The perfect springtime planter is only a decoupage away

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

It's finally spring, and I'm ready for flowers. For those occasions when a dashing romantic doesn't bring a bouquet of daisies to my door, it's good to have a fallback plan. Mine includes a milkshake and planting some marigolds.

And the only thing as important as watering those Technicolor blooms is finding a perfect pot for planting. My solution? Decoupage.

Clay pots can be so boring, but store-bought urns just aren't my style. So, this little cut-and-paste trick is a quick solution to covering inexpensive pots.

Before the directions, let me give you a little history on the art of decoupage.

Decoupage -- from the French word decouper, meaning to cut -- is defined in Webster's New World College Dictionary as "the art of decorating surfaces by applying cutouts (as of paper) and then coating with usually several layers of a finish (as lacquer or varnish)."

Even the definitions of French derivatives sound classy.

In my case "cutouts" are magazine clippings or wrapping paper scraps, and "lacquer or varnish" is a 3-to-1 glue-and-water solution.

That takes the class right out.

But I've never claimed to be classy, just thrifty (and sometimes a tad nifty).

And speaking of not classy, I bet those of you who were viable beings in the 1970s decoupaged a thing or two in your day. Don't deny it. From my earliest memories I recall my parents' wedding announcement decoupaged on a powder-blue plaque hanging in our hallway. And it's still around today, two houses and 29 years later, hanging in their bedroom.

My mom also has a decoupaged recipe box and a couple of flower wall hangings. And a friend of mine says her parents received their wedding announcement decoupaged onto a trash can as a wedding gift. (I wonder if that was supposed to be a hint.)

Women -- and probably some men -- went decoupage crazy during the days of disco. Since everything from the fashion to the music of that time period has been revived, I consider it my duty to resuscitate decoupage.

And I'm inviting you to join in the fun.

To get started, grab a few things that are probably cluttering up your house already: white school glue, a paintbrush, magazines and/or scrap paper, and a clay pot.

The key to a good collage au decoupage is a theme. My "baubles are a girl's best friend" pot is covered in magazine cutouts of jewelry. I also have an "ever-bloom" pot that is covered in pictures of flowers. (Though I was a member of FFA, I could never be mistaken for a true green thumb, and sometimes my pot of dirt needs a little inspiration.) As long as the paper is thin you shouldn't have to worry about it staying stuck, just shy away from heavier stock like photos or posterboard.

When you've done enough clipping to coat your pot, it's time to play science lab. Though decoupage solution can be purchased premixed, I prefer to make my own. Pour about 3 tablespoons of the school glue into a bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of water and stir the mixture. Once the consistency is relatively uniform you're ready to go.

I recommend rolling out some craft paper to cover your work surface because this project is going to get messy. Start by dipping a paint brush into your decoupage solution and coating the back of your picture. The glue will bead up on slick magazine paper, but don't worry. Place your picture on the pot and move on to the next cutout. Be sure to press edges down well. It's key to follow the contours of your pot. Continue this step until you've got your flower holder fully covered.

Once most of the pictures have dried into place and you've given the stragglers an extra spot of glue, dip your brush back into the glue mixture and coat the entire surface in the solution. Remember: the glue will dry clear, so don't worry about the milky white residue on the outside. Just make sure you've got everything coated. When dried, this final coat will give the pot a nice shine and make the picture edges blend better.

Now that you've got your beginner pot, expand your horizons. Color copies of old photos would make a nice covering, as would clip art from the computer. You can also make scenes from the pictures you cut out and decoupage over the whole pot to give it a finished look.

You'll only be limited by your own imagination ... and your glue budget.

Vanessa Cook is a copy editor for the Southeast Missourian who sometimes dabbles in decorating. If you've got a question or idea, e-mail her at

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