This morning I saw a pin over at Pinterest that reminded me of the art of decoupage–it was a chair decoupaged with pictures from Dr. Seuss books! Very cute!
Decoupage is the art of fixing pieces of paper, plastic, fabric, or other flat items, to a surface and then covering them with a coat of varnish or lacquer. A more modern medium is Mod Podge—an acrylic coating, but what I came to use most was regular school glue, sometimes full strength, sometimes diluted with water, depending on what I was covering. It works just as well, plus it doesn’t smell bad and is a lot cheaper.
You don’t hear much about decoupage these days, but I have found it a very useful technique throughout my teaching career. For example, this plant press has a decoupaged cover, which firmly affixes the image to the wood allowing it to endure a lot of use. In this case the flowers were placed together and scanned into my computer to make the image, which was then decoupaged onto the wood cover, however the individual floral pieces could have been decoupaged, one-at-a-time, onto the cover as well. I’ve done this with many other projects.
How to decoupage an item:
- Cover the background item with the fixative material. In the case of the plant press you would coat the wooden cover with the fixative. Use a brush full of Mod Podge or school glue. Put on a good thick coat.
- Arrange the item you want to affix. Press it down into the fixative and cover it with another coat of fixative.
- Keep adding items one-at-a-time and covering them with a layer of fixative until you have everything arranged. Let it dry for a day.
- Add another 1-2 coats, depending on how much use the item may get, allowing it to dry for a day between coats.
Some items only need one coat to hold everything securely in place, while other items may need several final coats.
Classroom Items perfect for Decoupage
(or coating with Mod Podge or glue):
- A Dress Up box: I covered a cardboard box with a patchwork of wallpaper samples. It lasted for years!
- Fall Leaves: I affixed pressed leaves to a piece of pine shelving and nailed a soda can lid pop off thingy for a hanger. You could also affix them to cardboard.
- Student made volcanos: After making papier-mache volcanoes, the children painted several coats of glue over the entire thing before doing the baking soda and vinegar thing. It protected their creation from the liquid.
- Beehive Oven: Preschoolers made a beehive oven to place in an adobe cabin we made. The oven was made of papier-mache. We coated it several times with Mod Podge, which made it easy to clean (marks wiped off), and much stronger. I don’t know how long it lasted because I left it in the classroom when I retired.
- Student made Planets: after painting the papier-mache planets, we hung them from the ceiling
- Pencil boxes designed for holding center materials, or your own special items: Buy a bunch of cardboard pencil boxes at the Back to School crunch—they are usually less than a dollar at WalMart (or you can get cigar boxes for free from tobacco stores). You can paint the boxes, decoupage the labels and/or thematic decorations to the boxes—they’ll last forever.
- Magazine holders
- Electric Clown: I made a papier-mache clown whose nose lit up when the students made a right connection on a wired worksheet.
- Student made Cardboard Robot: We did the same thing with a robot made of boxes. We decoupaged control panels, eyes, etc. and stuck a tape recorder inside which repeated a student researched, written, and recorded history of robotics.
- Furniture is easy to decoupage. You can make special tables for centers and other room areas.
- Map table: A small table purchased from a thrift store was covered with maps for a mapping center.
- Dr. Seuss Chair: Check out this classroom chair!
- Floor Mat—Here are some directions for making fabric decoupaged floor mats—no sewing needed!
Just about anything I made from papier-mache I ended up coating with Mod Podge or glue. It added a lot of strength to the item, and they all lasted for many years.
Student Made Gifts
Decoupage is a great medium for student made gifts, because no matter what they do, everything turns out looking great. It works for preschoolers through adults! Here’s a brainstorm list of gifts students could make throughout the year using this art technique:
• Clipboards for parent volunteers, school personnel, teachers
• Collage of pictures taken during the school year on a wooden plaque for Mother’s Day
• Memory Boxes
• Jewelry Boxes
• Flower Pots
• Scrapbook Covers
• Easter eggs
• Ceramic Plates
• Wooden Hangers
• Beach Pebbles
There is no end to what you can do with a good coat of glue. What items have you decoupaged?