The empty frame in the new office gallery wasn’t ignored for long. I had a little design in mind to try, and because it would be totally f-r-e-e with unused materials I already had on hand, I leapt right in to see what I could accomplish.
Octopus art, anyone?
Last spring, Pete and I went to American Museum of Natural History and saw something like a prehistoric octopus positioned into a small space (pictures from our trip were documented here, but there was no shot of the inspiring octo). Since that day, I wanted to create a print of an octopus so that the head and tentacles were maximized, but squished and twisted to fit into a large frame (I happened to have an IKEA RIBBA frame that would fit the bill perfectly). You might be thinking I’m crazy; I have no history of loving swarms of squirmy octopod, but the freeflowing tentacles are kind of cool, and I have to say that I’m drawn to their obscurity. I even tried attempting something like this a few months ago, but it kind of fizzled out (shown here, I took the time to hand draw an octo onto a map that I found at a yard sale, but it was kind of ho-hum).
In this, my second attempt, I pulled four pieces of watercolor paper from my stash (each page sized 15″x20″). The frame that I had is just about 29″x20″ and two pieces of paper, butted together side-by-side, would be just enough to fill the space. My plan was to have two pieces fill in the background of the frame (as opposed to buying a piece of posterboard), and the other two pieces would be dip-dyed into a gray dye that I had on hand and cut carefully to create an octopus.
I had a large plastic bin on hand to mix the dye in, and used a picture frame clamp to create a temporary support for the paper while it dried. I also considered using a clothing drying rack, but I happened to be doing laundry simultaneously and that plan just didn’t work out. Anyways, the pieces of paper clipped to the metal frame would be just fine, and would allow both sheets to drip back into the bin.
The dye that I used, as I mentioned, was some gray iDye that I had on hand (it’s the same Silver Gray dye that I’m using for the Bear Rug and liked for my bedroom curtains). I didn’t use a whole packet, but I had a little dye left over because of the way I was lightly dying the bear rug fabric, and that would be enough to saturate a small bin of water.
Mixing the dye with hot water from the kitchen sink, I positioned the plastic against the wall in the dining room (over plenty of towels just in case the bin had a crack that I wasn’t aware of).
I slowly began dip dying the papers together for a few seconds, and then clipping them back up to try in the heat of the air vent. With the first dip which fully consumed both sheets, you could hardly notice a difference.
But after it dried, I re-dipped the papers again and again into the dye, each time letting it sit longer and longer, 2-minutes, 15-minutes, 25-minutes, checking in on it regularly to make sure it was transforming into the gradient I had been envisioning.
By the time all colors were dyed and dried, I was basking in ombre action.
Because the edges of the water color paper saturated a little bit more than the main area, it’s a bit apparent that they’re two separate pieces of paper. Obviously it’s ideal to use one sheet of paper for fluidity, but remember that I was keeping this cheap by using materials that I had on hand (spending $0).
I proceeded optimistically, taping the two sheets together with heavy shipping tape and started to sketch an outline of the octopus on the back of the paper (because I didn’t want pencil marks on what would be the front of the paper, and because getting the octo shape with desired effect right-on, it took a bit of sketching and erasing and sketching and erasing, and I figured that my vigorous erasing would probably lighten up the dyed areas unevenly. And yes, I numbered the legs so that I didn’t flub up and end up with a nanopus (it happened in my first attempt, what can I say).
I kept the octopus hung on the wall for a few hours to make sure that the placement of the legs and proportions were good, and moved forward with creating the background paper to mount little octo onto. As I mentioned, I was going to use the same watercolor paper, although un-dyed because it was free and on-hand. To create a little extra pattern and interest, I cut the paper into 3″ sections with the help of my picture frame mat cutter, and then taped the pieces back together to create a vertical-line textured background (again, using the straight edge of the mat cutter to keep the pieces square and even as I taped).
Taped together securely (using shipping tape once again), I thought the background alone was looking pretty spiffy in the frame. Subtle, it’d be a nice little somethin’-somethin’ for the octo to pop off of. (Oh, and I’m waving in the reflection.)
Happy with the shape and scale and size of the octopus sketch that was still hanging on the wall, I used a sharp utility knife to carefully carve out the shape along the lines. Careful not to cut the overlapping areas, it turned out really nice, except then I turned the piece over and saw a few scuffy-looking cuts that would need to be cleaned up.
I blame that on the blade getting dull by the time I reached those parts, and corrected the issue by using a sharp blade to clean up and remove the scuffy parts (narrowing some of the legs, but in a way that didn’t effect the overall look of octo).
Also, it was more than slightly obvious that there were two pieces of paper taped together to make this little guy a reality, so I tried to minimize that effect by lining the dyed layer to the background layer lines. I think it helps.
Framed securely and re-hung on the office wall, it adds a nice little (animalistic) feature to the space. Cute, considering that it was free and totally DIYed.