Working with Susan Rouleau’s Porcelain Flowers

Allison Aller © 2011

   
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I met Susan Rouleau through her daughter Amy, who has been an online blogging friend of mine for many years. Susan asked if I would like to try working with the porcelain flowers she creates—making her own molds for the porcelain as well as using vintage German ones--to see how they could work in crazy quilting.

I surely would. I am very interested in combining materials and embellishment supplies that have various textures and that reflect light differently, too. I think all these elements make for a rich mix on a crazy quilt block. So Susan’s sculpted, three dimensional porcelain flowers and leaves combined with glittery metallic threads and Angelina, painted matte lace, pliable ribbon flowers and so forth could be great! Here is my experiment, using the painted flowers and leaves as part of the composition of a small crazy quilt bouquet.

Adding color and shine to these lovely little blooms was my first order of business. I wanted to use just the normal supplies I have on hand—nothing fancy. I am no a painter of delicate detail by any means, although these flowers could indeed handle much detail. I just wanted color on them.

Before painting, Susan recommended removing any grit or kiln dust from the porcelain with a stiff toothbrush, denture brush, or very fine sandpaper.

The different shapes are laid out. Note that some of them are “stacked”. Susan designed them this way to add depth to her flowers. She also made sure that there were “sewing holes” in each one.

Tsukineko craft ink was my first experiment.

Next I tried a coat of Dye-Na-Flow.

Acrylic paint seemed to work the best. From here on, that is what I decided to use.

I also like acrylic paint because I can “paint over” areas that I want to change, as in adding the white scalloped edge to this dark colored leaf. Note that the white acrylic paint easily covers the layer of dark green paint under it. Acrylics are very forgiving.

To enable the pieces to dry without marring any of the paint, Susan recommends placing them on a toothpick embedded in Styrofoam.


Susan painted this flower with Lumiere, by Jacquard.

When choosing the colors to paint my porcelain flowers and leaves, I wanted them to harmonize with the other elements in my crazy quilt bouquet. In particular, I wanted the white edges on the painted leaves to mimic the leaves on some of the quilting fabric that is pieced into my block. Custom painting your own porcelain flowers gives you this kind of design option.

There are many ways to add different finishes to the painted porcelain. On Susan’s flower (picture above) she used a Satin Varnish. I chose to use a simple Low Odor Krylon Clear Finish (available wherever even a small selection of art supplies are sold.)


My painted porcelain pieces have been sprayed with the Krylon finish. It dried clear and shiny.

When the flowers and leaves were dry, it was time to sew them onto my block. I wanted to use a 4mm crystal in the center of the stacked flowers, so I knew I could only go through all the holes once; there wouldn’t be a way to insert the needle through all the holes on a second pass. So I doubled my beading thread.


Sewing on the stacked porcelain flowers.

While the flowers were adequately secured by the thread, they still “flopped” around a bit due to their weight, so I decided to glue them into position as well. This enabled me to “pose” the flowers at the angle I desired, to show off their beautiful shapes. I added a bit of glue to the backs of the leaves as well, so I could position them exactly the way I wanted, and they would stay put.


Gluing a leaf: I use E6000 glue because it sets up fast and dries clear, but I am sure there are other glues that would work as well.

My only concern with using porcelain flowers on a crazy quilt block is that they are fragile. The blocks must be handled with care…but it is so worth it for the dimensionality and interest these elements can add. I feel that my finished block is greatly enriched by their presence. Even a “third grade” caliber painter like myself can make great use of them. Others with more skill (and patience) could take them to a much higher level.


A detail from my block.


The whole block, which measures 10 ½” X 10 ½”.

Susan Rouleau’s blog is here: http://www.mountainshadowstudio.blogspot.com/.  You will find much more about her fine porcelain work there. And here is her website: http://www.mountainshadowstudio.net/.

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