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Craft Project: Cast A Paper Valentine

Presented by Holidays on the Net and The Imagination Factory
Cast A Paper Valentine © 1997-2008 Marilyn J. Brackney

On February 14th, people in many parts of the world celebrate Valentine's Day by exchanging tokens of love in the form of flowers, candy, and valentines. The first written valentine was created in 1415 by Charles, the Duke of Orleans. Imprisoned in the Tower of London, he sent the valentine to his wife, and today it's in the British Museum. Over the years, handmade valentines have been created using a variety of techniques, but paper was the favorite material.

The Chinese developed the first paper around 150 B.C. by chopping vegetable fibers, floating them in water, and then collecting the material on a screen. When the pulp dried, it formed a paper-like sheet. The art of papermaking spread to Japan and along the trade routes to the Mediterranean. Finally, it reached Europe and the New World. People were constantly experimenting with fibers, often using new cloth or rags. When the supply of paper couldn't keep up with the demand, handmade cotton paper was replaced by machine-made paper. The pulp for the paper came from trees.

Just as the Chinese did long ago, it's possible to make paper from common materials. You can create a special valentine for someone by recycling paper. We'll cast tissue gift wrap in cookie and candy molds to make a low-relief heart, and later we'll combine it with other paper and materials to create a one-of-a-kind greeting card. Making valentines this way is fun, and if you recycle materials, you'll help save landfill space, natural resources, and the energy needed to make new goods.

You Will Need:
  • Water
  • Sponge
  • Cooking spray
  • Tissue gift wrap
  • Cookie or candy molds
How to:

Paper has been used extensively for drawing and painting, but it's only recently that artists have explored the sculptural possibilities of casting the material. In this method, paper pulp is placed into a form called a mold. The paper is thoroughly sponged, allowed to dry, and then it's removed. While casting is done with pulp most of the time, there are other ways to make a low-relief sculpture. We can recycle tissue gift wrap using a similar process.

Hand Laying Paper Pieces in Mold Working near a sink or other water source, lightly spray a cookie or candy mold with cooking spray and set it aside. This will make it easier to release the paper form later. Tear a sheet of white tissue gift wrap into tiny pieces. Place the tissue pieces, one at a time, into the mold, overlapping the edges and patting a small amount of water on the pieces as you go.

Continue adding, wetting, and gently pressing layers until the mold is filled to the top with paper. If you want the valentine to have a deckled edge, add some layers around the top of the mold. Carefully remove excess water with a sponge, and replace any bits of tissue which are removed in the process. Let the casting dry in the air for a day or two. If it starts to warp, cover the form with a sheet of wax paper and weight it with a book. When the sculpture is completely dry, carefully pry the paper from the mold with the blade of a very thin knife.

A drying tip: To help speed the drying time, you can use a terra cotta mold which is specially designed for paper casting. Because they're made of fired clay, the molds can be placed in a microwave oven, allowing you to dry the paper in just a few minutes. Follow the manufacturer's instructions, and be sure to have an adult help if you dry the casting this way.

Decorating Your Valentine

While there are many ways to finish your card, we'll learn how to make a valentine using collage. With this art form, decorative papers and materials are combined by pasting or gluing.

You Will Need:
  • Glue stick
  • White glue
  • Acrylic paints
  • Scrap card stock
  • Decorative paper
  • Construction paper
  • Decorative materials
  • Paper punches
  • Paint brushes
  • Paint pan
  • Scissors
  • Pencil
  • Ruler

How to:

Before you assemble the card, decorate the cast paper valentine with acrylics, glitter, or shapes cut or punched from paper. Cut and fold a scrap piece of card stock like a greeting card. Use a glue stick to fasten decorative paper such as a scrap of gift wrap, wallpaper, or hand marbled paper to the front. Center the cast paper valentine, and glue it in place with white glue. Finish decorating the card with glitter or more cut or punched paper shapes. Write a poem or message inside the card.

To make the envelope, measure the length and width of the card, double the figure, add an inch each way, and cut a piece of construction paper or wallpaper this size. Center the card on the paper, and fold over the edges. Cut away the four corners, leaving tabs. Place the valentine inside the envelope, and fasten the tabs with a glue stick or seal the back with a paper heart. Present the valentine to your sweetie and have a Happy Valentine's Day!

Tips and Tricks:

After the cast paper dries, it will be fragile and tend to "flake" like a biscuit. This is because we didn't use any binder in the pulp. Carefully painting the form with acrylics will act as a glue and color the surface as well. If you prefer not to paint the cast paper, you can brush a light coat of diluted white glue or acrylic matte medium over the form to help hold it together.

Try your hand at "scherenschnitte" or paper cutting. Fold a scrap of red, pink, or purple paper in half and cut out a heart. Now make fancy cuts on the fold into the center. Glue the shape to your card.

See the marbling activity in Previous Activities for tips on marbling paper. Use marbled paper for a background, as in the example above. Besides using glitter and shapes from paper punches, decorate with rubber stamps, embossing powders, craft paints in squeeze bottles, ribbon, or paper doilies. You can get free envelopes from discount stores and gift shops after certain holidays. The employees and people who restock card racks return unsold cards to the manufacturer for credit, but they often discard the matching envelopes. Help save landfill space and natural resources by asking them to save greeting card envelopes for you.

The Imagination Factory
©1997-2008 Marilyn J. Brackney

Valentine's Day Crafts @ Holiday Arts & Crafts on the Net Visit our holiday craft site, Holiday Arts & Crafts on the Net, for more Valentine's Day and all your holiday crafts.

Do you have a great Valentine's Day or other holiday craft project? Easily share your holiday crafts with us @ Holiday Arts & Crafts on the Net.

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