Stencils have been around since the 8th century and thought to be first introduced by the Chinese. They have shown to be a proven and long reaching method of adding ornate decoration for centuries in all areas of design.
From Arts and Crafts styling to highly ornamental and detailed Victorian designs, stencils have held their own while other methods of decoration have come and gone throughout the decades.
Being used to decorate walls, ceilings, furniture and even exterior concrete to add beauty and detail, stenciling has gained in popularity in recent years in even the wealthiest of homes and businesses.
Raised stencils are a unique twist on standard stenciling simply because you apply joint compound through the stencil openings to create a raised pattern instead of using paint. The material of these specialty stencils is much thicker than standard painting stencils which allows a significant profile to be achieved. Ordinary craft or painting stencils usually don’t work well for this application.
Raised stenciling, combined with ornamental plaster from molds was featured in our beloved “White House” at the turn of the 20th century when it graced the walls of the Red Room before Eleanor Roosevelt decided to re-decorate.
There is not much further information as to the history of Raised Stenciling and no indication as to why it did not become a popular method of decorating walls, but re-introduction of this lost art in 2004 took the country by surprise and has now become on of the most popular and interesting wall treatments of our time.
Raised Stenciling is not limited to walls and ceilings however. It finds its way in to art forms of all kinds! Used with wood putty or “Wood Icing” on furniture, it creates the look of hand carved designs that fool even the most experienced carpenter! Used on concrete, it appears that the design has been hand carved as a raised element.
Creating fabulous artwork on canvas using plaster stencils is easy and inexpensive.
To plaster stencil on canvas, choose canvas that is mounted to board rather than canvases that are stretched over wooden frames. You need that hard surface to plaster on.
Prime the canvas just as you would a wall before painting it.
An interesting, textured background could be achieved by spreading a thin coat of joint compound or plaster of paris over the primer with a trowel, allowing a skip textured effect by letting the trowel or scraper create natural dents and slight ridges. Allowing the flaws of naturally spreading the compound will give a more detail to the surface.
Allow it to dry completely.
Seal the plaster with a wash of 1/2 white glue and 1/2 water. This will allow any paint finish you do on the surface to go on smoothly. Joint compound or plaster and is very porous and will not absorb paint easily. The glue wash makes the surface consistent and non-porous.
I’ve used three different materials when creating raised designs on canvas: Plaster of paris, joint compound and molding paste (found in art stores).
Situate your Raised Plaster Stencil on the canvas as desired and tape in to place. You can choose to pre-tint the joint compound with deeply pigmented craft or artists paints prior to adding the design to the canvas.
Apply the compounds using a small trowel or plastic scraper by simply smoothing it over the openings of the stencil. By scraping the stencil smooth, the material will be forced in to all the nooks and crannies of the design so that the image is crisp and clear. Without removing the stencil, you can now add more mixture up to ½” thick. Note that the thicker the material is applied, the more cracks you may have in the dried product. In some cases, this can actually be a quite desirable effect.
Un-tape the stencil and gently peel it back from the canvas to reveal the design and allow to dry. Seal the design with the same glue and water mixture to minimize the porosity or use artist’s varnish.
Any number of methods of coloration can now be used to finish the canvas art, from faux finish techniques, to color washing by mixing translucent wall glaze with craft paints, to airbrushing.
There are lots of stencil designs that are perfect for creating a Plaster Painting but also consider cast plaster pieces as well. A combination of both would be spectacular! Consider a background of Raised Plaster Branches from a stencil and then applying Ornamental Plaster Leaves from a mold. Talk about 3-D art!
Cast plaster pieces can also form a natural frame by gluing them to the outer most edge of the canvas. © Victoria Larsen 2012