How to DIY a Wall Tapestry/ Banner | Tips and Tricks

 
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I recently did a Wall Tapestry/ Banner for a marriage proposal and I thought I'll share with you my process, along with some tips and tricks. 

For this project, I made a "Will You Marry Me" Wall Tapestry and 2 other smaller scale banners with wooden dowels for the proposal set-up. 

Let's get started.


First thing first - cloth.

 Photo by  Igor Ovsyannykov  on  Unsplash

Ideally, try to go for fabric that has a higher thread count, which is most likely to be less porous. A fabric like 100% cotton is easy for the paint to glide on due to how tightly threaded it is. Essentially, any type of fabric is good to go, but when the fabric is loosely threaded or woven, be prepared to use more paint than you should because you will need to do several coatings of paint for the design to show true and vibrant. (Imagine this analogy of a sponge vs glass - sponge is porous, while glass is non-porous. So if you were to paint on these surfaces, the paint is bound to be on the surface of the glass, but more likely to seep through the sponge.) 

To tell whether or not a fabric is good to paint on, simply look at the intricate threads making up the fabric. If you can see the individual threads used, means it's more porous! 

Another thing - some fabric do shrink after washing. So you might wanna wash your fabric first to get the right sizing! Washing will also help to remove any stiffener in the fabric, which hinders paint or ink to adhere to the fibres.  

 
 Photo by  russn_fckr  on  Unsplash

Photo by russn_fckr on Unsplash

Next - paint, or in my case, sharpies.

I love me some good ol' sharpies! So those were what I went for in this project, especially when I wanted the crisp and thin hairlines in the upstrokes of my letterforms. Because sharpies are alcohol-based markers, they tend to bleed through the fabric, so make sure you go for a heavier weight fabric if it's within your budget. 

If paint and brushes are right up your alley, definitely go for that! Plus, if you need a variety of colours in various shades, this is probably a wiser option. When I went to an art shop last year, I talked a bunch with the storekeepers there about the best paints to use for fabrics and what not, so let me share with you what I had learnt from them and other things I've read about over the year.

Fabric or textile paint/ markers fair best because they adhere to fabric better than acrylic paints for instance, which are more likely to "sit" on the fabric instead of "in" the fibres, hence easier to fade or peel off. Then again, depending on your project, acrylic paints can be good enough. They will crack in time so make sure you add a fabric agent/ medium to thin the paint so that it is easier for application and this step also helps in rendering the paint "softer" on the fabric; in other words, less likely to get all crackly. One thing to note though, the thinner the paint, the longer it takes to dry. So definitely try to find a balance there, especially if you're tight on deadlines with your project. If you're painting with intention to wear it or say, its likely for your work to get wet, heat-setting your work may be something you want to think about, so that it can be machine-wash ready for future repeated uses and also, more weather-proof.

 

Lastly - brushes.

If you're doing very detailed work, go for brushes that can hold a fine point well. If you need a good line integrity or consistency, I find that broad-edge brushes fair better as you can use the flat side of the brush and hold a consistent line weight that way. Round brushes kinda vary in line weight depending on the amount of pressure you apply. So be mindful of the brushes you use for different aspects! 

Say you're using paint that has high viscosity (thick and less fluid), perhaps opt for synthetic brushes as they have stiffer bristles/ brush hairs that can hold up heavy body paints better. Natural brushes (made from animal hairs) tend to do better for more fluid paints such as watercolours. 

 

some tips on - the painting/ inking process

Now that the materials are outta the way, let's talk about the fun part - inking/ painting! Ideally, you should do a mock up of your design on the fabric, especially if you've many blocks of information to put down. For me, it was pretty straightforward in terms of design, with the two key phrases - the lucky girl, "Serena Vu" and "Will You Marry Me?". I didn't have a projector on hand, so free-handing the pencil sketch was an absolute pain in the ass but I'd rather do that than ruin the fabric and repurchase another! 

Some tips for this step:

1. Iron your entire fabric first, to rid the various haywire creases, but leave the main pre-folds lightly visible. Otherwise, you can make light folds on the fabric by folding it into half and then quarters and further sub-quarters to create a grid system to guide your lettering. I self-discovered this helpful trick while figuring out how to draft up my design effectively for the project and am so glad my head was in a thinking state that day. Now, I don't have to draw in any pencil baselines to guide me, I can just use the folds! How cool is that. 

2. If you're painting/ inking on the floor or wall, add some newspaper or cardboard behind your project. I nearly inked my white wall black, I can tell ya that much. 

