Sunday, October 23, 2011

Two-Piece Stencil Tutorial (Octopus)

Some of Olive's larger stencils (like the Squid, Octopus and large trees) come in two or three pieces.  This may be intimidating to some people, especially beginner stencilers.  But I (Olive) will show you that it is really very simple.  I recently stenciled two octopuses and some crustacea in a client's home.  It was for her little boy's bedroom and bathroom - perfect for fun sea creatures!

1. Once you have your supplies laid out (paint, stencil brush/roller, paper towels for blotting, q-tips, water, drop cloth, etc.), you can use a pencil to mark on the wall where you want the image.  It may be hard to see in the photo because the plastic is clear, but you should be able to make out the left side of the Octopus.

I usually use Elmer's Spray Adhesive for stencils because it ensures a cleaner line, especially for the more delicate designs like the Octopus.  *Remember - it is better to spray outdoors and wait 60 seconds before sticking it on the wall.

2. Begin applying paint.  Remember to blot it off on a paper towel several times before going to the wall.  For this stencil, I used a sponge stencil brush.  You can also use a roller, but you have less control over paint coverage, and may get leaking more easily.  But if you're in a time crunch, a roller will be faster.

Dab at the wall lightly until you have covered the whole stencil.  Check to make sure you have even coverage before removing the stencil from the wall. Wait 10 minutes or so for the paint to dry before lining up the second piece, so that you don't smudge your work.  You can fix any mistakes or bleeding while you wait.

3.  Line up the second piece.  There will be a slight overlap so that you
can see exactly where to place it.  The photo at right shows the slight overlap at the top and where I have begun painting towards the bottom.

When you are finished painting, remove the stencil.  Fix any spots from bleeding with a Q-tip and water as soon as possible.  It is much easier to fix mistakes while the paint is still wet.

If there is a line down the middle of the stencil from where the pieces overlapped, you can dab over and around it with your brush to even out the color.

Et Voila!  You're done!


Buttercup the dog seemed to like the Octopus...  And the bathroom looked very cute with lobsters and crabs scuttling all over!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Gradient Stenciling Tutorial

Doing gradient shading on a stencil is really easy once you learn how simple it is. Gradient shading gives the effect of light to dark or vice versa.  It looks especially nice on the large flower stencils.

*If you have never stenciled before, I suggest practicing your technique on a piece of cardboard so that you can go to the wall with total confidence (the stencils are reusable, so don't worry about getting paint on it).

Here are the steps:

1. Get all of your materials together:

    a) Protective cover for your table (newspaper works)
    b) Elmer's spray adhesive (or painter's tape).  I prefer spray adhesive because it
        helps to make sure you don't get paint leaking behind the stencil
    c) Paint - you can use craft paint (the red bottle) or interior wall paint (Home
        Depot sells these great little bottles for $2 - $3 as samples)
    d) A sponge or bristle stencil brush (I like the sponge because it's very easy to
        use and it covers space quickly).  You can buy these at craft stores like
    e) Paint tray - anything flat will do (paper plate, plastic takeout top, etc.)
    f) A stack of paper towels to blot your brush on
    g) A cup of water and some Q-tips for corrections (if needed)

Stenciling Supplies

2. Pour your colors onto the paint tray.  For this example, I will be stenciling Peony no. 2 (medium size).  For gradient shading, you really only need two to three colors (dark, medium, light, or just dark and light).

3. Adhere your stencil to the wall.  I have used spray adhesive, but you can also use painter's tape.

The stencil has been adhered to the wall with spray adhesive


4.  For this stencil, I am going from darker in the center to lighter around the edges.  I have put my sponge brush in the red with a little bit of the peach.  Make sure to blot your sponge/brush well on the paper towels before taking it to the wall.  If there is too much paint, it could seep behind the stencil.

5.  Take your brush to the wall and dab lightly in the center of the stencil.  Don't press too hard, or again, this could cause leaking.  *IMPORTANT:  It is vital that you use a dabbing motion as opposed to a sweeping motion (like you would if you were using a regular paintbrush).  A sweeping motion could cause paint to build up in the cutout shapes and leak behind.  That's why stencil brushes are made with a flat top - perfect for dabbing perpendicular to the wall.

6. Continue to apply the paint, going evenly outward, adding more of the medium color with each application (peach in my case).

At this point I am only using the peach color
7.  Once you have gotten to the point where you are using only the medium color, you can begin to add the white (or the lightest color).

