Tips & How To

The following links are from past posts that detail how I created my memorial purse for my grandmother and some inspiration posts to help you get started. Remember, the sky is the limit with creativity, so don’t be limited to my suggestions. Any style or technique is welcome! Try something new and make your purse truly unique and fitting to your beloved female lost to cancer.

The steps I took in creating the purse in memory of my grandmother: https://thepursesproject.wordpress.com/category/making-an-altered-purse-for-the-purses-project/

A short writing activity to prompt memories: https://thepursesproject.wordpress.com/category/making-an-altered-purse-for-the-purses-project/

Preparing a purse for paint: https://thepursesproject.wordpress.com/category/making-an-altered-purse-for-the-purses-project/

How to begin a purse for the project: https://thepursesproject.wordpress.com/category/getting-started-on-a-purse/

How I added my grandmother’s name to the purse with hand-stitching: https://thepursesproject.wordpress.com/category/adding-her-name-how-to-a-clumsy-attempt-at-sewing/

How to add personal objects to the purse: https://thepursesproject.wordpress.com/category/adding-personal-objects-to-the-purse/

Where to find a purse: https://thepursesproject.wordpress.com/category/where-do-i-find-a-purse/

Inspiration for adding lettering to the purse: https://thepursesproject.wordpress.com/category/inspiring-lettering-adding-her-name-to-the-purse/

How to do a Citrasolv transfer with lettering: https://thepursesproject.wordpress.com/category/how-to-transfer-images-or-lettering-with-citrasolv/

For more inspirational purses and helpful techniques, connect to The Purses Project on Pinterest (click the Pinterest button to the top right side of this page)

If you have any questions, please click on the About Me/Contact Me link on my homepage. I will happily answer any questions.

How To Transfer Images (or lettering) with Citrasolv

Citrasolv (household cleaner turned awesome art medium)

Citrasolv (household cleaner turned awesome art medium)


Looking for an easy way to transfer images (drawings, photos, clip art or lettering) to a surface like fabric, wood, or paper? A household cleaner called CITRASOLV can give you incredible results! As an artist, I’ve done transfers using artists mediums like Gel Medium but was amazed at how easy Citrasolv was to use (plus it’s a money/time saver). For The Purses Project, If you’re concerned about hand-painting an image on your altered purse, why not print it and transfer it? Cheesy Easy!
Finished mixed media/altered purse with Citrasolv transfer for lettering

Finished mixed media/altered purse with Citrasolv transfer for lettering


I used Citrasolv to transfer the lettering (my grandmother’s name) to my mixed media/altered purse. Here’s a simple how to and some tips for the process:
1. First, gather a few supplies:
-Citrasolv (a household cleaner, I found mine at Ingles but I’ve heard Whole Foods and online
sources also carry it)
-Cotton balls
-A metal spoon
-Xerox copies of images/lettering to transfer (read more below)
-A purse (or other surface to transfer on to)
-Painter’s tape

For The Purses Project, your images should relate to the woman you lost to cancer such as personal photos, handwritten letters, old documents/awards, words or other mementos. I use the site, the Graphics Fairy (http://thegraphicsfairy.com/) for vintage images like birds, free fonts, etc. Take your image to your local office supply and make Xerox copies of all. Adjust the size and copy output to get a good, clear copy image. You can make black & white or color copies.
HINT–for words or lettering, choose mirror image before you click print on your computer. It will print backwards, but the words will reverse correctly when you finish the transfer.

Print words/letters in mirror image

Print words/letters in mirror image


2. Next, cut out the copied image but leave enough paper around the image so you can tape it to the surface. Tape the image face down on to the surface making sure it will not slide around or move.
Secure with tape

Secure with tape


3. Although Citrasolv is non-toxic, do this next step in a well ventilated area (open a window). Put Citrasolv on a cotton ball and rub across the paper in a circular motion until well saturated. You should see the image appear through the wet paper.
Saturate with Citrasolv so that the image appears through the wet paper


4. Saturate with Citrasolv so that the image appears through the wet paper


4. Rub the back of a metal spoon over the paper in small circular motions with pressure. Make sure you go over areas more than once and lift the corner to check the transfer. The more you rub, the better the image transfer.
Rub paper with the back of a spoon

Rub paper with the back of a spoon


Check the transfer before removing the tape

Check the transfer before removing the tape


5. Finally, remove the paper and check out your beautifully transferred image! You can leave it as is, but you can also paint, stamp or collage to add extra creativity! Read more about how I finished the lettering after the transfer here: https://thepursesproject.wordpress.com/category/adding-her-name-how-to-a-clumsy-attempt-at-sewing/
Name on altered purse done with Citrasolv transfer

