Cut and stencil your own personalised care package with Merel Zwarts

For those of us who are locked down at home during these Corona months, using your hands to create artwork is a great way to settle a worried or whirring mind. You can also use it as a way to let others know you’re thinking about them.

In this guest post, Utrecht-based visual artist and teacher, Merel Zwarts shares a fun stencilling activity to create a range of paper goods to share with your favourite people using her lovely, colourful cut out designs. Over to Merel.

This tutorial shows you how to print your own care package consisting of two posters, a card and an envelope. 

Everyone can create this at home using a few simple materials. Send your care package to your best friend, give it to your neighbour, or hang the poster in your window for everyone to see. 

What you need:

  • Scissors (or if you have them, a knife and cutting board)
  • The stencils printed on regular A4-sized paper. [Download the stencil sheets here]
  • Coloured paper or envelopes in different sizes. (I used two A4 sheets of paper in pink and red, a yellow card and a light blue envelope).
  • A little bit of tape to fix the stencil after cutting.
  • Acrylic, or other thick, water-based paint in different colours. (I used green, blue, light pink, yellow and lilac).
  • A paint brush. (If you have a few brushes, use one for each colour to prevent the colours mixing).
  • A few toothpicks to hold small parts in place

Step 1: Get ready

Download and print the stencils out onto A4 paper. If you’re doing this activity with young children, you can print them on larger paper, so the shapes are easier to cut out. 

Get your work space in order and collect all your materials.

Step 2: Cut out the stencil

Cut out all, or a selection, of the shapes with scissors. Mend the cut outs with a little bit of tape and keep the loose parts together.

Step 3: Prepare your design

Use the pieces you’ve cut out from your stencil to play with shapes and decide on your design. 

I used every element once, but you can re-use shapes or make your own design. 

Done with the shapes? Add text in one of the shapes you are going to print. Because the letters are very small, we are going to use the cut out letters to create negative space, instead of using the outer shape of the paper as a stencil.  

Think of what you’d like to say. For example:

  • Take care
  • Thank you
  • Wave!
  • Support your locals
  • Stay home
  • Stay safe
  • Wash hands
  • Alone, together
  • Food for all
  • … or something else!

Step 4: Stencil the first layer with paint

Stencil the first layer with a colour of your choice. Use the brush to dab paint inside the stencil. Be careful with the smaller parts. I used toothpicks to keep the small letters in place (see photo above). 

Use a small amount of paint on your brush. You can always get more, but we don’t want too much paint smudging your work. 

Tip: Don’t use water to make your paint thinner, as this will bleed into your print. The thicker the paint, the better. Work quickly to avoid the stencil sticking to the paper and ruining your print.

For the envelope I used the stencil of the shopping basket for the first layer.
For the card I used the letters and the arm stencil for the first layer.
For the support soup I used the letters and the cooking pan and the letters as the first layer.
For the flower I used the letters for the first layer.

Let your first layer dry before adding the next layer.

Step 5: Add the second layer

Now it’s time to add the other layers of shapes. Do this by carefully placing the cutout pieces over the stencilled designs, and dabbing on the second layer of paint using your paint brush, as before. 

Work on shape after shape and let the paint dry in between shapes and colours to prevent smudging your work. (That’s why it’s good to work on different items simultaneously).

For the envelope I used the shopping basket cut out for the second layer.
For the card I used the cut out arms to add the second layer.
For the support-soup print I used all kinds of shapes of the fruits and vegetables in different colours.
For the flower print I used the stems for the second layer. I used the hand and the flowers for the third layer. I used the flowers several times to make a bigger bouquet. 

Apart from that I used all shapes only once, but you can vary and change your design, it’s your work, so play by your own rules!

The results…

Done? Make more prints, hang your poster in your window or post your package!

You can use the paper cuts more than once if you take care of them, or you can print the stencils again. 

Other techniques

If you have linocut, block or screen printing equipment at home, you can use the stencil sheets to make an edition of care package prints to send to your loved ones, or stick in your window.


Meet Merel Zwarts

Merel is a visual artist with a social practice. She uses a variety of public expressions such as drawings, clothes, workshops, prints and installations to stimulate human interaction. 

Under the name Poiretti Confetti she makes prints of her drawings made with felt pencils, scissors and paper, that playfully depict social themes such as ecology, art history and feminism. 

Merel creates prints of her work so it’s easier to share, making her art work accessible to more people. It also gives it a social function; people become living pedestals of her work when wearing a t-shirt moving through public space, and the postcards encourage communication from a distance between friends and loved ones.

Have a look at her Instagram account for drawings and prints @poiretti. And for an overview of her artistic practice, visit merelzwarts.com

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