As you may know, we’ve started a new practice at wonderstrange: On the first Friday of the month, one of us introduces a brand new project, and for the next three Fridays, the rest of us put our own spin on the idea. On October 7, Sarah kicked things off with her insanely cool Bone Cathedral Inspired Chalkboard, which at heart was a project with three components: 1) a picture frame; 2) a garland of plastic skeletons from the dollar store; and 3) extreme awesomeness. After some consideration, I settled on this variation: Instead of a chalkboard, I would make a cool cork board with a two-headed skellie centerpiece. As for the extreme awesomeness, I just had to cross my fingers and hope for the best.
Of course, I can’t seem to do much of anything lately without adding some element of assemblage art, so as I started gathering my materials, I added in a metal arch for the top. If you would like to put an arch on a cork board near you, you could use any rounded, flat object you find at Goodwill or in your garage: A tin plate, a metal platter, the mesh screen from a flour sifter, and so on.
On that note, let’s talk materials for this project.
- A wooden picture frame from the dollar store or thrift shop
- A cork tile that is big enough for your frame or bigger (excess can be cut away with scissors)
- A skeleton garland from Dollar General (or two small plastic skeletons)
- A rounded metal object to serve as an arch
- Painters tape
- A ruler and a pencil
- Gesso or other primer
- Craft paint in your desired colors
- Chipboard (e.g. from the back of a legal pad) or thick card stock
- Metallic silver embossing enamel, an ink pad, and a heat gun
- A paper flower or other embellishment for the top
Prepping & painting the cork board
1. Although I am one of the more impatient people I know, I strongly recommend starting your cork board with a coat of gesso or other primer. Otherwise, the cork will drink your craft paint like a teenage boy guzzling milk and then take off in the car to do things you don’t want to know about.
2. Put down a coat of white paint.
3. Determine how thick you want your stripes to be. Personally, I recommend some version of “not very.” For my piece, I made 3/4″ stripes because I had 1 1/2″ painter’s tape in my garage, which I knew I could cut in half with my paper trimmer.
4. Grab your ruler and mark the increments you’ve chosen (e.g. 3/4″) on either side of the cork. Block off your stripes with the tape.
5. Paint the exposed stripes black (or your preferred color). Be prepared to use ridiculous excesses of paint, as if the entire tube only cost a dollar. (Oh wait. It does.) As soon as you finish painting – i.e. while the paint is still very wet – peel the tape up. Otherwise, big problems.
6. Now, grab your nearest old toothbrush and spatter your cork with several colors of paint that work for your design. This part is fun but messy, so be sure to do it over a sheet of newspaper in your garage or on a piece of incredibly expensive marble tile at your archenemy’s house.
6. When the paint dries, cut your cork to fit your frame (if / as necessary), then set the cork aside.
Painting & distressing the frame
1. At the start of this project, I had an 8×10 frame from Goodwill just sitting in my garage, doing nothing in particular. I sanded it, applied two coats of red paint, and put the frame back in my garage, this time with the garage door open to help the paint dry faster.
2. If you like a super-distressed look, which I do, water down some black acrylic paint and apply it to your barely-dry frame. Leave little pools of standing water anywhere you want major distress. Wait about five minutes, then wipe up the excess with a rag and run your brush over the wet wood to smooth out the appearance. In short order, you will have a thoroughly distressed frame.
Adding the arch
Because I make assemblage art, I have weird metal objects in baskets and drawers all over my house. This is how I got my arch: I dug this red piece out of a drawer, and then I pulled the seashell piece off of the tubular piece with my bare hand. Go, go cheap soldering.
If you happen to luck into a pre-drilled piece like my seashell, fantastic; otherwise, mark the spots where you want to attach the rounded piece to your frame, then drill and screw.
Assembling your cork board
At this point in the project, my cork board looked like this:
To finish it off, I did as follows:
1. Using super glue, I attached two skulls, one rib cage, and two arms to the top of the frame, just like you see below. (I had already applied a bit of white paint to tie the skeleton parts in with the white stripes. I had also painted the eye sockets black.)
When using super glue, remember to press the part down into the glue and HOLD for a good 30 seconds, because if you don’t, the super glue will laugh at you. And be less than super. And possibly be less than glue.
2. To add visual interest to the bottom of the frame, I wanted to introduce metal plates or corner pieces into the composition. I felt certain I had seen some metal corners at my local scrapbooking store – and in fact I had – but what I had not seen was the price tag on those metal corners, which scared me more than the haunted house that made me cry when I was 9.
Fortunately, my friend Russell Black was with me at the scrapbooking store, and he had the excellent idea to make faux-metal corners on the cheap. (He’s smart like that.) If $8 dollar embellishments make you cry, too, just do what we did. Cut a square-ish shape out of chipboard, but make it a little long on the sides. Cut the piece in half diagonally, then use scalloped scissors and cut again. Pat the chipboard with an ink pad, pour on silver embossing powder, and go to town with your heat gun.
Russell used Stampendous’ Aged Silver Embossing Enamel, by the way, and after seeing how it looked with a black wash on top, I went to the counter and bought some for myself.
3. As the final touch, I added a flower and two embossed silver branches to the arch above the skulls. And voila! An altered, Day-of-the-Dead inspired cork board that you can make in one night!