I love wet-on-wet watercolour painting with the kids and, knowing these would make lovely valentines bookmarks, we recently pulled out our brushes. It’s one of those blissful activities that engages a wide range of children’s ages, and everyone’s work is unique and beautiful. My 4 year old waned only after a good half hour, and my 7 and 9 year old painted for almost twice that long (i.e., a good return for setting and cleaning up the dining table paint station). Some wet-on-wet watercolour tutorials are painstakingly detailed, but if you’ve got a free-wheeling and flexible spirit, it’s really quite straightfoward.
Materials: Watercolour paper, watercolour paints, paintbrush
Method: Wet the watercolour paper with water, either with a clean paintbrush or a thoroughly damp sponge. Then paint.
See? Told you it was easy. The paint will blend and blur with the moistened paper to create a dreamy, seamless image. The wetter the paper, the more diffuse the paints will be. It’s almost not worth describing in more detail – just play with the paints and see what happens. The only thing I would caution here is that you do need watercolour paper to absorb the wetness of the project as regular paper will tear.
Optional: we sprinkled a little salt on some of our paintings while it was wet. The salt attracts the watered down paint and creates a whitish snowflake-like appearance on the page (which laminates perfectly well, as it turns out).
Once we had our paintings, we moved onto the crafting component of our project. I got a crafter’s thrill last month when Fellowes generously sent me two paper trimmers and a laminator! I knew our valentines would be the perfect opportunity to try out the new supplies, and we got right to it.
Of course one could cut the paintings into bookmarks with scissors, and we have in fact done exactly that for years. But, it must be said, having the sleek straight edge of a paper trimmer just adds a certain je ne sais quoi to a handmade project, doesn’t it? The charm of handmade imperfection combined with the professionally clean cut touch – I could not resist.
Neither could my boys. They were eager to try out the Fellowes supplies too and I am delighted to report that unlike the mini guillotines that are bizarrely still permitted on school grounds, the Neutron Plus Trimmer is completely safe – there isn’t an exposed blade anywhere on the trimmer and you couldn’t cut yourself if you tried, even if you’re four. I could confidently let them use the trimmer (with a little guidance) knowing that all fingers would be accounted for in the end.
The Neutron Plus Trimmer is designed for home use, and cuts cleanly through a few sheets of paper at a time. I did not attempt to cut more than one piece of watercolour paper at a time, as it’s much thicker than regular paper. I loved the white line guide that allowed me to get an accurately measured cut every time. There are also four interchangeable blade cartridges: straight (the one we used for this project), wavy, perforated and fold – there are lots of ways to use this little machine! It’s also small and light, which makes it easy to store. (A level up from this is the Fellowes Fusion 120 Paper Cutter, a sturdy device with a safety guard that also makes it next to impossible to cut oneself.)
After the boys personalized the trimmed bookmarks, it was time to pull out the Neptune 3 Laminator. It was our first time using this too – it seemed pretty worldly to be doing something I previously considered the sole domain of Kinkos. Long live DIY! And companies like Fellowes that make it possible to pursue all manner of crafting adventure at home.
The Neptune 3 Laminator is a compact, solid machine, and so simple to use. I just plugged it in, waited for the flashing green light to stay on (half a minute?) and then fed through the lamination sheets (sealed side first) containing our bookmarks. They turned out beautifully.
Using a single sheet of paper per lamination pouch is the easiest route, and very young children could do this with a bit of adult supervision. And I should clarify that the supervision is required mostly to ensure the machine is not abused. Because the laminator itself is a safe, solid machine not prone to tipping or accidents, and there are no burn hazards as the entire exterior remains cool to the touch. The laminated sheets emerge just warm, and are smooth and look polished.
As I like to live on the resourceful edge, I was able to maximize the lamination process by placing several cut bookmarks into a single lamination pouch. I had read that cutting the lamination sheets will often lead to jams and wanted to avoid that, but I also didn’t want to use a whole pouch per bookmark as that would be a lot of wasted lamination potential! With a bit of patience and practice, it was totally do-able to get 5 to 6 bookmarks out of a single pouch. To help ensure the bookmarks didn’t slip out of place, I placed them on a flat surface to make them level with the entry feed.
(An aside: Fellowes also offers different sized pouches, which are suitable for photos, cards, and other smaller items. And even though I was supposed to be focused on valentines, I couldn’t resist squeezing in a quick lamination of some photo booth strips of our family in one of the smaller pouches. This strikes me as the perfect role for the laminator, because photos like these are precisely the kind to be destroyed otherwise – they just don’t make it into a frame. Just look! They are saved for the foreseeable future!)
Focus, people, focus.
Back to valentines… After addressing his bookmarks by name, my oldest son chose a single word that reminded him of the recipient. This spurred my middle son to do something similar. (My littlest just wrote his name, which was perfect for him.) I wasn’t asked for any input, and didn’t give any. The boys spent several evenings personalizing each of the many bookmarks they made, most of which will be shared at school. Whether sender or classmate realizes it, these valentines really are branded with the casual intimacy of children who spend everyday together.
I don’t mind telling you, I requested that I receive a bookmark too. I wonder what word I’ll get.
Whatever coincidence or fortune introduced the laminator into our lives in time for this February, I am glad. I don’t know… I just feel like these valentines are worth preserving.
Disclosure: Fellowes sent us these home office and crafting supplies. All opinions expressed here are my own.