What is decoupage & what it means to me
What is decoupage? Often when I tell people I do decoupage I see an expression of confusion cross their faces. The response is often, “huh” or “what” and then I have to explain what decoupage actually is.
The word decoupage itself comes from the French découper which means “cut out” and if you look at the dictionary definition it reads – “the art or craft of decorating objects with paper cut-outs.” This is pretty accurate except often we tear paper rather than cut it.
Now you may think that decoupage had its origins in somewhere like France, but in reality it is actually thought to have originated in parts of East Siberia where nomadic tribes would cut out felt and stick it to the tombs of their deceased. Around the 12th Century the art was being used in China to decorate lanterns but didn’t turn up in central Europe, until about the 17th century. It is thought that decoupage came to Italy through trade routes from China.
Having begun in Siberia I can tell you that decoupage is still a very popular hobby in Russia, and if you look at sites like Pintrest or Instagram you will see posts by many very talented Russians showcasing their craft.
I know that sometimes people think decoupage is something very difficult and I think that thought often comes from the fact that the word decoupage has a complicated or fancy sound to it. In actual fact it is pretty easy to do a basic decoupage project and as you get more adept at the art you can try adding other mediums to create real masterpieces. Basically, decoupage is the process of gluing paper to an object to beautify it. You can really use any paper but my personal favourites to use are rice paper and paper napkins.
Specially printed rice paper for decoupage is translucent so when glued over a white background the colours of the paper really pop and you can create something amazing by painting or adding layers over your glued on rice paper. A very similar technique is done with paper napkins except you need to make sure you separate the layers and only use the very top layer to glue over your white surface. Then as with the rice paper you can build up your project with paint or other mediums such as gilt cream or embellishments. Really the only limitation is your imagination, and you can decoupage on anything, creating beautiful trays, frames, boxes, furniture, anything at all.
I should mention that the glue of choice these days is Mod Podge. It is a pretty good glue for decoupage and comes in several finishes to compliment your project. I tend to use a matt finish as I like to create items that look old or vintage and I don’t feel a gloss would be great for that. Once you’re done depending on the surface you are decorating you may want to add a couple of coats of water based varnish. This just seals everything to protect your work.
So what does decoupage mean to me? Well for me it is escapism. When I am creating a project I am thinking about who would have used something like this in times past and who will fall in love with it when I’m finished. I love things that look vintage or Victorian so that is my inspiration for my work. Escapism also means it is a hobby that takes my mind off my daily life. I can stop thinking about my troubles, and focus on this calming craft. This is why I enjoy it so much.
Someone who does decoupage is known as a découper, and that is what I am.