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Below you will find a sampling our members' work from previous group swaps and projects.  Click on images to view them larger. We hope this will inspire you to come and play with us! If you are interested in joining our group, please visit us at:
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Paper Traders is a friendly online community of artists from around the world. We nurture and value creativity, embrace new ideas, products, and techniques yet also value tried and true methods of artistic expression. Our projects consist primarily of paper arts, mixed media collage, artist trading cards, altered art, assemblages, collaborative journals, mail art, and more.

We are interested in creative individuals of varied skill levels who wish to challenge themselves artistically and help build a supportive community. We are at our best when we can share our creative efforts as well as techniques, resources, feedback, and insights. We encourage conversation about art, the art process, and what it means to be an artist.

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Below you will find images that are owned by our group members and offered for your personal use as well as images found in the public domain. Images may be freely used in your personal artwork but may not be used for commercial purposes of any kind without written permission of the owner. No images may be used to create collage sheets or image collections for resale.

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Open Art Challenges !

We're changing things up here at Paper Traders. Instead of the monthly challenges of the past, we'll now be hosting special challenges that might feature a specific technique or product and will be rewarded with actual prizes sponsored by our group members.

Our new challenge for 2013 is a year long word prompt journaling project/challenge. Each specific challenge will be open for one month and all art bloggers can participate, whether you are a Paper Traders member or not. Each artist will comment with a link to their blog post that features the artwork for that particular challenge. For each challenge, a winner will be selected whose art best exemplifies the challenge. The winning artist will be featured here and get a "Trader Treasure" blog button to display on their own blog. They also will receive one chance for each entry for the end of the year prize drawing. Watch this page for more details and challenge announcements.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Burned and Layered Holes Tutorial

Water colored

In this tutorial I will share with you a method for burned and layered holes.  Since the actual technique is pretty straight forward, I’m going to put my slant on what my experiments taught me, and ideas for how to make your creations more dynamic.

First things first – safety!!!  It is obvious but – this involves a soldering iron and it is HOT!  Please don’t leave it unattended while it’s turned on.  Also don’t let children or pets anywhere near it! I don’t want to be the cause of any disaster (as much as I can help it).
                                                                                    Thanks, the management

So to begin, lay out your work space.  I always do this on a heat proof mat, with some kind of metal tray to hold the iron. Don’t skip the tray.  You have tedious work ahead and you’ll need to put the thing down occasionally.  Optionally, I have a TV or computer screen in viewing distance.  As I mentioned, this is kind of tedious work and besides, it’s a good excuse to catch up on all those old Veronica Mars episodes. J The soldering iron I have is one I got at Michael’s with a coupon making it slightly more than $10.  It was meant for crafters and came with multiple screw on heads.  Two of these could work for our purposes (see fig B).  The pointier one is best since it gives you an advantage for size of hole – we want variety in the hole department.  If you are using a different kind of iron you may only have the standard tip which will also work.

Heat-proof mat, tray, soldering iron

Fig B
Size Variety
So now you have your table laid out and safety on your mind, time to pick the paper.  For this demo I’ve used cut up maps.  They don’t need to be anything special.  I just used an old RoadMaster standard road atlas that was riding around in my car for years (even after it became obsolete due to smart phones).  This is a good weight paper for hole burning (light weight, not shiny) and if you goof, which is pretty hard to do, you can toss it and start over without worrying about the expense ($0).  I also experimented with craft weight paper which I’ll talk about later.  I cut my sheets to the size of my project first because, as mentioned, it’s boring to burn holes and I don’t want to do any more than I have to.  This is also where you need to think about how many layers.  Two or three with holes and one base layer without holes is a minimum, I’d say.  If you are a maniac (or fire bug) and love burning holes, knock yourself out!  More layers will look way more cool.

Hold Paper Upright
I tried two basic methods for making holes.  The first was laying the paper on the heat-proof mat and “drawing” the holes with the tip.  This didn’t work so well for me.  The second way was better.  Holding the paper up off the mat and poking it with the iron was pretty successful for multiple sized small holes. Holding it up and “drawing” with just the pointy tip worked great for larger holes.  As I mentioned before, a good variety of sizes makes a more interesting piece overall.  I did most of the big holes first and then peppered in the smaller ones between for a good effect.  The composition of where the holes are and how you can see through them to other layers is what will make your art unique.  I personally think lots of holes on all layers makes for the most interesting completed project but it is all up to you.  Also, I found that some of my holes didn’t burn cleanly through and left some paper ‘sludge’ around the edges on the back of the sheet.  A couple of light swipes with a sanding block gets rid of those.

A word about the artistic aspect of the project – CONTRAST.  It is the contrast of your layers that will make it interesting (isn’t that true of anything in life?).  I like to go from lighter at the base layer then darker as you go up.  Again though, depends on your personal aesthetic. Don’t be afraid to stack and re-stack the layers before you glue.  For this demo I just used Distress ink to add a bit of color to the layers.  I have also used watercolors (see photo collage at top) which works well too but then you have to let it dry and it can wrinkle and warp the paper.
As for glue, I like to use Sookwang double sided tape because it stays stuck and won’t wear out over time.  Also, no drying time and won’t wrinkle the paper.  I’ve also used Diamond glue, though mostly for touch-ups.  Also, for this I don’t want every bit of paper glued down.  I want to leave the layers free to create shadow and give more of a sense of depth.
Tape Loosely 
So I mentioned that I tried craft weight paper.  It is thicker (this was double sided) and not as easy to burn the holes through.  It did look kind of cool though.  Also, since it was thicker, I could burn shapes other than rounded holes (sort of).

Shapes of Holes with Heavy Paper

So that’s it!  Easy and sort of relaxing in a pyromaniac sort of way (especially with Veronica solving crimes while you work).  One last word on the topic – FINISHING.  By that I mean clean up the edges, clip corners and ink around the edges.  Those are good ways to complete any project and I always do.  Not required but I think you’ll find it will lift your work to a new level with those easy additions. I also usually spray the finished piece with clear acrylic sealer to keep the colors crisp.
Finished Edges

Thanks for sticking with me all the way through!  I hope this is the first step toward some cool new projects in your craft room!


HMax said...

I was asked where I got the idea for this. As I was perusing the web one day I came across the artist Karen Margolis. Please go check out her Maps with Holes at She does beautiful work!

gabriele said...

Thank you for explaining how you made those interesting holes. Definitely something I would like to try. I really like the varying colorful layers. Thanks gabriele

jaimie sander said...

Thanks for sharing,Heather.This is really cool,and now I think I need a soldering iron, lol.

stlbarb said...

I was lucky enough to receive one of these index cards. It looks even better in person. Thank you for sharing the technique. Off to find the soldering iron....

Barb A

Jo Murray said...

Thanks SO much...the results are amazing!

ML said...

Very interesting! I am sure I will find a way to use this technique in some of my abstracts! Thanks for sharing!

Eagletail said...

Really want to try this. Would a pyrography wood burner tool work?

Angie said...

What about making stencils this way?

Twirl said...

Thanks for simplifying this Art. Great tutorial. Will definitely have a go.xxxx

d.m. said...

Genial y muchas gracias Por su información