Category : guest post

About the artist and author of this post: Ranjani Chandran is an amateur hobbyist. She loves painting, especially focusing on indian folk art and she tries and reuses as many discards as she can to upcycle them into intriguing pieces of work. She is also a foodie who loves to cook. She has been learning carnatic vocal music as a part of Mathrubrundam, an initiative by Dr. Seetha Rajan. She also likes photography, swimming and is currently learning kalari payattu which she finds very addictive. All this comes later! She has a humble home and two boys that she loves supremely !

Wood is one of the most interesting materials I have worked with after terracotta. That it had scope to be transformed into a piece of art is something I  stumbled upon by accident.

Carpentry work was happening at home and I was all alone watching over the house. Strewn with tools, pieces of reapers and cut out wastes of 6MM ply, fevicol, nails… and to inspire me my carpenter was perfect and patient with measurements and design. Watching his precision tingled a thought in my mind.

I picked up the pencil, scale and the 6MM ply, and drew six 4-inch square boxes. Then I picked up his hacksaw when he was out for lunch and cut them out. My hands were killing me but the achievement factor kept me going. I had six pieces. Next I sandpapered it all to get a smooth finish on all four sides.  

He came back and his jaw dropped to see me do something so crazy! 

Now that I had the pieces, I decided to experiment with paints. This is how my journey started and Maya- Craving to create was born. Now, its my fourth year as a hobbyist and I can say that I am comfortable with a lot of media after so many experiments and the spirit to stop wastage.

I would like to share with you how I go about this process and encourage you to try it too. Why? Because I think today recycling is a very important concept and ply wood can be beautifully recycled. Also we are now so equipped with supplies that experimenting will not really cost us much, on the other hand it gives us a moral boost – chance to feel like a five year old all over again.

Keep a few things in mind before you venture into this for a better understanding.
  • Make sure the piece is cut out properly. For eg: edges should have a precise 90 degree angle on all sides.
  • Sandpapering all the sides is very important. This will give it the required smoothness. An 80 or 100 grade sandpaper will do the job for plys or all kinds, 4MM to 1-inch. Sandpaper is available in any plywood shop.
  • Always apply termite control oil and leave the piece of wood for drying at least for 24 hours before starting art work on it. Termite oil is a tin bottle you can get in any shop that sells ply wood boards. It costs around Rs 80.
  • Use water only to wash off paint from the brush. Else wood will absorb water and tend to warp over a period of time.
  • Make sure paints are fresh. If they are old and thick then they can be used as base paint.  When you paint the base make sure you also paint the sandpapered area so that the remaining frays on the sides get further smoothened by the smeared paint.
  • There are two ways to look at painting wood. One is to retain the texture of it and give it the grainy look and the other is to quote it with at least three layers of base paint and make it look like a smooth surface. 
    • After the base paint (acrylic) is done you can compose your picture in it either directly or using a carbon copy. 
    • All painting rules apply here too. Only advantage is acrylic can be corrected, that is, painted over. However, this has a drawback. It leaves a sticky finish on the surface.
    • In the end giving it a quote of varnish will make sure the piece of art remains in tact for a significant period of time. Either your carpenter will be able to do it for you or you can buy yourself varnish aerosol cans from any art supply store.
      MDF can also be painted on, the only thing is you need to make sure absolutely no water gets in contact with MDF, before during or after the process of painting it. The advantage in MDF is that it can be machine cut into various shapes allowing such a large scope for creativity in terms of art work on it and the usage of that item.

      Why wood is close to my heart is because it is versatile. It can be used as a base to stick tiles on. It can be used as a frame for a mirror. Photo frames can be made out of up-cycled wood. Glass paintings can be framed with pieces of wood where in you can continue the concept on two different textures. Tea coasters can be made out of small pieces of ply. Pebbles can be affixed on wood because it can bear the weight.

      Although it took me more than two months to finish I enjoyed every minute I spent on it.

      Get up and grab you piece of waste wood from the nearest ply wood show room and try your hand at it!