8. Continue applying paint, adding or subtracting white so that it blends nicely.  *NOTE: You should try to finish stenciling in one shot because it's easier to blend the paint while it's still wet.

The stencil is almost finished
9.  Once you have finished, you can go back and do extra blending if need be.

Finishing touches

10.  When you are satisfied with your paint job, slowly peel the stencil from the wall.

11.  If you see any spots where the paint bled behind the cutouts, fix it ASAP (it's easier to clean up if it's still a bit wet).  Just dip a Q-tip in the cup of water and carefully rub it across the unwanted paint.

12.  Once you have finished with cleanup (if it was necessary), stand back and look at the beautiful job you did!

All done!

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Dogwood Trees are blooming!

One of the most beautiful flowering trees, in my opinion, is the dogwood tree.  It can be found throughout North America, Europe, Siberia, China, Japan and the Himalayas.  It has even been named the state flower of North Carolina.  I was reminded of the dogwood tree yesterday when I caught a few minutes of the Masters Golf Tournament on TV.  The tournament was held in Augusta, Georgia.  As I watched, the gorgeous white flowers of an outstretched dogwood branch caught my eye.  It looked as if it was trying quite hard to be noticed (and it should be) as it was reaching out over one of the sand traps.  I had forgotten what early bloomers dogwoods are, and I vowed that I would not miss them this year.

A great place to see dogwoods without having to drive all over the countryside is Central Park (NYC).  There are a number of them there.  Here are their locations: Central Park Dogwoods.  I will be visiting this Spring, for sure!  I'll visit again, of course, for the Silver Linden Tree.  There are several of those as well.  But they bloom later (late June through July).  I go to visit the Lindens for the scent alone.

What I believe makes the flowering dogwood so beautiful is that the flowers bloom before the leaves come in.  You can see each individual perfectly in its simple elegance as it reaches toward the sky.  What an unfortunate name for such a lovely tree!  Of course there are several theories: 1) in Europe, the bark of the tree was once used to treat mange on dogs - yuck!  2) the name could have been derived from the word dagwood, which was the name of a skewer-like tool that was made from the wood of the tree  3) it could have come from the word dogberry, which once referred to berry-like fruit that was essentially worthless.  None of these are very romantic...

Dogwood Branch stencil
Odd name aside, it's so lovely I had to make a stencil out of it!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

For New Yorkers (and visitors): West Elm & Etsy Event!

Everyone and anyone is invited to the West Elm We Love Handmade Art event!  The beautiful furniture company West Elm is hosting a one-day-only pop-up event featuring designers from Etsy in their Manhattan store at Broadway and 62nd Street on March 31st.

The event is being curated by Remodelista, and will be catered.  Sign up for free HERE if you are coming (to help the caterers).

Olive Leaf Stencils will be there!  Come meet Olivia and other awesome Etsy designers.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Peruvian Textiles

Last year I took a trip to Peru.  The main attraction was, of course, Machu Picchu, the lost city of the Incas.  It was one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen.  It is hidden in the Andes at almost 8,000 feet above sea level.  My party and I had to chew on coca leaves to help us breathe while climbing the most treacherous mountain upon whose summit I have actually trod (Huayna Picchu).  The leaves really do work well, and the tea is delicious!  The climb was certainly worth it because at the top, one can look down and see the Incan city, or simply look around to see the surrounding peeks that stretch on forever.

Aside from the amazing Machu Picchu, my favorite part of the trip was discovering the Peruvian textiles.  The best market I visited was in Pisac.  There were hundreds of vendors selling a variety of Peruvian crafts.  But one must have an eye for quality when looking for textiles.  There are the textiles that most people probably associate with Peru; the brightly colored blankets in magenta and greens and reds.  Those are not made with natural dyes, however.  I was keeping an eye out for the natural ones that use plant and insect dyes.  The Pisac market had everything I was looking for.  I could hardly close my suitcase!

One of our taxi drivers showed us a hidden little community of weavers.  We got a demonstration on how freshly shorn alpaca wool becomes colored yarn.  The lovely weaver woman, dressed in her traditional clothing and hat, began by washing the wool.  She grated a large root, which looked like a white yam, into a bowl of water.  Apparently this root works as well as any detergent.  I am fairly sure it is called Sacha Paraquay, but I can't find it anywhere here!  The wool started out brown and became pure white with just a few minutes of scrubbing.  Brilliant!