3. If you want to draft out some pencil line work for your letterforms, but made a couple of mistakes, don't use a normal eraser to erase them -  use a kneadable eraser. Not only can it get into various tiny nooks and crannies, it also doesn't leave any rubber dust which would otherwise catch on the fabric fibres (tho you can salvage this by running a razor over, but let's save ourselves some effort here, shall we!)

4. You can either lay your fabric on the floor or upright like I did on the wall. I'd recommend on the wall because for large-scale work, it is a ton easier to do large arm movements for a smooth curve across a large area of the fabric. If your fabric is on the floor, you're limited to the space between your body and one arm length when you're in a seated position. When you're standing up, you can manoeuvre however you'd like across the entire fabric just by keeping your upper body straight while bending your knees for upward and downward movements and sidesteps for left and right movements. Small detail point here but big differences in output. Try it out!

5. For measurements, you can use a measuring tape or ruler. However, for me, I just use my palm size as a rouge gauge to mark out the spacings between my letterforms and whether or not they're consistent relative to the other letters.

6. This last tip is kind of random, but to put my fabric up on my wall, I used 3M's Removable Mounting Strips. They can hold heavy weight items well, and peels off nicely from the wall without leaving any marks or scratches.


That's about it for this how-to / tutorial. Artists gotta help other artists, so I hope you enjoyed this read and if you do ever try this out yourself as a personal project, share 'em with me! I'll be happy to answer any further questions you may have as well. Most importantly, have fun and enjoy the process.

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A time-lapse of the wall tapestry/ banner that I did will be up on my Instagram (@leahdesign), come find me!

P.s. She said yes!

Much love,
Leah

 

 

Be the Captain of Your Happiness, (Cause Why Wouldn't You?)

 

Let's dive right into some content I'd like to share with you. And that's this book right here.

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The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, by Mark Manson

It's exactly what the title says and if any of these sound relatable to you

  1. Finding rejections and failures difficult to accept
  2. Overthinking situations/ interactions
  3. Getting mad over minute negative encounters during certain events or with people
  4. Prioritising external validation over internal belief,

I'd say definitely give this book a good read. It doesn't exactly provide structured learning content but the examples Mark provides and its accompanying insights will definitely help you shed light on how to improve your mental health and well-being.

I'd include some of my favourite takeaways to get you started. 

  1. The act of not caring doesn't imply being indifferent (that ignorance is plain rude btw), but the importance lies in being completely comfortable about being different.
  2. Yearning for more positive experiences, is in itself, a negative experience. Accepting negative experiences, (ironically) is in itself, a positive experience.
  3. We're not entitled to be happy all the time. It doesn't come on a silver platter! Happiness is a form of action; be the captain and stay responsible for steering your experiences from distasteful to delightful. 

Highly recommend this book - hope you enjoy this read! 

Much Love,
Leah

 

Everyone's a Creative

 
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Big Magic, Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

Today, I'd love to share one book in particular with you.

I absolutely love this book. For all the creatives out there, this book is a must read - whether you're a designer, baker, ceramic artist or architect, I highly recommend this read. In fact, it's for anyone, really - I believe everyone's a creative at heart.

In primary school, I remember that my teacher wanted to prove a point: that everyone's different. I can't recall his name but he made each of us draw an umbrella on a piece of A4 paper. We aren't allowed to look at what others drew except work on our own umbrella drawing. As expected, everyone drew different things. For me however, the big revelation isn't that everyone's different - it is: everyone's creative. We all drew an umbrella as told without hesitation, we didn't say "But I can't draw", "I don't want to, cause it'll turn out bad" or "I'm not creative enough to do anything wildly remote to that". Thing is, that's what we say all the time when we get older.

What I'm trying to say is - We all have it in us; being confident in our abilities to execute creative thinking, it just so happens that perhaps "what we think are expected of us" or "what we expect ourselves to be" changed as we grew up. We become more aware of what others think and perhaps, fearful of being inadequate or not being "creative enough", which to be honest is an inevitable thought, no doubt. I mean, we are after all, human.

This is also why, I believe in the act of playing. It is paramount or as I would like to argue, an essential pre-requesite, to creative work. It engages in the power of the subconscious mind, which draws deeper than any conscious thought would. But before I ramble on with my other 101 branching thoughts, I guess I'll just leave you with a quote from the author. 

You are worthy, dear one, regardless of the outcome. You will keep making your work, regardless of the outcome. You will keep sharing your work, regardless of the outcome. You were born to create, regardless of the outcome. You will never lose trust in the creative process, even when you don't understand the outcome. 

