Semi-tutorial: Spiffy quick birthday banner

Second child celebrated a birthday recently, and invited 46,342 45 friends to her party (ok, not even quite that many, but several brought dates and possibly several wandered in off the street, so that’s more or less the actual head count). Given the square footage of our house, that’s . . . well, by my calculation, that was about 5 teenagers per square foot.

Happily, they were all reasonably well behaved, and polite, and most of them brought something yummy to eat to add to what we’d prepared (I’d show you pictures, but . . . 46,342 kids versus a number of pans of pasta and chili and ravioli and mac and cheese and pie and cookies and cupcakes and so on, not to mention an ocean of soda and enough chips and candies to pave the way to the moon and . . .the math will clearly demonstrate why there’s nothing left to photograph).

Anyway, about 2 hours before the party I got it into my head that there should be some kind of birthday souvenir for the guest of honor to keep, so I whipped up the banner you see above–neatly hung across the stone face of the kitchen fireplace. Yeah, it gets a little messy over to the right, when it has to pass by and over a hanging bag of onions and a big box of cat food.

I grabbed a yard of lightweight canvas and laid it out across the washer and dryer in the mud room (after pinning a note on the door warning her highness to keep out). I folded it as you see here, so that there would be two fold edges from which to cut pennant shapes.

I quickly gathered up some gesso and several tubes of cheap watercolor, a brayer, a big old paintbrush, and some odds and ends (soda bottle caps, some of those fake credit cards they send you in the mail, a paper plate) and set about painting the canvas in broad strokes, adding some imprints in contrasting colors of the bottle caps and making lines and squiggles with the cards. This is what I got–you can see it here having a quick dry on the clothesline (hint: a windy day is a boon)

Now back to the cutting table (aka the washer and dryer), where I cut the canvas into pennants. The more geometry savvy among you will have figured out that this left me with a bunch of triangles with an edge fold that would drape nicely over the 5 yards of cotton cording I bought for hanging them up but also with some pizza slice shaped pieces with no backs, and some backs with no painted fronts.

Remember, though, this was a quick-and-dirty operation–a few deft moves with a stapler connected the pizza slices to their backs, and I was able to drape all of the pennant shapes over the line. Where they looked like the top photo above.

I brought out markers and pens and crayons and interrupted the din merriment several times to ask everyone to–at some point in the evening–come and leave their mark–a message, a piece of art, a scribbled birthday greeting–and spread the banner on the kitchen table. Kids wandered in and out all night and had a great time signing and drawing and writing poems and advice and loving words, and the birthday girl had a great time the next morning reading and oohing and ahhing over all that love.

I knew I would not be allowed to photograph the thus-embellished banner after it was done, so I was glad I got a few detail shots of the painted fabric before I cut it up. Here are a couple–you can see more (and slightly more detail about making the banner) on my flickr site.

Now, what can we celebrate next so I have an excuse to make another one?


7 responses to “Semi-tutorial: Spiffy quick birthday banner

  1. So beautiful!! I love this banner. You are such a terrific mom!

  2. this is one of the most exciting banners I have seen! So much to look at even before all the personalized messages.

  3. aloha Floating Ink. your banner process is cool. i like what you did on it. (and i’m sure with all the additions it will be treasured for a long time). seeing the banner up and your process reminded me of some Prayer Flag Swaps in Postal Art groups. these are inspired by traditional prayer flags from Bhutan with greatly altered parameters of course. the shape is usually rectangular and can vary in size a bit – something around 9 x 6 inches usually tho. if you’re really looking for another reason to explore this process you might look into some of those swaps. each one is different but your process would work really well (imo). fun. aloha.

    • Thanks, Rick! I appreciate the kind words. I work well in panic mode. I actually have been tinkering with some prayer flag projects, but mostly with lighter weight fabrics. Could be interesting to do some on canvas.

      • hahahaha. aloha Floating Ink – yeah, panic mode. i know how that works. i’ve found the opposite works for me too. that’s one of the reasons i seem to keep a number of projects going at one time . that way i can let all but one sit and while i’m figuring them out i can still be working on one. sometimes it takes a while to complete something tho.

        the postal art groups i’ve swapped in are usually flexible about materials. if something is required they’ll let you know. i know prayer flags traditionally seem to be on light weight materials. i’ve used canvas as well as lighter weight materials both. it’s a fun process.

  4. Whaoooo!!!! Awesome really good keep it up.. Which type of Coloring metirial you using?

  5. Because they were near to hand and because I didn’t have much time to allow for drying, I used tube watercolors. CHEAP tube watercolors! Then I put out fat marker pens for the kids to use to write messages on them.

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