Blockbuster Idea

Find & Keep by Beci Orpin. ©2012 Hardie Grant Books.

Designer Beci Orpin has opened the doors on her creative life with her new book Find & Keep (Hardie Grant Books). It’s packed with insights on how she finds inspiration and what she does with it. Visit Beci’s studio and home and tag along as she works in her veggie patch, or trawls markets and op shops looking for objects that get her juices flowing.

The book also offers 26 cool craft projects graded in difficulty from easy to hard. Here’s one we couldn’t resist sharing – how to make a Wooden Block Family:

Wooden Block Family by Beci Orpin. Photos: © 2012 Chris Middleton.

Wooden Block Family
(Excerpt from Find & Keep courtesy of Hardie Grant Books.)

Although most of my work is two-dimensional, I also love to work in 3-D. I have often painted wooden objects for parts of my exhibitions and they always end up being my favourite bits. The wooden shapes in my exhibitions are custom-made, but it’s just as easy to create something similar using regular wooden blocks. They can be recycled or off cut pieces (try your local hardware store) or you could buy a set of children’s wooden blocks (preferably natural wood, not painted). Play around with the expressions you give them to make different personalities, as this will make the interactions between them lots of fun.

For the wood varnish, I use a water-based polyurethane varnish in a satin finish, available from craft stores.

You will need:
– wooden blocks
– sandpaper, if required
– pencil
– acrylic paint
– paintbrushes
– eraser
– wood varnish

1. Smooth off the blocks using sandpaper if necessary. You can also use sandpaper to remove varnish. The blocks I used had varnish on them, but as they were quite old I was able to paint over it. I liked their worn look and didn’t want to lose this.

2. Pencil out your ideas – draw the rough shapes of your blocks and have a play with different patterns and faces within the shapes. Think about colours and have a play around with the paints you have chosen.

3. Draw your designs on the blocks lightly in pencil. Don’t press heavily as you may leave a permanent impression on the wood.

4. Start painting. It can take a few goes to get used to painting the wood, so I usually keep a practice block to test colours and different paintbrushes on. This makes starting the final pieces less intimidating!

5. When you have finished painting, set the blocks aside to dry, then erase any visible pencil lines. Pencil can show through some light-coloured paints, but I like this – it adds to the hand-painted effect. You can cover it up with extra coats of paint, if you prefer.

6. If your blocks are going to be used by children, give them a few coats of varnish. This will also give your pieces a polished appearance. Once finished, go forth and build your wooden block empire!

Find & Keep by Beci Orpin, (Hardie Grant Books) is available from Booktopia

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