      [This is a guest post by Sharmilee Muralidharan]

      First of all, big thanks to Woodooz for this Paper Mache recipe, which woke up the crafty girl in me and there is no stopping it now. Beware. This is a dangerously obsessive craft. I chose eco-friendly-NO-plastic-in-any-form concept for my Golu 2013 and that led me to making handmade items. It was very challenging, but learnt a lot in the process, and it pushed me to create a lot of things. 

      1. Paper Mache Earrings (using kitchen paper towel)

      DIY paper Mache
      Paper Mache Jewelry
      I made some clay jewelry as return gifts and thought would make jewelry with paper mache too. I didn't have any paper pulp remaining and so made this quick recipe:

      • Soak few sheets of kitchen paper towel in boiling water for an hour
      • Squeeze out the water, and grind them in a mixer into a smooth pulp (as much as possible, can add water while grinding which can be squeezed off later)
      • Strain them on a strainer for sometime or squeeze out the water by hand. Once all water is squeezed out, add Fevicol glue. 
      • Keep adding the glue in small amounts and keep kneading it till it becomes a dough (it resembles a cookie dough). 
      • I also added a little bit of all-purpose flour/ Maida and salt, which added smoothness and I felt they helped in making shapes better than the one without it.

      When it is wet, insert the required jewelry hooks and allow it to dry. Once dried, you can paint them and apply a coating of Artist's picture Varnish . If small pieces or shapes are made, instead of painting after drying, you can add acrylic colours to the pulp when it is wet, like I did for this Kulfi earring and then dry it. Though they can be sanded smooth, what I like the most in these is the unfinished rough look.

      2. Newspaper paper mache bowl

      How to make paper mache
      Paper Mache bowl
      This is a technique used during our grandma's time to make vessels out of paper mache. I used a Styrofoam bowl as a base. I applied paper mache on the outside of the bowl, covering it completely with the pulp, and allowed to dry for 4-5 days. Since the Styrofoam is flexible, the bowl comes out easily after it dries. And it can be painted as per wish. I used this as a prop for my Golu below a painted coconut shell.

      3. Aatukkal and Ammikkal (yesteryear's grinding stone)

      DIY Craft
      Paper Mache miniatures
      When the paper mache bowl was drying, its colour and texture reminded me of the grinding stones. Immediately planned to make these for the Golu. I used a match box as an armature/base for making the Ammi (the flatter grinding stone) and shaped the ends accordingly. For the Aattukal no base was used, just made a ball, and slowly shaped them with hands. All my golu visitors loved them, they all thought these were real miniature grinding stones until they touched and felt them. They are as light as a feather.

      4. The Maaya sisters (miniature dolls)

      DIY miniature dolls
      Paper mache dolls
      With the leftover paper clay I made a small doll with a curvy base, so they dance if you push them. No base was used for this. I inserted a thin steel wire as support for the head and the body, though not required. I painted a face both in the front and the back with different expressions and kept them in front of the mirror to click this photo. I made only 2 dolls, but there are 4 girls in total. I call them The Maaya sisters.

      5. Paper Mache Rangoli

      How to make paper mache pulp
      Paper mache Rangoli
      The picture is self explanatory on how the design was made. As a trial I chose some odd design with a circular shape in the center to keep a Diya. It took few days to dry. I guess lots of rangoli - to be assembled pieces can be made using this, which is as attractive as the kundan rangolis available in stores. Could be a fun activity for kids to make and assemble them as they wish. 

      Paper mache is such a great medium to work with and can be used to create anything right from miniatures to life size structures. One most important thing is the opportunity for recycling anything lying around at home, newspapers, cardboard, cereal boxes and the list goes on. So, how do you like my paper mache creation ? Please do leave me a comment.

      About the crafter : 
      Sharmilee Muralidharan is a Chartered Accountant by profession and she works as a Management Consultant in her husband's consulting Company. She is an avid birdwatcher and nature lover. She has deep interests in recycling and eco-friendly concepts. She is from Chennai and is an active member of the ChennaiCrafters club.

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