’t finished the jugful, I strain out the flowers and keep the flavoured water in the jug.

Making infused water means foraging each day for your elderflowers, which can be a bit of a pain. Making a batch of Elderflower Fizz gets your foraging done in one day and then you have a few weeks to enjoy the fruits of your labour.


 

elderflowers


There are numerous commercial versions of Elderflower Presse or Sparkling Elderflower available but elderflowers are so widespread and this recipe is so easy, that it seems a shame not to make your own. Making your own also gives you the chance to vary the flavour a little; try adding some scented rose petals or lemon balm leaves. It’s a particularly English summer drink: floral, delicate and immensely quaffable.

.

Elderflower Fizz

Floral, delicate and immensely quaffable drink for summer

Ingredients

  • 20 creamy elderflower heads
  • 700g granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp white wine or cider vinegar
  • 2 lemons

Directions

  • Put the peel (use a potato peeler) and juice from the lemons in a large bowl with the sugar and vinegar.
  • Strip the elderflowers from the main stems. Discard the stems and add the flowers to the bowl.
  • Add 1 gallon of cold water and stir to dissolve the sugar. Cover the bowl with a tea towel or mesh cover (not cling film as it needs to breathe) and stand for 48 hours in a cool place.
  • Strain into bottles. Use either flip top bottles that can withstand the pressure of a fizzy drink or reuse plastic fizzy drink ones.
  • Keep for a week or two as it builds up some fizz. If too much pressure builds, untwist the lid a little to release the pressure and reseal.
Best drunk within 3 months

If you’ve picked your elderflowers, made your Elderflower Fizz and Infused Water and still have some left over, you might be interested in:

Rose & Elderflower Cordial

Elderflower Syrup & Cordial

Elderflower Creams

Rose & Elderflower Marshmallows

Jelly Printing with elderflowers


What To Pack In Your Rucksack For A Day Walk

 

It can be tricky knowing what to pack for a day walk if you’re new to walking or walking in unfamiliar territory. You don’t want to be weighed down with too much but if you pack too little or the wrong things, you may end up lost, hungry and wet.  If I’m only sauntering out for a couple of hours, I do nothing more than see if I need a coat, slip my phone in my pocket and set off. But, if you’re going out for longer, you need to be a little more prepared.

 

This is a list of what’s packed in my rucksack for a full day of walking on reasonably gentle terrain (rather than walking in mountains or in remote and wild places) in the British countryside; there’ll be things that I consider essential that you may think frivolous and vice versa, but I hope you’ll find it a good starting point.

DAYPACK ESSENTIALS

Rucksack essentials for a day walk
  • Contact Details
  • Mobile Phone
  • Map
  • Food & Water
  • First Aid Kit
  • Waterproof Clothing
  • Torch & Whistle
  • Spare Laces
  • Scarf
  • Light Shoes

CONTACT DETAILS

Write your phone number on a slip of paper and tuck it into your rucksack in case you lose it. It’s also useful to add the phone number of someone who should be contacted if there’s an emergency.

MOBILE PHONE

Who wouldn’t take a full charged phone, especially as it can also act as camera, torch, compass, map, timetable checker, note taker and much more?

MAP

I always take a paper map, usually an Ordnance Survey Explorer map but sometimes just a print out, because I’m nosy and want to know where I’m going and what’s on the horizon and be able to change my route. I use a highlighter to mark the route to make it easy to pick out. If you also take a compass, you can check your position.

I also have the OS app on my phone but tend to use that only when I’m hopelessly lost as I don’t want to drain my battery. If you’re planning to walk in remote places with indistinct landscape features like a moor, you might want to invest in a hand-held GPS device and conversely, if you’re on a well signposted trail, you can probably manage with a guide book that includes good maps.

FOOD & WATER

A stainless steel one litre water bottle is usually all I need unless it’s a hot day and if necessary, I refill it as I walk. Water points are often marked in guide books, ask at a pub or shop, look in the churchyard for a tap or use the Refill app.

FIRST AID KIT

The First Aid Kit is one of those things that I pack but hope never to use. My kit is very basic and contains only blister plasters, antiseptic wipes, wound dressing pads, micropore tape and a penknife.

WATERPROOF CLOTHING

I (nearly) always take a lightweight waterproof coat that folds down into a small pack even if a sunny day is forecast though I only pack my waterproof trousers when rain is possible.

TORCH & WHISTLE

I’ve only used the torch to get back to the B&B from the pub in the evening but, even if we are going straight home after the walk, it’s good to have a torch in case the walk takes longer than anticipated. I hope never to blow the whistle to attract attention, but it seems foolish to leave it behind as it takes up so little space.

SPARE BOOTLACES

It’s good sense to pack a spare pair of bootlaces when they have so many uses like tying walking poles to your rucksack, replacing broken straps and (probably) 101 other things.

SCARF/SARONG

I have a lightweight sarong for unexpectedly windy/cold/sunny days as extra protection. It’s also good to sit on while eating lunch, can be used as a towel and could be fashioned into a bag to carry things.

LIGHT SHOES

At the end of a long walk it’s good to take off my walking boots and wear a pair of flip flops, especially if we have a long journey home on the train. The downside is that my walking boots don’t fit into my small daypack, but I can tie them on or carry them in a bag.

Most of these things stay in my rucksack all the time, so I don’t have to hunt around for them whenever we decide to go walking. However, batteries run out, first aid supplies go out of date and handwipes dry out, so it’s a good idea to empty the rucksack and check the contents regularly. Not to mention delving to the bottom to retrieve empty sweet wrappers. Or worse, unwrapped sticky sweets.

If you’re all packed up but aren’t sure where to walk, try these inspirational long distance walks.

 

 


A Good Walk | Jurassic Way

It seems an age since we last walked along the Jurassic Way, but with May fast approaching (one of the best times of year for walking) we consulted the maps, packed our rucksacks and jumped on a train.

The problem with linear walks is getting to the start and returning home. My preferred option is use public transport, but this can be very difficult, especially in rural areas where buses and trains are infrequent or non-existent. Taking a taxi to the start or finish is an (expensive) alternative, but you can wait an age for a taxi to reach you and every local taxi seems to be booked out at school run times. Leaving a car at both ends is possible if the walk is local, though I hate seeing the end before I start. When it’s too awkward, as it has been since we walked to Sibertoft, we do circular walks. It can also be difficult to find accommodation on the route and believe me, the closer the better.

Consequently, we often veer away from the official route to fit in with transport and accommodation or just because there’s something interesting that we want to see. On this last part of the Jurassic Way, the nearest rail station is a few miles north at Market Harborough, so we began on an alternative path. On the second day, to fit in with accommodation we had the choice of nine miles (too short) or twenty-four miles (too long), so we diverted briefly to the Rutland Round to cut a few miles off the longer day. It’s not a problem for us to approximately walk a path, but I know some people get a bit het up about walking every step of a named route.

The Jurassic Way follows the band of Jurassic limestone from Banbury to Stamford, so the rolling countryside has been a beautiful backdrop to the honey coloured stone buildings in the villages that we’ve walked through or spied across the valleys.

If you’re thinking of walking this route (I’d highly recommend it) a word of warning that in the final section heading towards Easton on the Hill, the path runs uphill cutting across several large arable fields. It was easy in May, with the crops only knee high and the well walked path dry underfoot, but I suspect it’s a bit of a slog in a wet autumn.

So, another long distance walk completed. It’s always a bit of an anti-climax when we reach the end, especially on the Jurassic Way as there didn’t appear to be an official finish point. At least Stamford, frequently described as “the finest stone town in England” was an excellent place to end the walk.

Where to next, I wonder.