Sunday, January 13, 2013

Experiments gone wrong...sort of

When I was a freshman in high school I attended a very small school in a very small town in north Texas. The English teacher, Mrs. P., was the wife of the principal and was fairly strict and not liked by most students. I enjoyed the class, though, and even liked her as a person and teacher. She encouraged creativity among her pupils and I knew that was a good thing.

During that school year we read "Silas Marner" aloud in class and that classic became one of my favorites. After we finished the story, Mrs. P. separated us into groups for a special project. Each group was to create a replica of a newspaper that would have been typical of the early 19th century. Each group had an editor, main writer, advertising person, and distributor. Mrs. P. provided basic guidelines, plenty of encouragement, but only a few ideas. She expected us to accomplish this task with a minimum of help.

I could write a separate and very long entry about how stressful, yet fun, that project was. It involved a lot of research in libraries (for this was in that time long ago when computers were unheard of by most and the internet certainly didn't exist), hours spent with the other students in my group, learning to use a calligraphy pen, and quite a bit of frustation on my part. In the end, we produced a lovely newspaper representing the time period of the book and each member of my group was rewarded with an A+. Long after the project was finished, our paper hung on a wall in the school office for all to see.

But this entry really isn't about that newspaper. It's about experiments gone wrong.

When we created the newspaper, we had to research ways to "antique" the newsprint we used. We learned there were many ways to give the paper the desired look and we chose to use tea bags, water, paint brushes, and paper towels. The first few attempts were horrible. We left the paper in the tea not long enough, then too long. We discovered that writing on the paper after it had soaked in tea and dried was almost impossible and that we'd chosen the incorrect ink. With quite a bit of time and a lot of failures we hit on the right combination of tea, water, brushes, soaking time, drying time, ink, and nibs.

Almost 40 years have passed since I helped create that newspaper but this morning I decided to try my hand at making an antique looking postcard. The project didn't take too long but as the picture below shows, the result is less than spectacular.

The color is about right but the warping and smudged ink aren't impressive. I did use pigment ink but that's what I had on hand. Overall, I somewhat like the general appearance of the card. I'm going to put it under some heavy books and see if it flattens a little then mail it out to the person for whom it's intended. I want to know if it will withstand USPS abuse and that's the only way I know of to find out.

So lovely readers, what should I have done differently? Obviously pigment ink wasn't the best choice but what ink would have been better? And is there something I could have done to prevent the warping or is dealing with it after the fact the best way to go?

All in all I wouldn't call this a failure but a learning experience. "Learning experience" sounds so much better than "failure", doesn't it?

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