Thursday, July 1, 2010

Junk Mail book

Supply List:
  • 10-20 pieces of junk mail (envelopes, unopened credit card offers, Pizza Hut flyers etc.)
  • brushes, about 1/2" wide
  • small watercolor set (cake or tube is fine)
  • brayer
  • roll of scotch tape. scissors
  • A small container of white gesso
  • Plastic or newspaper to protect your work table
  • twine, rope or ribbon

Optional items:  1/8" hole punch, heat gun, rags, water containers

Select pieces of junk mail that are made our sturdy paper. The thin newspaper pages probably wouldn’t work so well.

Pick pieces that are of different sizes so your pages overlap and stick out over each other. 
Envelopes are great too if they have an interesting marking on the inside. Split the envelope open so it lays flat. You can see Carla’s page using an envelope. Note also how the pages are different size and overlap.

The first stage is to cover your mail with a layer of gesso with the brayer. Pour the gesso in a tray or a sheet of glass so you can load your brayer. Apply the gesso rather thinly so that some of the text shows in place. If there are some parts of the advert you like, such as a face or a cute puppy, leave it showing.
When you apply the gesso with the brayer, only go over the page once. You really want to have the markings left by the brayer to show. The watercolor paint will later sit in these ridges and valleys and it will look really neat.

Paint one side of all your pieces and lay on the plastic or newspaper to dry. Go have some fun.
When one side is dry, cover the other side. Your gesso must be dry, so that it doesn’t lift later. It’s ok to use a heat gun.

Now the fun part. Get your watercolors. Choose one color for the base. Dilute it heavily and start applying on the first piece of mail with your ½” brush. Your color should be transparent. Put it to dry and do all your other pieces.  You can vary the base color you use on your pieces so they don’t look the same. You’ll  notice that the paint deposits unevenly on the gesso. That’s the idea.

Lay out to dry.

When the first side is dry, do the other side of all your pieces with a base color. Let dry.

*****Yes, it takes a lot of drying. Better have another project going too.*****

When both the sides are dry with your first layer of water color paint, pick another color, complementary, or to add accents. Carla used some diluted brown to make it vintage, grungy. Cover part of the page with your second color, again, very transparent and diluted.
Cover all your pieces, and lay to dry.

You can see on these pages how the watercolor deposits irregularly, and takes a great look with the second color.
Do the other sides.
Use the photos here  as a guide for the strength of color to use. You should end up with some lovely, transparent color that is yummy.

Notice how the pages overlap. This lady emphasized the difference in size to make her pages really funky.

Next to the binding. Carla used twine to go with the junk mail aspect. You could use rope, ribbon, rings, whatever you can come up with. Depending on the height of your book, punch 3 or 4 holes. Mark all your pages so your holes correspond. Then insert a piece of twine and tie it off individually for each hole. You can cut the piece off or use it to go to the next hole. The idea is that the book has to lay flat when it is open.

Yours truly showing her book.
It was such a fun class!
Here are some examples below to help you design your book.

And here is Carla’s book with her amazing animals. I will not guide you through her animal design, it is really unique to the way she thinks and I’d be incapable of leading you through it. 

I hope to see your examples in the photo album.
If there are points that are unclear, do contact me:


  1. Okay, this is so Carla and I love it. Thank you thank you thank you for the tutorial. I think I might give this a try when i get back from Rock Creek Canyon camp trip!

  2. Wow. Who knew you could make something so beautiful out of junk mail? Love the hummingbird one. I had never heard about 'swapping' before joining the Grow Your Blog party.

    Thanks for stopping by Bird Lady Blog.

    - Sherrie