Sunday, January 6, 2013

Recycled Cast Paper Ornaments or Cards (or seed bomb)

Molds and Cast Paper Results
When I go to craft fairs or high end paper shops, I am drawn to the hand cast paper items. To me it evokes the Victorian age which I so enjoy. Hence, over time I've developed my own technique to create home-made cast paper ornaments or cards from 100% recycled materials - in a fast and easy way! The batch that I have shown here I am using for Valentine Cards and hang-tags on teacher gifts.

One thing I enjoy doing is marrying my crafty side with my gardening side. I do this by adding seeds into the cast paper items and encourage recipients to plant them! The cast paper tags become seed bombs. When using seeds, be be careful to not leave the casting wet too long to keep the seeds from germinating. Also don't heat it up too much to dry it to avoid reducing the seed viability. Here's my prior blog on seed bombs BTW.

Take a look at this approach and let me know of any tips for enhancing the process or the outcome! I've included lots of pictures to help see how this works.




Recycle Materials Needed:

  • Old papers from the recycle (newsprint, white paper, junk mail, etc.) Note that the color of the cast paper will be drawn from what goes in - so if you want white, put in WHITE. My ornaments almost always come out shades of grey or blue because I am indifferent at this point.
  • Dryer Lint - yup, no need  to buy cotton linter. Been there done that - and the felt from the dryer works just fine for me. (If you want really permanent decorative pieces you might want to consider purchasing, because lint will be multi-colored and textured which may not be suitable for your needs)
  • Water - lots of it :)
  • Optional: Spent Tea leaves or coffee grounds (provide antique look when using 100% white paper)
  • Raw Materials for Recycled Cast Paper Ornaments,
    Gift Tags or Seed Bombs
  • Optional: Last years or left over seeds! Keep it to very small ones like poppy seeds.Or if larger hand place them in the mold (See the directions below)
Utensils / Tools Needed:
  • Blender (a strong one!)
  • Strainer
  • Cookie or candy mold (I like use Brown Bag Cookie Art by Hill Design) Those with deeper impressions will work somewhat better
  • PAM spray
  • Sponge and/or towels
  • Other: Rolling Pin, drying rack, oven, microwave
OK here is my tried and true process!
Steps to Make the Casting:
1. Rip up the paper into small pieces
2. Fill the blender with water - about half full. You need lots of water to get you slurry moving. All the paper needs to absorb water and float.
3. Add the paper in batches and blend until at least oatmeal like consistency. Be careful not to add too much paper at once because the blades will jam.
Pulp and hands on water removal.


4. Empty the contents of the blender into a sieve and squeeze out as much water as possible. See in my picture above my batch looks really disgusting - both in color and texture.
5. Spray the cookie mold with Pam - very generously. 
6. If you are adding seeds, mix them into the pulp at this step if they are small seeds.
7. Take a handful at a time and firmly press into the cookie mold. Continue the process until the mold is filled edge to edge and slightly over the top. Over-mounding is fine. I find that the thicker you make the pulp - the stronger the pressed result. I never go over the top edge of the mold, and I never go much thinner than 3/4 full.
8. Take your sponge or towel and press the wet pulp in order to continue to remove water. You will  need to wring out frequently.
9. I like to take the last step a rolling pin to make sure that the surface is as flat as possible. 
Press into mold firmly, and flip onto cookie sheet
10. If you are using larger seeds, you can press them into the surface at this point and then roll again to keep a flat surface. Do not leave the seeds on the top too much, they may have issues in the oven or microwave.
11. Next - FLIP your wet casting onto a Pam'd cookie sheet (or plate). Yup, don't wait for them to dry in the mold. They can be extremely difficult to come out when fully dried (because I don't buy specific release agents perhaps.) Plus when I start this project I like to make ornaments in volume which is not possible if you only have one mold working at a time. If you have removed the water, this should be easy. With the mold resting upside down, gently start with one edge and slowly lift until the paper releases itself. Do not pry or pull the wet pulp/casting out of the mold. If it comes apart you can try to push it back together on the tray - or just add a bit of water and start from step 6 again. 
12. Now the pulp needs to dry fully. There are several options.  I tend to oven dry and then microwave (I tend to be a bit impatient to get the first one done to start coloring.) OK you can dry by:
  • Air dry - will be at least overnight if not several days. Care needs to be taken that the casting does not also mold, or if you have added seeds that they do not germinate. When they are dry enough to handle, move them to a wire rack so that there is airflow on both sides. 
  • Oven Dry - pop the cookie sheet into an oven at about 125-150F (51-65), you can go as high as 225F (107C) but may get some discoloration.   Keep an eye of these as the edges will dry first and may burn. It will take several hours - but that depends on how much water you took out in the steps above. When you can handle them, I like to put the wire rack under them to improve airflow while in the oven. 
  • Microwave - I zap a plate with one card on it for a few minutes at a time. When possible to handle, flip over. 
In the picture at the right you can see the varying shades and drying process. I will keep pulping and molding until I run out of counter space and/or oven space. If the ornaments are not completely dry - they will curl over time. So take care with this step.

To finish off your masterpiece you may choose to paint them or spray them with a varnish or other finish.  I usually put down one coat of varnish and then use Sharpie markers to complete and coloring. The paper can be very porous so paint colors might come out a bit strange. Kids can have lots of fun with the decorating process (they also love the mushing out the water part!)  You can embellish with sequins, glitter, and more. 

If you are making an ornament or gift tag, a hole can be made by punching through an ice pick, using a leather punch, or even a Phillips Head screw driver. Make the hole well into the thicker part of the design. Also When you tie the ribbon/cord (or here Raffia), knot it directly above the ornament and then make the loop beyond that. This way the swinging or rubbing of the cord is against itself rather than against the fragile paper edge.

With smaller castings, they can be placed onto card stock and used to make interesting greeting cards. You could also place them onto fabrics and then into an old frame for Victorian-esk artwork.

Happy Crafting;

Teresa Marie