Name on altered purse done with Citrasolv transfer

TIPS
1. I tried Citrasolv on FABRIC with a copy of a photo, WORKED GREAT.
2. I tried Citrasolv on a STRETCHED CANVAS and couldn’t for the life of me get a clear transfer.
If you have any tricks for this, please let me know.
3. I used Citrasolv with copies on PAPER and a WOOD PANEL, WORKED GREAT.
4. Remember, use the back of the spoon and go over areas more than once.
5. Print lettering in MIRROR IMAGE and the lettering will reverse correctly after the transfer.
6. You can always skip the Citrasolv, just print/copy an image and Mod Podge it directly on to
the surface. Citrasolv is best used when you want to see the background through the image.
7. Citrasolv is non-toxic, but work in a well ventilated area.

Many thanks for your time with me today!
Live Creatively,
Jamie Howell

How to make an Altered Purse for The Purses Project

The Purses Project is a community arts project inspired by my grandmother who I lost to ovarian cancer. It is my goal to reach out to others who have lost a significant female to cancer and embark on a creative journey together by creating altered purses that tell the story of our remarkable women (our mothers, sisters, grandmothers, aunts, daughters, friends and mentors) lost to cancer. Join me by creating an altered purse which creatively shares the amazing life story of your beloved and significant woman lost to cancer. In sharing your loss, you reflect and continue her abiding legacy.

mixed media/altered purse by Jamie Howell for The Purses Project

mixed media/altered purse by Jamie Howell for The Purses Project


I’m sure my grandmother would be embarrassed by the attention but the second altered purse in her honor is finished! In this post, I wanted to detail the how-to’s and some of the things I learned along the way. The question you may be wondering is–
Why TWO purses? Just how many purses do I have to make for this project?
You only need to make ONE purse, but I wanted to experiment, learn mixed media techniques and be able to offer a little advice to purse makers so I decided to have double the fun! Creating an altered/mixed media purse reflects the trend among women in scrapbooking, art journaling, mixed media art and various other creative ways preserve memories and tell our stories. The truth is women are creating like never before and mixed media is a popular form of feminine expression.

Now, let’s begin the tutorial
1. Go on a treasure hunt: First, find a purse that belonged to your significant female. If one is not available, scout out purses at Ebay, antique stores, clearance bins, Goodwill or garage sales. Next, Gather a few photos, memorabilia, objects, etc. that belonged to your significant female. Gather other favorites things like songs, colors, accessories, sayings, etc. Shop your local craft store for fun embellishments like stamps, scrapbook paper, etc.

Goodwill purse

Goodwill purse


My photos

My photos


A few crafty supplies

A few crafty supplies


2. Wipe the purse surface with alcohol. Lightly sand the purse, tape off any areas you do not want to paint and apply a coat of gesso to the desired areas. (This step can be optional depending on how you choose to do your purse. You can also simply start attaching photos with Mod Podge to the purse surface but if you plan to paint, you will need to gesso the surface first). Allow to dry.
Gather a few supplies for painting your altered purse

Gather a few supplies for painting your altered purse


Tape off anything you want unpainted

Tape off anything you want unpainted


Apply one coat of gesso

Apply one coat of gesso


Let it dry by propping open the painted areas

Let it dry by propping open the painted areas


3. Now the fun part–start painting, gluing scrapbook papers, stamping, etc. I created a basic background by quickly painting with yellow, white and purple acrylic paint and allowing the colors to blend together. I used white spray paint with a vintage doily and confetti ribbon to make interesting texture on the background. I also attached bits of an old lace curtain with Mod Podge.
Lace on altered purse

Lace on altered purse

Quick and simple background for altered purse

Quick and simple background for altered purse


Spray paint over a doily for interesting texture

Spray paint over a doily for interesting texture


4. I made black and white and color copies of my photos and used Mod Podge to adhere the copied photos to the purse. Play around with the arrangement of photos and objects until you feel satisfied, then glue. I created a mixed media portrait of my grandmother by gluing the copied photo of her to scrapbook paper (w/Mod Podge) then once dry, painting over the photo with thinned down acrylic paints. The butterfly wings are adhesive backed canvas pieces purchased from the scrapbook section at Michael’s Arts and Crafts. I painted the wings with acrylic paint and outlined with glitter paint. I added the stitch lines and wrote my grandmother’s favorite saying “Be Pertty” in black gel pen.
Detail of portrait. Mixed media/altered art purse by Jamie Howell for The Purses Project

