Sunday, 25 May 2014

Learning the Tarmac Technique with Karen Clare

A few weeks ago my sister Laura advertised a workshop at The Artistic Stamper through her facebook page. The workshop was to learn the Tarmac Technique, taught by Karen Clare (her original post introducing the technique can be found on her blog here). Now, I love a bit of messy crafting so couldn't turn down the opportunity to go and learn something new, despite the 200 mile round trip to attend, so Laura booked us on, along with our third crafty amigo- our very special mum who also likes to craft in her spare time and yesterday I set off at 7am and braved the appalling driving conditions to join them in Kent for a days crafting and laughter.

I don't mind admitting that the whole thought of attending a workshop was way out of my comfort zone as it's not something I have ever really done before. I am usually a strictly private crafter who likes to mess around and make my mistakes in the privacy of my own home. However from the moment I somewhat nervously stepped into the front door of the little slice of crafty heaven that is The Artistic Stamper I was instantly put at ease by Jennie and Mal, the owners, and the lovely Karen who was ready and willing to share all her tips and tricks to help us through the day. 

So, onto what we actually got up to as I have promised some more crafty friends a little guide to the technique..

... We were working on beautiful clocks supplied by Candy Box Crafts which were right up my street as I adore the vintage style. Karen had very kindly pre cut a circle template from cardstock to fit the centre of the clock. This was to form the base for our tarmac work. Our first task was to divide the circle up pizza style, into 5 or 7 pieces and number the front and back of them (so we knew how they fitted back together). Once that was done we decided which pieces we wanted to cover with embossed card and which we wanted to stamp on. We set to work rummaging through pre embossed papers and glued them to their base pieces, layering them if we chose to (I did as I wanted variety on each section). The pieces that were to be stamped on had another layer of plain card attached in order to ensure the same finished height on the finished piece.

The next step was to glue them onto the mdf base, which I can tell you had us all descending into a deathly hush as we focused on making sure they went back in exactly the right places because we had to ensure that our clock mechanisms fitted in the centre hole.

With them firmly in place we decided what we wanted to use to embellish our pieces. While some ladies on the course opted for die cutting their own shapes such as butterflies and keys  I chose to stick to the mechanical feel and use the nuts, cogs and washers that were supplied. Karen had raided Wilkinsons tool section pick and mix and had a fabulous bag full of goodies for us to use. We worked out roughly where we wanted to stick them, and glued all that were going on the embossed sections, but kept our stamped sections clear so that we could work on them without the embellishments getting in the way of the acrylic blocks.

 With all that sorted our clocks were starting to take shape. The next step was to choose our paint colours, and that caused us more head scratching, and it was really interesting to see how different our choices were.

 Mum opted for a lovely lilac and complimented it with yellow, while Laura chose to go bold with bright pink, orange and yellow.

I wanted to keep mine very traditional with my colour choice as I wanted to tie it in with another very special project that I have already completed (not to self- must pop that on the blog too eventually!) so I opted for bronze and complimentary orange and yellow tones.

Once the painting was done and dried (yay for heat guns to speed us along!) we made our stamp choices, grabbed some archival ink and stamped up our plain sections. When all that was done we cleared the decks, opened the windows and the REALLY fun part began!

Karen had already mixed our tarmac, which is made of a 50/50 mix of bitumen (yes-the same stuff used by workmen the world over and available in DIY stores!) and white spirit. With brushes we covered our projects in the potent mix and  nervously watched all our pretty colours disappear under the sticky substance.

 Laura got stuck right in..

.. but mum really wasn't convinced at all that she was going to like the finished result!

Once the tarmac was dry (it does remain sticky though so don't let it fool you if you have a go too) we were told to apply some white spirit to clean J Cloths and gently dab away at our projects until we got the result we wanted. The white spirit lifted the tarmac away and instantly gave our clocks that 'aged' look- exactly what I wanted, but still mum wasn't sure!

We finished up by using gilding wax to add highlights to our clocks and once happy with the end result we added the clock mechanism and hey presto- finished clocks, every one unique and personal to us!

I am pleased to say that Mum was really happy with hers in the end and it was instantly hung on her craft room wall when she got home. Despite the 'grunge effect' it still looks very feminine, and very 'Mum'.

Laura was equally pleased with hers and I must say I love the bold colours that she used. It looks so effective!

And as for mine, well I too am thrilled with the way it turned out. It will look perfect in my dining room/ craft area just as soon as we have decorated (which is finally under way after 2.5yrs here- yay!).

Thank you so much to Karen, Jennie and Mal and to the other 'students' for a truly lovely day. It was worth every mile to be there and I am very glad to have dipped my toe in the friendly world of craft workshops at last!



  1. Fabulous post Lynda and I'm so pleased you made the journey and took yourself out of your comfort zone,
    It was lovely to meet your mum and Laura too, a lovely family.
    You all did an amazing job and as for the girls results Wow! I'm blown away.
    Hope to see you again in the future
    Crafty hugs
    Karen xxx

    1. thanks Karen, it was lovely to meet you too. Such a fun day! I shall keep an eye on your workshops in future and hopefully we can cross paths again x

  2. wow very impressed with this well done you three,great work man ship there xxxx