‘I am here’ workshop' - Part 2a - Backgrounds

I Am Here

A celebration of being in one place.

Part 2a - Backgrounds

[Click here for Part 2b - Backgrounds]

Some things to try:

a. Cut 4 or more squares from stiff paper or thin card measuring 20 cm x 20 cm (8 in x 8 in). They should be able to ‘take’ hand or machine stitching; too thin will risk tearing; too thick will make it too difficult to sew through. About 180 – 200 gsm (or equivalent) is an ideal weight; use recycled or new. Consider tearing and cutting a combination of papers and joining them (with glue or stitch), then trimming them down to the required size.

b. Enhance your papers with any of the following ideas, or others that you can think of yourself: eco print**, collage, paint, text (stamped, written or found), graphite or soft pencil, crumpled tissue paper, recycled fabric and/or papers, old book pages, lace etc. For collage, use cellulose (wallpaper) paste, thinned PVA glue (which is archival and doesn’t smell) or a glue stick depending what you are gluing down. Too thick or strong a glue will make it difficult to stitch through.

c. If desired, add a thin layer of white gesso or gouache over sections of your layered backgrounds, or all of it. For a natural paint, try sample pots of white or cream from Porters Paints, for example. This is a great way to unify your background ready for the next step. You should still be able to see glimpses of the layers underneath. Other ideas: use strong coffee as paint or mix up some shellac to use as a coating. These will give a warmer, aged effect,

d. Consider adding some texture, lines or other details with black India ink, a natural product which is great for adding dark or contrasting elements.

e. Try some soil painting, either on your background or on smaller pieces of paper to use later for collage..

f. Seal your completed background with a natural fixative if you have used products that will smudge (see notes, below). This will prevent problems when you do the next step. If you are unsure which one will suit your work, try the different products on your sample pieces.

g. If your background papers buckle after painting and glueing etc., place them under some heavy books overnight. Use baking parchment between the sheets to prevent any chance of sticking to each other. Your background papers can also be ironed, again between sheets of baking parchment to protect them and your iron.

[**If you have never tried eco printing on paper and would like to try, I have a free mini tutorial on my YouTube channel here.]

Notes: A natural spray fixative is available called Spectrafix – it is made with non-toxic natural ingredients and is based on the recipe invented by the artist Edgar Degas.

PVA glue works well for sealing your work if it is thinned down with water (half and half). It doesn’t smell, and it is archival. Shellac when mixed with methylated spirits is also a useful sealer, and gives a vintage look.


We acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land on which we operate in northern Tasmania. We would also like to pay our respects to Elders past, present and future.