Plastics stimulate creativity
Polymer clay makes modelling fun
Who can forget the joy of kneading modelling clay? While a staple, of nursery teachers everywhere, the good old self-hardening clay has kept up with the times and is now prized even by established artists.
Along with clay and plaster, modelling enthusiasts have access to a wide range of polymer (read plastic) clays with which to express themselves.
Most of these clays are made up of fine particles of PVC bonded by a plasticizer; they have different textures and aspects but they share a common feature: they can be hardened, by baking them in a household oven at temperatures of approximately 110 - 150° C, into solid objects which are not sensitive to light or humidity.
Some of these clays, namely those which are translucent or transparent, are particularly popular with fans of "caning", a technique which involves creating multicoloured patterns, iridescence and other types of marbling, in rolls, and then used to create costume jewellery.
One of the best-known clays, the classic Fimo, is valued for its malleability and versatility. However, miniature and scale model enthusiasts prefer other, finer textured variants of the clay.
The latest addition to the modelling clay family, Aquasoft, has a lower density than the others, which enables it to float on water. It is ideal for making bath-time with toddlers even more fun, thanks to "home-made" toys.
Acrylic paints revolutionise the visual arts
Originating in the workshops of Flemish painters, oil painting reigned unchallenged over the world of the Fine Arts for over five centuries. It was only in 1955 that Henry Levinson, a Cincinnati-based manufacturer of paints for artists, revolutionized the art with the first water-dilutable acrylic paint, christened Liquidex.
The paint could be used in thick or thin layers, on a multitude of materials and dried easily. In short, acrylic paints had almost all the advantages of their oil-based counterparts, without the drawbacks. These characteristics made it an instant hit with art schools and with modern-art celebrities such as Andy Warhol and Jackson Pollock. Pierre Alechinsky, who discovered its capabilities in New York in 1965, popularised its use in Europe.
Nowadays, acrylic paints have reached audiences outside of the art world, all the way to the world of interior decoration.
They occupy a prominent place in the world of arts and crafts, appearing in various formulations suited to many aspects and applications: the metallic Marabu Do-it spraycan, luminescent acrylic paints which absorb light and reflect it in the dark, Puffy pens for drawing on wood, paper, fabric, textiles, ceramics and more.
Shrink plastic, a tough cookie you can bend to your will
Whether you know it as "crazy plastic" or "shrink plastic", it is a delight for the young and old alike, offering a unique activity combining drawing, colouring and baking enamels, without any hassle!
The magic happens when you place a sheet of heat shrinkable plastic which has been coloured and cut to the shape of the drawing, into the oven.
After all kinds of contortions and convulsions, the film shrinks to about a seventh of its initial size while gaining in thickness, and finally turns into a hard material with a shiny finish.
Shrink plastic is sold in arts and crafts shops as A4 or postcard-sized transparent or opaque sheets and is very easy to use. Simply draw a pattern on the front, the matte and rough side, and then colour it in with coloured pencils, watercolour pastel crayons, markers, gouache or hot-melt inks.
Things get a little trickier when it comes to baking the plastic in an oven heated to 150° C, and the final manipulations for flattening the design or giving it some shape require some safety precautions to be taken. Never mind if it comes out wrong; the plastic is so crazy you'll never be disappointed with the result and it'll just make you eager to start all over again!
Scrapbookers love foam board!
Foam board combines lightness and rigidity and is the go-to medium for light models and ephemeral frames.
Although mostly used by graphic designers in the worlds of publishing, advertising and architecture, a new generation of creatives has become taken with these boards made from rigid polyurethane or polystyrene foam and covered with a matte or glossy coated paper.
Foam board is easy to bend, cut, stick and is also the material of choice for home decorators and amateur frame makers. Scrapbooking, the hobby around framing pictures in a setting evoking a corresponding theme, can't get enough of it either.
Plastics, a mine for creative recycling
The new trend taking the world of arts and crafts by storm can be explained in three letters: "DIY for Do-it-yourself!". A clever blend of fun, relaxation, creativity and inventiveness, the trend for the "home-made" has apparently attracted one in two Europeans.
Regardless of the activity - small household jobs, sewing, decorating or visual arts - the search for the aesthetic, and frugality, naturally leads to renovation and the recycling of objects. However, this is not your old vintage trend which just put old objects back into circulation! Creative or artistic recycling aims to create a new use for old objects and materials.
Among "Do it yourself!" enthusiasts, there is a growing and very recognisable tribe of recycling artists, most often women, with their own blogs, tutorials and online shops such as BrikBrok or Ecoloquest.net. They love the materials of all "fallen objects": glass, wood, metals, cardboard and plastics, of course, in particular that from packaging. Their easily modified shapes make them an endless well of ideas and colourful, flexible, rigid but always light materials.