Monday, November 25, 2013

NYSATA conference part 1 - Tooling Foil!

What a crazy few days!
'Marcel the Shell with Shoes On' made by an attendee at the tooling foil workshop I taught.
I've been in Albany NY for my annual NYSATA conference.  For the first time in years, the conference was an hour from my home, held in our capital/eastern region!   I'm on the Board of Trustees as a region rep, so my conference began with a BOT meeting Thursday night and I didn't stop until I drove home this afternoon. I taught three workshops of them (two of them hands-on), I came up with the idea for and arranged for a Region 6 sponsored 'Bling your Badge' table (which was a real hit!), and helped set up for a regional hospitality party.  And I attended some workshops, heard a fabulous speaker (and unfortunately missed the others due to conflicts), visited with the distributors, and attended a fun TASK party last night too.  It was a terrific conference, and I have so much to share that it will take two or three posts!
Tooling foil dog by workshop attendee
So I have a lot to tell you about, but I've chosen to start with one the hands-on workshops that I taught, "Oh What a Relief - Amazing Tooling Foil!"  We had an hour and 50 minutes, and I'm going to show you what my workshop participants learned and did!  All images in this post are of work done by my workshop participants.
Attendees started by drawing a plan on newsprint.  
Hint: for achieving deep relief, use enclosed shapes.  Pattern and texture will be added later.

Once the drawing is done, tape it to tooling foil, put a piece of felt underneath for padding, and trace it firmly with a pencil or pen.  Make sure you label the back, either with a Sharpie, or with a piece of tape.
 If a shaped piece is desired, cut with scissors about 1/2 inch outside of drawing, before removing drawing.   Sorry I'm demonstrating sidewaysin this pic!
 Smooth down edges on a flat surface, using a Popsicle stick or other flat tool.  This amazingly will lessen the sharpness of the edges.  I don't know why, but it works like a charm!
 Then retrace the lines more deeply, using a blunt pointed tool and two pieces of felt underneath.  Once that's done, you can begin tooling areas to bulge outward, working from the back, or areas to sink in, working from the front.  You can also smoothly flatten areas by tooling with a flat tool on a hard surface.  Again, make sure your back is labeled so you don't pop in something you meant to pop out!
 You can fold your felt to have more layers underneath, and continue to tool for very deep relief.  If you get a tear in the foil, tape it from the back.  It won't be visible when you are done.  You should tool every inch of the foil, even if it is just to flatten or smooth areas.  This distresses the metal and makes it a better surface for adding ink to accentuate the design.
You can add rich texture after the relief work is done, using a sharp pointed tool to add pattern or design.  I love the idea of the paisleys in the piece below.  I hope the creator of it sends me a photo when it is complete! 
 Such a variety of work!  Abstract designs, suns and moons, dragons, a dog, sunflowers, a Day of the Dead skull, an elephant, Marcel the Shell, some trees, a fish, some owls, and so much more.  Twenty-six participants, and no two pieces were alike! 
 Finally, time permitting, participants painted the foil lightly with hotel soap, painted it with black Speedball ink, and either rubbed it off with paper toweling, or let it dry and removed the ink with steel wool.   Here's a few finished pieces.  Don't you love the texture and pattern on this fish?
 Look at this coin!  What an original idea!!!! 
We did also talk about how to add selective color; I had several samples.  You can use permanent markers, but my favorite way to add color is to use acrylic paint mixed with Mod Podge to make it translucent and shiny.  When adding color with paint, use single brush strokes to lay on paint without smearing or removing the ink.  Brushing back and forth with cause the ink to smear and the color to get muddy.

And finally, we discussed ways to display the pieces.  You can glue the finished piece to mat board, or another alternative is to glue it to a dowel which inserts in a block of wood.   My students often punched holes in the finished piece, and added yarn, raffia, beads, and more, especially effective on masks. 

Everyone had a fabulous time, and was wonderfully successful.  I love being able to pay it forward by teaching workshops and I love seeing people leaving with a product that they are proud of!!


  1. It is great that you had almost 2 hours for your workshop --what a luxury to have that much time!! Love the fish!! Am looking forward to hearing more about the conference.

    1. Yes, they schedule double sessions for hands-on workshops if the presenter wants! Otherwise all sessions are 50 minutes.

  2. Nice, but what type of foil do you use and where do you get it? Did you buy your felt by the yard...the pieces look bigger than the standard craft sheets.

    1. The foil is 36 gauge tooling foil, which I purchased by the roll from either Nasco or School Specialty. Most art supply place will have it. You can also get copper, which I think is a little tougher to tool, or in a slightly thinner foil, you can get other colors, which are also easy to tool, though I like this the best.

      I did buy the felt by the yard; it was MUCH cheaper that way. I cut it into 9x12 sheets for this project, which was the size I cut the foil. I find that smaller sheets of foil are harder to tool (tougher to do the details) and when I did the mask project I've blogged about before, I actually gave the kids 12x-8" pieces of foil!

  3. I have students use a magazine or pad of newspaper instead of the felt.

    1. Thanks, Jen; yes, a lot of people use newspaper padding. I use felt because, with multiple layers, it is much more cushiony than newspaper and I believe as a result you are able to achieve much deeper relief. Just an opinion!! Someone also told me they used a mouse pad as cushion, which seems like it could work well too.