- Elizabeth Gilbert

Again, highly recommend you check this book out if you haven't already. You'll gain tons of insights and be reaffirmed that sometimes not okay is perfectly okay.

Much love,
Leah

 

What are you searching for?

 
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"I don't know what I'm searching for, I should know by now" - Whispers by Passenger.

I chanced upon this track and it spoke to me somehow; and I believe it resonates with many others as well. It talks about having a big heart, ready to do something with meaning for the world. You think you know what you're set out for. Maybe. But maybe you don't - you don't know what you're searching for. There are unanswered questions along the way and everyone's filling you up with nothing but noise. You're full, yet empty. They are shouting answers, but these answers.. they are not your own. So you beg for an answer inside of you. You don't need much, really. All you need is a whisper.

This is such a painstakingly beautiful song. And that's what I got out of it (at least that's what I think it is). Definitely gonna be on replay for a while.

 

There is no such thing as original art

 

Now before you come after me after making that bold title statement, I'll explain why. As much as us artists would like to think otherwise, there is no such thing as original art. It's not new but simply just an improvisation upon an existing idea, style or form and/or a juxtaposition of several of them in one.

The best argument I could possibly think of to invalidate this statement of debate would probably be say, historical origins - for example, the first ever independently developed written language to make the history of writing even heard of today (even historians debate on which script was the first and whether others were independently developed too or a further development based on the first yada yada.)

Moving on, here's why there is no such thing as original art. 

Let's talk about music. Remember the time Justin Bieber released his "Purpose: The Movement" album in 2016 and his top hits like "Love Yourself" got covered all over the world? Oh and how about every other top hit like Ed Sheeran's "Shape of You" right now? Whatever cover artists produce are remixed versions of the original track, where they may have incorporated their own riffs, improvised on the musical instrumentation, maybe use a different key and say mashed it up with another track. And typically, complications arise whether or not usage is personal or commercial. If a cover artist decides to sell his or her cover of an original song, he or she has gotta pay royalties to distribute it.

Well, even the "original" artist of a song gets criticised for copying someone else's song. Justin Bieber and Skrillex got sued for not obtaining a license from Indie musician White Hinterland for her vocal riffs and similar melodic progressions. Even Taylor Swift was not spared from litigation for her track "Shake It Off". For dance moves too, Michael Jackson was influenced by his predecessors James Brown and Fred Astaire. Well then, how about paintings? It is not uncommon for instructors to encourage his or her students to use reference images for those. That's right, photography is also another art form! It is definitely beautiful to see how two art forms come together at an interaction point in this manner. But again, is anything really original?

 Photo Credits:   Alice Achterhof

Photo Credits: Alice Achterhof

If you're curious, my personal influences come from artists like Seblester and David Milan - these two are always reinventing themselves, yet having ownership of their own distinctive styles. Another source of inspiration for me that heavily influences the way I understand lettering and typography are the things around me. I recall my travels last year where I visited 26 cities across 5 months or so, the amount of typography around (especially USA, particularly San Francisco and Los Angeles) was absolutely insane! If you're like me, remember to snap pictures to keep a mood board of sorts as your go-to inspiration. Definitely go see the world; if not, there are Instagram accounts that do post on murals/ signs out there such as Type of London, New York Said, New York Numbers etc.

After blabbering so much on this, you might ask, ok what's the call for action here? It's simple - Go create something today! Originality doesn't exist, but authenticity and genuineness do. Two people can have the exact same idea and further develop it as their own in their own unique way possible and the end results might not even be the exact replica as the inspiration source. The work was inspired and as Austin Kleon puts it, that's how you steal like an artist. (But damn, you gotta credit your inspiration tho - for example, I've seen countless watercolour artists replicating Yao Cheng's work, style and even palette colours without letting her know that she had inspired them, it's kinda saddening.) 

Again, as much as us artists would like to think otherwise, there is no such thing as original art. So go do a remix of your inspirational sources today. Reimagine the possibilities from whatever that is existing today and it'll challenge you to purposeful observation and creative thinking for even better creations. The more you do it, the more you can distinguish yourself from others. It might be something that is known to you but always remember to have humility that you are shaped based on your influences and inspirations. Even Steve Jobs' creation of the iPhone was inspired from Calligraphy. 

So go create. Who knows one day, you'll inspire someone down the road just like how you were inspired by someone else? 

Much love,
Leah