She then showed us the natural dyes.  There were bowls of each plant with a ball of yarn on top to show what colors they produce.  There were all kinds of dried flowers and leaves.  These get crushed or ground to bring out the colors.  In a small covered area, there were large cast iron pots filled with boiling dyes.  Behind them was all the dyed yarn, hanging to dry.

Among the bowls of dried plants and leaves was a bowl full of dried grayish-black berries.  But the ball of yarn in the bowl was a rich red color.  I asked how they got bright red dye from gray berries.  The weaver took a few of the berries and crushed them in her hand.  The result looked just like blood.  Then I realized they weren't berries, they were little bugs!  I found that very inspiring.  Everything they need can be found in nature.

My next trip to Peru will involve the purchasing of as many textiles as I can send back to the States.  I have noticed that if you find them here, they are incredibly expensive (hundreds of dollars for one small blanket).  I could not believe how low the prices were in Peru.  It was like stealing.

My next stencil patterns might be based on South American designs.  Their designs are simple and complex at the same time.  And if anyone knows where I can find Sacha Paraquay, I'd love to know.  We can introduce an even greener detergent!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Olive Tree

The name Olive Leaf Stencils was inspired, clearly, by the olive tree.  I saw my first olive groves when I was in Italy.  I took a little detour to Assisi on my way to Rome, which turned out to be the most wonderful excursion of my trip to Italy.  Assisi is probably best known for being the birthplace of St. Francis, who was born in 1182.  It is a little walled-in village that was built into a hillside overlooking Umbria.  Its grand basilica (Basilica di San Francesco), one of Italy's best-loved monuments, was finished in 1253, taking only 25 years to build.  For a church of its size, and back then, 25 years was a very short time.  This is a testament to how well-loved and adored St. Francis was.

Apart from the beautiful architecture and view, I loved that there was a very serene and warm feeling there.  Of course, the spring sun certainly helped.  Assisi is said to be one of those sacred places of peace.  

I wandered up to the very top, which is where I came across small olive groves.  The trees were so gorgeous with their silvery leaves and dark little fruits.  It was love at first sight!

I am so grateful for having been able to see these wonderful trees.  I live in New York, and 99% of US olives grow in California, so it would be unlikely that I would see them in the States.  Plus, walking through olive groves in Italy just seems perfect.  I love everything Olive, even the color.  How could you go wrong?  Olive oil, olive tapenade, dirty martinis, olives straight from the jar... I put olive oil in my hair once a week to condition it.  In a pinch, I've even used it as a makeup remover.  It's so good for the skin.
Olive Leaf Extract is also really great for your health.  It is an antioxidant and good for prevention.  It has been known to lower blood pressure, protect against colds, flu and viral infections.  You can also make olive leaf tea.  The dried leaf photo above is from a wonderful Etsy store that I came across: Twig & Leaf Botanicals.  They sell beautiful organic herbs.  Personally, I will always take the herbal route to curing/preventing illness rather than taking antibiotics.  If they're organic too, you're going to get great health benefits.

Here are my Olive Tree, Branch and Leaf stencils, my ode to the lovely olive tree:

Friday, February 4, 2011

Ahhh, To Be at Sea...

NYC Feb. 2011
February in New York is probably my least favorite time of year to be alive.  It is the last month of true winter.  Although, I usually count March as "winter" too, but at least March is capable of pleasantly surprising you with the occasional warm front.  Of course, "warm" means like, 38 degrees.  February, however, is also often the coldest month.  I know that some people love winter, but most of those people can ski.  I would be happy if winter were over after Christmas.  This winter has been especially rough because since late December, we've had what seems like two major snow storms per week.  Very unusual.

Anyway, I find myself dreaming of lounging on a sailboat and drifting out on the warm seas.  I'd have a nice cocktail and perhaps be listening to Django Reinhardt.  I'd be lying on the deck to soak up the sun.  When I would grow bored, I might think about all the wonderful textures one can find on a sailboat...

I love the look of rope; miles of rope wrapped around and around.  And chains!  Old, rusty, heavy chains...

I like anything nautical, really.  I love the sailor stripes and the crisp whites.  I love anchors.  So, when I think about the lovely textures one sees on a boat, my mind immediately goes to stencils.  What kind of stencil can I make that would evoke a lovely day of sailing?

I also have this wonderful vintage Chanel necklace that makes me think of nautical chains.  So, with sailing and my necklace in mind, I came up with this one:

I can't wait to do more nautical-themed stencils!  And for SPRING!

Any ideas?