I recently caught up with Lena Corwin, who’s got lots to share, including her many inspirations, Etsy favorites, and from her new book, this beautifully “dressed-up dresser”, just for you! Click here to download the complete instructions, or follow along below. Let’s get to it, shall we?
Please introduce yourself and tell us what you do.
Hi! Thanks for asking me to do an interview. I love Etsy! I’m a textile designer, illustrator, craft book author, and curator of artist books. I started my career in graphic design, which lead me to textile design — and now I do a variety of projects as a self-employed designer.
My book, Printing By Hand, is a how-to guide for printing patterns on different materials and surfaces, using methods of stamping, stenciling, and screen printing. The book covers a lot of detailed technical information, and has fun projects like printing on bed sheets, furniture, and clothing.
What draws you to the printing process and how did you get started with it?
I never get tired of printing. I love working with my hands, and I prefer the look of imperfections that you get from hand printing instead of printing digitally or by machine. I love vintage fabric, and I first became interested in doing my own printing from admiring the inconsistencies and imperfections in old fabrics. I like when patterns are off register, and the ink blends and distorts.
Where else do you find inspiration for your creative process?
A reoccurring source of inspiration for me is imagery from my childhood. I’ve bought a lot of the books that I had as a kid, and I find nostalgic imagery in them. I went to a Montessori school and we used a lot of blocks and geometric objects as learning tools, and I’m fascinated by those shapes and colors. I’m always taking snapshots with my digital camera, and I look back at my photos for inspiration for designs.
You seem to flow very easily between different mediums, from textile design to graphic design, blogging and photography (what else?)… how do you find they influence each other?
I’ve always thought of my blog as a catalog of ideas and inspiration for my artwork and projects. The blog has helped to organize my ideas and I notice themes in my inspiration. Using flickr has helped me rediscover photography, which was a passion of mine in high school. My blog definitely helps me organize my thoughts for future designs.
You cover so many aspects of printing in the book, but is there anything you were not able to cover that you wish you could have?
Originally I wanted to ask other designers to contribute to the book. That didn’t happen, but I think it would have been great to see how other artists would have interpreted the projects.
What’s next for you?
I’m busy working on Lines & Shapes, a series of artists books I co-curate with Maria Vettese (we have exciting plans for 2009!). I’m looking forward to coming out with new pillow designs—Â— both with my own patterns and collaborations with other designers.
These are some of my favorite items/shops/designers on Etsy. I mostly look at new, original art on Etsy, but I also search for vintage items.
And now for the project…
I’ve stenciled on new and used furniture, and there are advantages to both. Old furniture usually needs some cleaning up (like sanding wood or stripping off flaking paint), but you can usually find a well-made piece inexpensively. New furniture needs little or no preparation before stenciling, but you may have to spend a lot more money for a good-quality piece. For this project I used a new dresser made with unfinished solid pine. My dresser measures 24″ wide by 27″ tall, but you can adapt these instructions to a piece of furniture of any size. Simply adjust the number of stencils and the amount of paint to suit your project.
1. Prepare Work Surface
You will need a work surface of approximately 3′ x 3′ for cutting your stencil, and a well-ventilated area covered with newspaper or a drop cloth to paint your dresser.
2. Cut Stencils
Photocopy the artwork supplied in the back of the book (and on download) for this project (or your own artwork) onto several sheets of 8 1/2″ x 11″ or 11″ x 17″ white paper. Cut out all the shapes in the design with scissors (A). Note: This is a reverse stencil, so you want to keep the center shapes and discard the surrounding paper. When cutting the design out of paper, do not cut out the eyes in animal shapes, or the holes in the flowers.
Roll out approximately 12″ of contact paper, plastic-side down, taping the edges of the contact paper to your work surface if it starts to roll up (B). Set several paper cut-out shapes on the contact paper, design-side down, and trace around the shapes with pencil (C). Cut the shapes from the contact paper with scissors (D). To cut out a hole in the center of a flower or the eye in an animal, fold the contact paper where the hole will be and cut a half-moon shape. Repeat until you have traced and cut all the shapes from the contact paper.
3. Prepare Dresser
Remove the knobs from your dresser and, in an outdoor, ventilated area, spray paint the dresser knobs white. With the drawers out of the dresser, paint a coat of white latex primer on the drawers with the paint roller. Let the paint dry, and wash out the paint roller and tray. Paint a coat of white semigloss latex paint on the drawers. Let the paint dry. Paint a second coat, if needed, and wash out the paint roller and tray. Let the paint dry overnight. Note: It’s important to let the dresser dry overnight; if you don’t, the contact-paper stencils might peel off the paint when you remove them later.
4. Assemble Stencils and Print
Keeping the drawers out of the dresser, tape the sides, tops, and bottoms of each drawer with painter’s tape. Put the drawers back in the dresser, but leave them all open about 1″. Tape the sides of the drawers together with painter’s tape to stabilize them — otherwise they may shift while applying stencils and painting.
Following the placement of the stencils in the photo (see page 82 or download), loosely tape the stencils in place with transparent tape to make sure that they all fit together nicely (E). When you are happy with the placement of the stencils, start to peel the backing off the largest pieces, and press them to the front of the drawers (F). Note: It is important to peel the transparent tape off of the stencil before peeling off the paper backing. Any tape hanging off the edge of a stencil will become part of the stencil design. Once all the large stencils have been placed on the drawers, fill the spaces in between with the smaller pieces.
When a portion of a stencil runs off the edge of a drawer, fold the excess over the edge, and press it into place (G). Avoid putting a delicate part of the stencil (such as a leg or an antler) across a break between two drawers, this will increase the chance of the paint bleeding under the stencil in that area. You may have extra pieces left over, or you may need to cut out more shapes to fill in spaces. When all the stencils are assembled, make sure they are fully adhered to the surface of the drawers by pressing over them again with your hands.
Scoop several tablespoons of yellow latex paint onto an artist’s palette or into the paint tray. Push the roller through the paint to coat it evenly. With the paint roller, paint over and between the stencils (H). Let the paint dry, and paint a second coat. If the paint is still translucent, add a third coat. Allow the paint to dry to the touch, and peel off the stencils and painter’s tape (I). Note: If the yellow paint bleeds under the stencil, it may be necessary to touch up the white areas with a small (1/8″) paintbrush and the white semigloss paint.
5. Clean Up
Discard the used stencils. Wash the brush, roller, and paint tray thoroughly with water, and let them dry completely before using again.
Thanks to Lena for visiting with us and to publishers, Stewart, Tabori & Chang for the book images and project download. It’s been a treat!