In most households, there are a box of crayons, a paper bag and an iron. You might have to search for a scrap of cloth, thread, a few buttons or beads and maybe some acrylic paint. But that’s all you’ll need to make the embellished crayon papers made by Rockport mixed-media fiber artist Robinsunne, who will teach the craft 1:30-3 p.m. Saturday at the Rockport Public Library.
Robinsunne (who legally changed her name and goes solely by Robinsunne to represent her mother’s maiden name — Robinson) came across embellished crayon paper art over the summer when reading a crafts magazine article by Jill Kennedy, an artist known for her painted silk.
“I tested all of her rules, and I liked some of them,” said Robinsunne, who has created a collection of embellished papers that will be on exhibit at the library through February.
After several stages of coloring, ironing, crumpling and decorating, the crayon papers look more like colorful, textured, leathery cloth, usually divided into sections or grids of designs and shapes. It’s up to the artist to determine the intricacy or boldness of the design. With crayons, glue and thread, anything is possible.
This summer, a fellow artist asked Robinsunne how to know when a crayon paper is complete, and she replied, “When it stops being fun — that’s when you stop.”
But it really wasn’t as simple as that. Robinsunne kept thinking about the question, and a few weeks later, she embarked on the creation of a large crayon paper that she continued to add layers to until “it stopped being fun.” Several months into the project, she started to add fringe to one side of the colored, beaded, embroidered, painted, felt-backed paper, and she realized that it wasn’t fun anymore. She took the fringe off the dominantly blue piece, now titled “Family Prayers,” and decided it was complete.
Robinsunne is used to working on art projects for months at a time. Though she enjoys a plethora of arts and crafts, beading fiber is her passion, and most fiber projects take months to complete.
“I have to say that beaded art quilts are labor-intensive work, and lots of times, I feel myself pulling away from that. But the fact is, this work settles me down,” said Robinsunne. “It’s where my heart is. It’s my favorite thing in the world to do.”
Sewing and beading is meditative and self-healing for her. When going through a divorce in 2000, she created a 12-foot art quilt titled “I Will Embroider My Grief.”
To embellish it, she transformed plastic foam into flowers and pen caps and credit card snippets into tassels. CD shards, computer chips and rolled metal from nut cans are combined into clever designs.
“It was symbolic of how I felt of my life as in a trash heap,” she said. “So I made it over into something beautiful.”
Robinsunne, originally from New York, learned to sew and experiment with crafts from her mother. She used her new knowledge to make party decorations and sew troll doll clothes.
“I don’t think there ever was a moment in my life when I thought I could do anything else,” said Robinsunne.
In high school, she learned to crochet. And while pursuing a history degree in college, she started patchwork quilting, beading and making three-dimensional crochet shapes. While completing college in San Francisco, she made elaborate hats to wear while working as a waitress at Just Desserts.
After college, she picked up ink drawing in Boston and gradually moved up the East Coast, landing in Maine in 1984. She then learned to sew quilted vessels and art quilts. In 1993, she self-published her first book, “Nanee,” a silhouette picture book with text cut into the border of each page.
In her website biography, she wrote, “Fifty years ago, her room looked like an explosion in a confetti factory. Same, same, today.”
She now lives with her adopted children, her daughter, Xara, 14, from China and her son, Jamie, 13, from Vietnam. This past summer, she had a teaching space, Sunne Spot Studio, but decided to vacate the space this winter to home-school her children.
When her children were younger, Robinsunne sketched out a version of a traditional Chinese legend of the goddess of the moon and told the tale every year when her family gathered with other Rockport families with adopted children from China and Vietnam for the celebration of the Mid-Autumn Festival. The festival is celebrated on the full moon of the eighth month of the Chinese calendar, usually landing in September.
In 2009, Robinsunne decided to use the sketches to illustrate and write a book, “Chang’E, The Lady of the Moon,” which is now available on Amazon with her instructional book on the creation of artist trading cards “The Great Library ATC Swap,” 2009, and “Nanee.”
Her next book, which she hopes to publish this year, is an instructional craft book on making a variety of paper chains. She enjoys writing instructional books to pass on her love of arts and crafts.
“I mostly like working with people and the best way to do that is have a workshop,” she said.
The crayon papers workshop at the library is for people of all ages. Even young children can learn the craft. After all, Robinsunne started embroidering when she was just 4 years old.
Directions to make embellished crayon papers
1. Cut a brown paper bag into quarters or eighths.
2. Draw three or four lines to divide the paper into squares and rectangles.
3. Color shapes and symbols into your spaces. Maybe you’ll have a theme such as birds, flowers or certain shapes. Let yourself play with the colors. The crayons might leave tiny chips behind; Leave them on the paper.
4. When you have most of the paper colored, fold it in half and put a protective, clean paper (parchment paper is best) underneath and on top to prevent wax from bleeding through the brown paper and ruining your ironing board and iron. Iron your picture.
5. When you open it up, you will see the colors have dulled and that the little chips of color have melted into the paper. Spray or rub a saturated paper towel of watered acrylic paint over the drawing. Pat or re-iron to dry. You will notice that the paint-water has gotten into all of the little places that don’t have crayon.
6. Recolor the paper with the same colors or different colors. Fold the paper in half and iron it.
7. Gently crumple your paper and open it several times to create a network of intricate wrinkles.
8. Recolor your paper with gel, slick or pastel-type crayons. Experiment.
9. When you feel you’ve colored enough, you can iron a final time or not. The colors stay a little brighter if you don’t, but the paper is a little waxier then too.
10. Placing felt under your drawing, straight stick along the dividing lines. Choose a couple of areas to free-motion stitch. Embellish and decorate through embroidery such as the chain stitch or blanket stitch and French knots.
11. Embellish with beading, stitching them into lines that have been created by crayons or adding them into designs. Glue on additional embellishments such as photos, quotes or painted paper with gel medium.
“There’s a world of ornamentation out there.” — Robinsunne.
Condensed from Robinsunne’s directions, which can be found on her blog at sunnespot.blogspot.com/.