By Home Decor Contributor Alyssa
I waste so much money on buying my lunch at work. But it’s hard to feel motivated to make myself a tasty, healthy, “free” lunch when the bag I have to carry it to the office is a dirty old reusable shopping bag. Gross. Stop judging me, Seattleites who hang out in front of my office.
I’ve been looking for a reusable lunch bag for a while, but they’re all either outrageously priced, half the size I need, or marketed toward tiny children (as much as I’d love to carry you, Finding Nemo lunch box, I just don’t think it’s socially acceptable). I work for a very edgy company where we don’t have a dress code and are actually encouraged to embrace the weird, so I wanted something a little different. Not that a lunch bag is the most important accessory…but, you know. I like cute stuff, and I like lunch. So I came up with a super easy, customizable DIY project and made my own.
What you will need:
- This canvas tote (You could use a different bag, but this one is exactly the size and shape I wanted. And it has handles, need I say more?)
- Something for carving into (soft rubber, an eraser, a potato…). I used linoleum and did a linocut-type stamp.
- A linoleum cutter handle and blades/linoleum cutter set
- Acrylic paint in any color you choose
- Textile Medium (optional)
- A flat paintbrush
Guys, I’m really excited about this project. Linocuts, while kind of scary and stressful, are so fun and therapeutic. I hope you’ll go the linocut route because it’s a very traditional method for creating prints. There’s nothing link a hand-carved, hand-printed piece of art.
Some more information about linocuts: they are traditionally cut from linoleum with a linoleum cutter. Ink is then rolled methodically onto a glass surface, then rolled evenly and carefully over the hand-carved stamp. The stamp is then placed onto the paper, fabric, etc. and run through a printing press several times until it is peeled off and the image is revealed. It’s a very cool step-by-step process that creates truly one-of-a-kind pieces. You just don’t see that much character in prints during the digital age. I’d encourage you to try the cutting part of the process for this craft and get in touch with your inner artist! It’s much easier than it sounds. It really brought me back to my college art student days.
Remember, whatever you create/design/carve will be mirrored once you stamp it, so if you’re writing a word, keep that in mind!
To start, I drew my stamp design on a piece of paper. I’m going through a pineapple phase right now, so that’s what I decided to stamp on my bag. I live in Seattle and I never see the sun and pineapples are sort of like my vitamin D, since, you know, tropics. Plus, they’re cute. Can’t argue with cute.
After drawing my design out, I redrew it onto my linoleum stamp. Remind yourself while you are drawing which parts should be cut out and which parts shouldn’t. Label them if you need to. I wish I had because I forgot what I was doing with the spear of the pineapple and started cutting it…oops.
Now get ready to carve! The linoleum cutter takes a little getting used to, and PLEASE, keep your fingers clear of its path. You will inevitably slip many times while getting the hang of it and the little guy is super sharp, it’ll cut you very easily. Just keep in mind that you can make little strokes/cuts, and you need to constantly be pushing down. Push the tip of the carver into the linoleum and sort of scoop out the pieces of your design.
This is how I hold the cutter, if you want some guidance, but if that feels uncomfortable find a way to do it that best suits you!
Continue until you are finished cutting. I like this linoleum block because when I was finished, I didn’t have to attach the carving to anything to turn it into a stamp. You know, I didn’t have to glue it to a block of wood. I live in a small Seattle apartment. I don’t have wood blocks just lying around.
Once you’re done carving, it’s time to stamp!! I knew I wanted my pattern to be inconsistent and overlapping, with variances of opacities between each individual stamp. I also wanted the pattern to cover the entire bag, from end to end, so it looked more like a textile than stamps.
I just used black paint and a little acrylic medium to thin it out (and I mean very little acrylic medium). This helped keep the paint from globbing up too much and getting stuck in the cracks, but it’s definitely not necessary. I tried it without acrylic medium and didn’t see a huge difference.
Brush the paint on in one direction, making sure it doesn’t pile up in one spot and that the entire thing is fully coated. Don’t worry too much about getting it on the carved out perimeter, it won’t affect the look of the stamp
Do a couple practice stamps on some paper. Decide if you like the look of a clean, full stamp, or something a bit more textured, like the second or third stamp with a single coating of paint (does that make sense)? I used both effects on my tote, as you’ll see.
Now stamp your bag!
Use multiple colors on one stamp, use multiple colors of the same stamp on your bag, go crazy. The world is your oyster.
Allow to dry overnight, and get excited the next morning when you get to show it off at work. How inspiring. I can’t wait to fill this bad boy with…well, salad. Summer’s coming, you know!