Artwork and Blogpost by Natalie Parish, Bag End Studio QLD

Christmas can be a time for over consumption rather than contemplation. However, being crafty can give you that time and space to look at Christmas creatively. It is a tradition in my family to exchange gifts that are handmade, second-hand and this year we added bush gifts from drought and fire effected areas. So, I am going for a Country Christmas theme  
Dinner is at my house this year, so to tie in my theme I decided to rehash an old napkin ring idea to make table decorations. Determined not to go to the shops, I rummaged through my useful box and craft stash to use up bits I already had. That’s what I love about the Powertex universal medium and stone art – its ability to help you create assemblage art out of found objects, off-cuts, or bits from the backyard.  that at first glance to anyone else may simply look like rubbish.  
Keep in mind, except for the PTX universal medium, everything is optional depending on the style you wish to create and what you have at home.  I love to use the stone art as it speeds up the attachment process.

Country Christmas Napkin Rings

Materials

  • White PTX Powertex (choice of colour)
  • Stone Art 
  • Bister – pre-mixed sepia 
  • Paper-Decoration – Natural 
  • Powercotton – optional
  • Sand and Balls – optional

Equipment

  • Plastic work surface
  • Bowls and Gloves
  • Spray bottles 

Useful Box

  • Box Cardboard – top layer removed to expose corrugations
  • Bush Nuts, seeds, pods, pot puriri 
  • Flowers – dried, paper, plaster, clay, artificial
  • Found Objects if desired 
  • Toilet Rolls or Food Wrap Rolls – I prefer thinner rolls as they are easier to remove before drying.

Step 1: Set up to Create the Base

Country Christmas Napkin Rings
Country Christmas Napkin Rings
  • Cover your rolls in glad wrap. 
  • Cut Cardboard into a square that almost fits around your roll. I prefer for the cardboard to not meet up in the middle and instead leave a gap to be filled with my useful box items.
  • Cut your string into 20cm lengths (approx.).  This will keep the cardboard in place whilst drying and provide extra texture.
  • Layout your seeds, nuts, skewers, flowers into a rough design that will overlap the gap in the cardboard.

Step 2: Make Stone Art

Country Christmas Napkin Rings
Country Christmas Napkin Rings
  • Pour into a bowl with a small amount of White Powertex Universal Medium (1/4 cup) and Stone Art (1/4 cup) and mix with a flat spatula.
  • Keeping adding small amounts of Stone Art until it forms a kneadable dough like mixture that no longer sticks to the bowl or your gloves.
  • Remove the sticky ball and add a little more stone art to the bowl to ‘flour’ the ball. 
  • Knead and condition until the clay can be pushed into a textured surface and removed again without sticking.
  • Store in a zip lock plastic bag.
  • For longer storage (a few months), cover with a wet chux cloth, put it in a zip lock plastic bag and then pop it in an airtight container. It may need ‘flouring’ with Stone Art if it is too sticky or more PTX Universal Medium if too dry, when you go to use it.

Step 3: Assembling the Roll

Country Christmas Napkin Rings
Country Christmas Napkin Rings
  • Pre dip string by placing into your bowl of PTX universal medium and massaging it through. Then squeeze out excess by running string through thumb and forefinger. Put to one side or if its hot and dry leave in a little bit of gladwrap.
  •  With a paint brush paint both sides of the cardboard. 
  •  Wrap the cardboard around your glad-wrapped roll.
  •  Wrap the pre-dipped string around the cardboard to hold it into place. 

Step 4: Assembling Found Objects

Country Christmas Napkin Rings
  • Paint the found or natural objects in PTX universal medium.
  • Place each object into position in the gap area. 
  • Optional – Paper Decoration provides a great base across the gap area and can be teased apart to create fabulous textures.
  • If you have stone art, you can attach larger objects or embed junk objects into it or use as a textural design piece.
  • Optional – Powercotton (or strings) and Sand and Balls added at the end is a great way to integrate spaces in your design as well providing extra interest.

Step 5: Bister

Country Christmas Napkin Rings
  • Making sure that your PTX is still a little bit wet, spray your entire piece with Bister using a spray bottle. (You can always give a second light coating of PTX if it has dried out)
  • Then to create a crackle effect, dry your piece with a hairdryer. (Be careful it’s hot. I hid my fingers inside the roll).
  • Using the hairdryer will also dry and set firm your napkin holder. However, we do not want to set it rock hard as it will be harder to remove the roll and balance the piece.
  • Do not worry if your work looks a bit too sepia as we will highlight it in white later.

Step 6: Setting

  • Carefully remove roll. Thin rolls can be crushed and pulled out
  • Touch up inside of roll with a little bit of PTX.
  • To stop your napkin ring from being top heavy, carefully, press down slightly on the top, to flatten the base until it stops rolling over and it is in a balanced position sitting upright.
  • Set aside to dry overnight. Alternatively, to speed up the drying process, leave in the sun or use a hairdryer.

Step 7: Embellishing

  • Pour a small amount of Easy Coat Varnish into a lid/palette/alfoil.
  • Palette out the Powertex pigments of your choice. I used Titanium White (Powercolour-matt) and Clear Gold (Colourtrix – metallic)
  • With a very dry brush take up a small amount of Easy Coat Varnish into the brush tips and criss-cross your brush onto your palette to load the varnish into your brush.
  • Pick up a small amount of powercolour pigment and criss-cross your bush with it into the palette to create a paint consistency (If it looks too watery, this is the result of too much varnish so pick up a little more pigment). 
  • Apply the colour as desired remembering it is always easier to be build colour than remove it. 
  • Repeat process with metallic pigments and use them as highlights to your work.
  • If you do not have the PTX Pigments, you can use the white PTX to highlight textures. However, the bonus to using the dry brush technique is that you are varnishing at the same time, waterproofing the bister and giving some longevity to your napkin rings.

 

Just Add Your Napkins

Congratulations

Stay Tuned for more Country Christmas

Country Christmas Napkin Rings
Country Christmas Napkin Rings
Country Christmas Napkin Rings

Natalie Parish, Bag End Studio QLD

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