Paper crafts are a wonderful way to express yourself if you have artist’s block or you’re struggling to be productive. The first few months of 2021 were tough for me and mine and it really screwed with my creativity. My father had a small stroke back in February (he is OK now, thank goodness) and COVID continued to loom over us all. The European side of the company I worked for closed, and I was made redundant. I’m currently job hunting which can be a long process. None of these things could be helped, but it was important not to let them overwhelm me and prevent progression in other areas of life.
Usually when I struggle with creativity, the first thing I do is try something new—whether it’s a course or class, a new art medium or just reading books and articles to pick up inspiration.
I chose three paper crafts to help me push through these uncertain times: watercolour painting, calligraphy and origami. You can start all of these at home and relatively cheaply. I also subscribed to Skillshare for its broad range of classes that will help me develop my skills. (You can find many free tutorials on YouTube and across the web, too!)
Bear in mind I am a true beginner in both watercolour and calligraphy and many of my early attempts are totally cringeworthy. 😊 Still, I’d like to share my progress here on the blog so people can see how easy it is to develop with a bit of dedication and practise. I’ll also provide links to resources if you’re looking to try watercolour painting, calligraphy or other paper crafts.
I chose watercolour for a couple of reasons. First, I looked for something creative that I’d also find relaxing, but it had to be non-digital so I could take myself away from the computer for a few hours on a regular basis. Second, I want to illustrate a new hand-drawn project and colour it non-digitally. So I sat down and began creating swatches to get used to mixing colours, varying the amount of water, using different brush strokes and paper types.
These patterns are called “totems” by Jenna Rainey on YouTube, in her awesome tutorial The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Watercolor.
At first I used simple W.H.Smith watercolours (palette on the left) and Reeves Mixed Media Brushes, but after watching a video by Yasmina Creates I ordered three radiant concentrated Dr. PH Martin’s liquid watercolours. From there, I only used those three colours to mix additional colours and shades (palette on the right).
I also picked up some Winsor & Newton round Cotman brushes (in various sizes).
If you have a Skillshare account, the classes I’ve found useful so far are:
Watercolour Magic: The Basics of Color Mixing and Color Harmony, by Yasmina Creates.
Watercolor Textures for Graphic Design, by Teela Cunningham.
Art Essentials: Learn Watercolor Painting Basics, by Katie Rodgers.
A few years ago I found this YouTube video teaching how to make a triangular desk organiser. I loved this origami as it’s functional and pretty at the same time, and really adds a splash of colour to your desk. I also recently discovered this tutorial on Skillshare: Beautiful Origami Boxes, by Camilla Tønning. This one is more complex and uses 16 sheets of paper, but it’s so impressive. My attempts:
I use an assortment of beautiful Japanese-inspired patterns I found on Ebay (UK) here. The sheets are 14cm x 14cm. You can find many types of origami paper online and I recommend doing a search to find patterns you love. Origami is also a fantastic form of paper crafts for relaxation and well-being.
Inspired by Ian Barnard on an episode of The Honest Designers Show. Ian mentioned that he began calligraphy so that he had additional skills in his toolbox and was able to offer more services. I was really happy to hear this as it’s something I also try to do as much as possible.
I started with Calligraphy For Dummies, by Jim Bennett. Jim recommends a fountain pen for the majority of the book but I got frustrated with the ink inconsistency on the page. A lot of my practise pages were messy and I had to keep furiously shaking my pen to get ink to flow. Eventually I switched to a dip pen.
I also subscribed to The Calligraphy Box by Jenni Liandu. Jenni is a professional pointed pen calligrapher who offers a monthly subscription service where you’re sent a box full of calligraphy tools and a practise workbook. For my first box I opted for the Beginner box (because I need to learn the skills, ha!).
So before you judge, I’m aware that my first few pages are a bit wobbly and line thickness is inconsistent in places. I also know that these messy drills are necessary if I want to improve! It’s worth noting that Jenni provides the lines in faint grey for you to trace over. This helps to build muscle memory for the shapes and strokes of the letters.
The tools I’m using are:
- Nikko G Nibs from JL Calligraphy Shop on Etsy.
- Calligraphy practise sheets that came with my Beginner Calligraphy Box.
- Moblique Pen Holder. These pen holders are so pretty.
Hopefully over the next few months I’ll be able to post some nicer writing! My goal is to eventually move through calligraphy and into modern hand-lettering and perhaps even font creation. But one step at a time…
What are some of your favourite non-digital arts and crafts? Any recommendations for new things to try are more than welcome! Also, feel free to post your own experiments and crafts here in the comments.
Cover image by @damaiantika.