In yesterday’s post I mentioned a workshop I attended earlier in the week. It was sponsored by one of the art clubs I belong to, and I really enjoyed it. I almost didn’t attend, thinking that the workshop topic — repoussage and repousse art — would be too difficult for me to even attempt, but as it turns out, it was not only do-able, even for me, but it was also a lot of fun.
What is repoussage? It’s a metal-working technique used in conjunction with chasing or embossing. That might not explain a lot, but basically it’s working a malleable metal or foil to create designs and pictures by pressing from the back to form raised places (repoussage) or from the front to form depressions (chasing). By using these two techniques together, talented artists can create magnificent works of art.
Instead of using metal and metal-working tools, we did our workshop repousse art with a 38-gauge foil.
The workshop leader told us that when she first tried repousse, she just used a very heavy-duty aluminum foil from the grocery store, so it’s easy to give the technique a try without investing much.
Here’s a look at three pieces I completed during the workshop:
Because these are shiny foil, they don’t photograph well. With the first small square, I used a template to form the squares, and then doodled a bit — similar to Zentangle — to come up with a design. I wasn’t thinking too much about what I was doing, just having fun trying out different things. For the long, slender piece, I used a plastic stencil, and the silvery one was drawn free-hand.
Once you have your picture or design, it’s wiped down with a wax shoe polish or an antiquing solution. This dark color goes into the grooves. The excess is then wiped away to leave the image you’ve created. Acrylic paint can also be used, but the instructor warned that it dries very quickly, so don’t try leaving it on too long.
The tools I used were ball styluses — which can be used in many crafts — but the best thing about repoussage in my opinion is that you can use just about anything to make impressions. For the silver foil piece above, I simply drew the design with a dull pencil, drawing mostly from the back to “push out” the design.
You do want to have a piece of cardboard or another surface with a bit of give to it so that you can make your impressions without tearing the foil.
What I probably enjoyed most about this workshop was that getting results was not only easy, but quick. Of course, if you wanted to do something very elaborate, you could spend hours on a project, but as a beginner, I had a chance to try out these tools and techniques and see the results then and there.
On my next grocery-shopping trip, I’ll probably bring home a roll of foil so I can play around with repoussage and try more detailed drawings.
A good video tutorial for the process can be found here, although this shows only the embossing techniques, not how they can be wiped down with polish.
But what do you do with these pieces afterward? They can be mounted and framed, of course, or they can be used as decorative pieces for boxes, or other items. Once you’ve seen and tried these basic techniques, you’ll see how versatile repoussage is and how much can be done with it.