Friday, April 15, 2011

Medieval Metalwork

This week, in my art class, I showed the children how to do a simple technique that looks like aged metal. The children created frames and crosses and then added faux gemstones for a little sparkle!

Jewel-encrusted antique metalwork frame.

This year's art classes are all about Medieval times. We've done shields with coat-of-arms, marionettes of kings and princesses, stained glass dragons, and many other projects you'll soon be seeing in this blog (one day at a time!!). This week, I decided to have the children do a project that simulates metalwork. I was thinking of those large, heavy covers of illuminated manuscripts that were pieces of wood covered with tooled sheets of gold and inlaid with real gemstones (see below). Since my budget is a bit more limited than that--I thought we could use tin foil and plastic gems from a craft store.

Background Information:

Since medieval manuscripts would take many years to create and often were the life's work of many of the artists, the covers of these books were often just as elaborate. The covers were often a plank of wood covered with gold, jewels, enamelwork, precious metals, and ivory. One such example of this type of ornate work is the cover of the Lindau Gospels entitled, "Crucifixion with Angels and Mourning Figures." This piece is from The Pierpont Morgan Library in New York.

The cover from the Lindau Gospels uses a technique called repoussé "a technique by which metal reliefs are created. Thin sheets of metal are gently hammered from the back to create a protruding image. More elaborate reliefs are created with wooden forms against which the metal sheets are pressed (Art History: Volume 1, by Marilyn Stokstad, 1995)."

The project below is very similar to this technique. Enjoy!

Supplies Needed:
  • Corrugated cardboard cut into a frame shape (6 1/2" x 8') or a cross (a 3" x 7" piece of cardboard glued to a 3" x 11" piece of cardboard)
  • Self adhesive foam letters and shapes (optional)
  • Yarn
  • PVA glue (I use Elmer's glue)
  • Paintbrush
  • Water bowl and water
  • Scissors
  • Aluminum foil (standard household foil is fine)
  • Clear tape
  • Black tempura paint
  • Paper plate for a palette
  • Facial tissue
  • Glue gun and hot glue sticks (optional)
  • Plastic jewels (I bought mine at Michael's--they had a value pack of 1pound of "bling")

1. If you are creating a frame, think about which way you'd like to have the picture displayed. This is important if you are doing lettering on your frame.
Here you can see the cardboard piece I'll be using for my frame as well as an easel-backed piece of cardboard from an old frame that I later glued onto the finished frame. That part is optional,

2. Create a design on the cardboard frame (or cross) using self adhesive letters and shapes. Words and phrases such as, "family," "best friends," "love," or your last name work well. You can also use yarn for the letters and shapes (and also for lines). Put a line of glue onto the cardboard and then gently press the yarn into it. Keep your design simple.

3. Once you have your design done, brush a thin coat of white glue all over frame. You can brush right over the foam shapes because the adhesive on the back of the shapes is nice and strong, but go gently over the yarn. You will want to go along the edges of the yarn you have glued down so that you don't mess up your design.
My design is done. Now I can brush white glue over the entire design.

4. Take a piece of foil that is slightly larger than your piece and gently crumple it--not too much or it will tear when you open it back up. Open the foil back up and smooth it a bit. Now lay it onto the frame over the glue on your design. Press gently all over your design, around the letter and shapes.
Gently smooth the foil over the design. Press gently around the yarn and foam shapes (if using). Be careful not to use your nails, since the foil will tear easily.

5. Flip the piece over and tape the extra foil to the back of the cardboard. If you are doing a frame, you'll need to gently cut an "x" in the foil in the center portion of the frame and fold back the foil there (and tape it to the back of the frame) so that you'll be able to see the picture in the center of your frame.

6. Now comes the messy part! Squeeze a bit of black tempera paint onto the paper plate. Dip your paintbrush into water and mix it in the paint to thin the paint a bit. Brush the thinned tempera paint over the entire front of your frame.

7. Now....wait! Leave your frame to dry for 10-15 minutes. While it is drying you can draw a picture to go in your frame. Will the picture be of your family? A pet? A medieval scene with a knight and a dragon?

8. Once the time is up and your paint is not quite dry, gently buff off the paint with a piece of facial tissue (it may take your piece a bit longer to be ready to buff--the paint should be "almost dry"). The more black you leave, the more "antique" the frame will look.

9. Use a hot glue gun, white glue, or tacky glue to attach jewels to the frame.
I live this tacky glue in a squeeze tube!

10. Attach your picture to the back--and you are ready to display your medieval work of art!

Variation: Easter is a wonderful time to do this project and create a cross! This technique makes a beautiful cross that looks unique. It is a nice project to do as a family--certainly a conversation-starter on many levels! Enjoy!
The same technique can be used to create a cross. I left a good amount of the paint on the edges to give this cross a very old feel. This picture doesn't do it justice--the jewels really shine and add sparkle. This would also be a nice gift idea.

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