August 28, 2017
A series of boxes are made special using cardboard, string and foil to produce an embossed design.

If you are searching for a novel technique that will add a personal touch to your room, why not look to the artists and one of their many inspiring styles. Bas relief, is a form of decoration that rises slightly off the surface. Cut-out cardboard shapes, string or yarn, anything you can glue onto your background surface can be used to produce a design, pattern or picture that is in relief. Fat globs of paint rise above the surface as well and can be interspersed throughout the design. Note that thick layers of paint take extra time to dry.

Bas relief can be applied to any flat surface. It’s an art form on its own, and is seen extensively in religious artefacts, ancient plaques and art pieces. Bronze and plaster are common materials. An embossed or low relief design creates a hand-turned decorative appearance on cabinetry and furnishings as well, showing up as elaborate trim or bold insets. An intricate and realistic representation of a scene from nature or group of people tells a story. These can be found on plaques or doors. Or, the decoration can simply be a familiar pattern composed of lines and shapes as you see here.

Kids have the best imaginations. I turn to their creative minds whenever I need an inspiration fix for a project I’m working on, and they never disappoint. Their enthusiasm is contagious too. Here’s an idea that you can make on your own, but if there are any children around, share the fun.

I was thinking about a novel way to display interesting artifacts that my Indian friend had brought from her homeland. Embossed silver patterns are popular in Indian décor, so this was a good starting point. To make the patterns more interesting, I used cardboard, string and aluminum foil to build the design. I found the boxes at a yard sale, already painted black. (You can make your own boxes from 3/8” MDF.)

Draw the pattern directly onto the side surfaces of the box using a pencil and ruler. Leave the top flat. Cut out shapes from cardboard; string works well for swirly lines. Glue these onto the surface to fill out your design. Cut out a piece of aluminum foil larger than your surface. Working on one side at a time, apply carpenter’s glue over the complete design surface, including the wood, cardboard and string. Lay down the foil, either side up, smoothing it and pushing it into the relief grooves with your fingers. Let dry. Cut off the excess foil, and repeat with the other sides. Rub black acrylic paint over the pattern with a soft rag, leaving more paint behind in the grooves. Buff and highlight the relief. This gives the impression of tarnished silver.

There are so many options. Instead of covering the shapes with foil, the cardboard can be coloured. Multiple shades of string or yarn plain or woven, or shapes formed by rolling bits of foil all give a raised design. This turns into a collage of relief work when paper is folded or curled so that it sits up above the surface. You can also cut or dig furrows to set the design below the surface.

Debbie Travis' House to Home column is produced by Debbie Travis and Barbara Dingle. Please email your questions to house2home@debbietravis.com. You can follow Debbie on Twitter at www.twitter.com/debbie_travis, and visit Debbie’s new website, swww.debbietravis.com.