Detail of portrait. Mixed media/altered art purse by Jamie Howell for The Purses Project


5. Here’s a little tip: the leather purse needed a little support while I was working on it especially to keep it flat when I was gluing on the photos so I inserted a stack of magazines into the purse keep it firm while working and for drying.
6. I printed my grandmother’s full name out from a word document. You can use the lettering as is, cut it apart and glue it down. In my case, I printed the lettering in MIRROR IMAGE (an option when selecting to print) and did a Citrasolv transfer on to canvas paper. I will post the steps for this fun technique in my next post. I detail how I did the stitching around her name in the this post: https://thepursesproject.wordpress.com/category/adding-her-name-how-to-a-clumsy-attempt-at-sewing/
Name on altered purse done with Citrasolv transfer

Name on altered purse done with Citrasolv transfer


6. The other paper items like the restaurant check (my grandmother was a waitress) and a photo of her vintage Falcon are all attached with Mod Podge. Heavier and more dimensional items like the spoon and yellow roses are attached with E6000.
Attach paper with Mod Podge and heavier items with E6000

Attach paper with Mod Podge and heavier items with E6000


7. I hand painted the powder puffs (from the Coty face powder my grandmother used) and the coffee stains on the restaurant check. I added another coat of Mod Podge to seal the surface and keep everything well attached. I outlined the edges of the purse with black glitter paint (reminiscent of the sparkly black glitter heels in my grandmother’s closet) and let everything dry overnight.
detail of 2nd purse in honor of my grandmother

detail of 2nd purse in honor of my grandmother


8. To finish I added two more items to symbolize my grandmother’s life as a landlord and my adoption in to her family. I added the vintage key with a simple jute string and created an altered tag signifying my adoption by my father (a loving sacrifice by my dad that indicates the character she instilled in her children). I Mod Podged a small copy of my birth certificate on to a canvas tag and used parts of the certificate to create a ladder (a symbol of my dad’s profession as a paint contractor) and attached a copy of my hand from childhood reaching for the ladder.
Mixed media tag for altered purse

Mixed media tag for altered purse

Key on altered purse

Key on altered purse


And Finished! It’s as simple as that. Why not create your own unique version today? Remember, this is MY creative expression–you may want to explore a totally different avenue like sewing and IT”S ALL GOOD! You will discover new things about your beloved female as well as yourself!
mixed media/altered purse by Jamie Howell for The Purses Project

mixed media/altered purse by Jamie Howell for The Purses Project


Making a purse for the project is not only about your significant female but can provide healing for unresolved grief. Trust me, I was the first one that said,
“Oh, I can do this. My grandmother died over 20 years ago, I’ve already dealt with it”.
I can’t begin to tell you how healing and empowering making the purse has been for me (creativity and healing is well documented). Everyone’s journey will be different, but I would love to hear your story of creativity and healing through this project.
Many thanks for your time with me today.

Live Creatively,
Jamie

In the Studio: Mixed Media of Fearless Frida Kahlo

Today in the studio, I decided to do a little mixed media piece honoring my favorite female artist, FRIDA KAHLO. If you are a woman artist, Frida awakens something in you to be different and more daring. Frida’s life and artwork reminds us as women to BE FEARLESS. In photographs of her, she seems to exude confidence and defiance and all the while sporting her famous unibrow (I’ve added a few of those photos at the end of this post). But first, here’s the steps I took to create this mixed media canvas.
vogue cover of frida kahlo

I started with a 12×12 canvas and painted the background with Aqua Green and lots of white. Next, I added some stencilling with white spray paint and painted playful flowers like the ones Frida often wore in her hair. Gray and white drybrushing helped me to distress the background. I splashed on a watery mix of white satin paint and watched as it dripped down the canvas.
background for frida kahlo

I printed out an image of Frida Kahlo and hand colored her lips and flowers with yellow and red Prismacolor pencils. I used the Aqua Green and white mixture to dry brush around the image edges. A toothbrush helped me splatter small dots of white paint on the image and on the canvas.
hand colored copy of frida kahlo

I printed other images like quotes by Frida and Day of the Dead skulls to celebrate Frida’s Mexican culture. I painted the skulls with a watery mix of yellow, pink and purple and let dry. I also drybrushed around the edges of the quote and let dry. I cut all of the images out and moved them around on the canvas until I was satisfied with the layout.
painted skulls for frida kahlo mixed media

layout for frida kahlo mixed media

I attached the images to the canvas with Mod Podge and let dry.
detail of frida quote

I “inherited” these cool brass letter stencils from my mom after a cleanning frenzy. They are great because they connect together so the word is perfectly spaced and lined up. Love it! I used black acrylic paint and a stencil brush to add the words, BE FEARLESS
stencils for f. kahlo mixed media

I added more distressing by drybrushing with gray, then white and splattered small dots of white and yellow paint all around the canvas (via a toothrush transformed into cool aplattering tool).
detail of frida mixed media

The finished canvas was allowed to dry and then a layer of Mod Podge painted over the entire surface.

