Sealing/Manipulating sheets of paper

by Cathy Sampson

This beautiful paperbark tree looks sculpted...

This beautiful paperbark tree looks sculpted...

Hi Susan,

I'm looking for a method of a applying a substance to sheets of paper that I've hand lettered that will allow me to shape the paper, and then hold their shape once dry. I know this is similar to paper mache' but I'm not creating a form using newspaper. I want to sculpt so-to-speak my 8.5" x 11" parchment paper to have soft rolls in some instances, and sharp angles with crinkles in others. I'd ultimately like the manuscripts to stand vertically on their own flattened bases. I'm a calligrapher wanting to use my hand-lettered work in non-traditional ways.

I'm not at my own computer (I'm in an ICU waiting area with a very long wait ahead of me).

And I'll check back later. Thanks so much. You have a warm, personal, web site which I've enjoyed very much :)

Cathy Sampson


Hi Cathy

Thank you so much for your question. I think I know what you may mean, but maybe one day show me a picture? Your work sounds so interesting and original...

I have only embossed parchment and folded it into creased shapes before. There are lots of books about parchment craft that may assist you though. I did a search of them and have put a link to one at the end fro you to look at.

I think you may be talking about an entirely novel way of using parchment paper that could require lots of experiments before you achieve the look you want :)

You could find or make a plastic or clear resin shape to mold your parchment over?

If you use a permanent/waterproof marker/ink to letter your parchment, I would be tempted to experiment with using layers of mod podge on the parchment paper. Use a scrap parchment as a guinea pig first. Maybe lots of layers of mod podge would stiffen the parchment enough to allow it to hold its shape and stand alone. After you have shaped and lettered your parchment, paint the back of it with mod podge. Allow each coat to dry thoroughly before applying the next. If your lettering/artwork will stand up to being coated in mod podge, paint the front of your piece as well.

If your parchment piece is small it may stand alone after this treatment but if it is larger I wonder if you will still need a more substantial frame to help your project stand up though....perhaps suspend the parchment shape from a stand-alone frame?

I don't know if this will help but did you know that you can make paper casts? You can make shapes from clay and you can also carve words/lines into the clay. Shapes that are carved onto clay will stand out when you mold hand made paper onto them (I know hand made paper is not like parchment but this idea intrigued me).

You need to carve your clay, allow it to dry, then fire it so it will hold its shape. As clay is porous, coat the fired clay with four coats of water based polyurethane, allowing each coat to dry thoroughly before applying the next.

Then you can press semi-wet hand made paper onto the mold. Once the paper is dry you can remove it and it will hold the shape of the mold.

You can of course further decorate your paper any way you want to after it is shaped and dried.

This method means you would probably have to start with the shape THEN add your lettering.

Another idea is to search for 'sculpted vellum images' on Google and some of those images may hold a clue or a link to a site that will help.

Thank you so much for your kind words about my site. They mean so much :) When you mentioned having a long wait in intensive care my heart went out to you. I hope that whoever you are waiting for comes through their ordeal well.

And if anyone else reading this has some ideas that would help Cathy, please do add them here :)

Happy Paper Crafting

PS: I put in the image of a paperbark tree that grows here in Australia because many crafters use its bark in different ways to make their crafts and art. I hope you enjoy seeing it.

This book has information about parchment craft in it:

Parchment Craft: Over 15 Original Projects Plus Dozens of New Design Ideas

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