Fearless Frida, mixed media painting by Jamie Howell

Fearless Frida, mixed media painting by Jamie Howell

This canvas is being given as a birthday gift to an artist friend of mine but I want to make another for my studio as a constant reminder to BE FEARLESS in my creativity!
To finish this post, here’s some photos from Pinterest that show Frida at her confident best. Don’t you love the flowers and beautiful jewelry she adorned herself with?

Source: wissen.de via Gabriella on Pinterest

Source: fanpix.net via Barb on Pinterest

Source: indulgy.com via Nuria on Pinterest

Life Imprints Activity: Recalling Memories of your Significant Female

blog pic  may 16 IMG_20130427_121452
On Grief and Life Imprints
During my graduate studies for this project, I found a technique used in grief therapy called Life Imprints. Life Imprints works on the basis of recalling memories and giving honor to what we have experienced in loss and transition. Many times loss happens quickly or in a way that we are in a heightened coping state and we are not aware of how we are being affected in the moments of the process. Women especially are not given adequate time to grieve as responsibilities to family and career take importance over self-care.
Bearing witness and telling our story is powerful for both us and the significant woman we’ve lost to cancer. In this process, I wanted to tell my grandmother’s story in a way that would honor all that she was, even the parts of her I didn’t fully know. I answered the Life Imprint questions to help me retrace my memories and begin my grandmother’s purse. I “rediscovered” my grandmother and gained confidence in my legacy of womanhood. While making my grandmother’s purse, I experienced the power of art to heal in that I started remembering things about my grandmother that were lost in my memory. Suddenly, I could remember with accurate detail her facial expressions, the smell of her house, the violets she kept in the kitchen window and so many other sweet things. Those sweet memories reclaimed began to replace the memories of her last days with cancer and I began to focus on identifying her without cancer.
If you are starting a purse for the project, consider taking a few moments privately to trace the imprint of your significant female in your life by answering these Life Imprints questions in a journal or notebook:

The person whose imprint I want to trace is:
This person has had the following impact on:
My mannerisms or gestures:
My ways of speaking and communicating:
My work and pastime activities:
My feelings about myself and others:
My basic personality:
My values and beliefs:
The imprints I would most like to affirm and develop are:
The imprints I would most like to relinquish or change are:

How do I begin a purse for the project?

The Purses Project is only in the beginning stages and needs your unique story to grow and become a powerful message concerning significant women lost to cancer and the grief we share. If it’s time to tell your story of the remarkable woman you’ve lost to cancer, here’s how you can begin.
HOW DO I BEGIN A PURSE?
• Gather photos, personal items, letters or mementos that belonged to or represent the significant female (photo/color copy the originals). Find a purse that belonged to your significant female or buy a purse that would match her style or taste.
IMG_20130419_193653

• Clean the purse with alcohol and a cotton ball and then prime the purse with gesso (found at Michael’s Arts&Crafts). You can skip the priming step if you want to keep the original purse color.
IMG_20130426_200901

IMG_20130426_202828

IMG_20130427_130552

• Now, let your creativity rule—Paint the background if you wish, and decoupage photos and personal items to the purse surface. Paper items can be easily attached with Mod Podge and heavier items with adhesive such as E6000 (available at Michael’s Arts & Crafts or Home Depot). The purse can be altered or embellished with paint, stamps, stencils, mixed media objects, collage, drawing, sewing and many other art tools and techniques.
blog version blog pic  may 16 IMG_20130427_121452

• Names are important in this project, so the full name of the significant female should be in a prominent position on the purse, creatively displayed and easy to read from a viewing distance. Also, the full name of the purse maker should be included on the back of the purse.
blog version completed purse
blog version of name on back
• The purse is open to personal interpretation and should be a visual celebration of the life of the significant woman. Consider not only her family roles but her significance in her culture, community and world.
• When you have finished your purse, please consider submitting the purse for future exhibit purposes or simply upload a picture to the online gallery (under construction). Our goal is to obtain 50 completed purses and seek a gallery for an exhibit.
purse complete for blog
Thank you for embarking on this journey. Please contact me if you need support, advice, tips or tricks for completing your purse.
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NEXT BLOG POST: Options for finding a purse