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Paper Tole History
Betty Boop

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Paper tole was very popular back in the late 80's and early 90's. The art of paper tole seems to be fading away as time goes by. Paper Tole is the art of constructing a 3-dimensional image from a 2-dimensional print.

A bit of History of the Art

There has been much speculation of the origins of the craft of Paper Tole, or 3-D Decoupage, as we know it today. The Japanese have for centuries shaped and folded paper into beautiful designs, transforming a 2 dimensional piece of paper into 3-D creations.

Indeed oriental lacquer work formed the basis of the development of the 17th Century art form decoupage. The craftspeople of the day embedded designs into furniture by applying successive coats of lacquer, sometimes using 15 or 20 coats.

The French and Venetian further refined these techniques in an art form called "Vue d'Optique" which is considered by many as equivalent to the modern method of using paper sculpture to create 3-dimensional pictures.

Through the ages, various names have been given to the art form. Some of the common names used have been papertole, papiertole, paper tole, 3-D paper tole, 3 Dimensional Paper Tole, Decoupage, papier tole, 3-d Art, 3D art, 3-d Decoupage, 3D decoupage, decoupage crafts, 3D dimensional decoupage, decoupage art, dimensional art to name a few.

If you are looking for references try using some of the above names as key words in your search to read more of the history of the craft.

Of more recent times the craft has been significantly refined to a wonderful level of artistry using advanced shaping and sculpturing methods. The craft as we know it today really developed in the 1930's in the heartland of USA. During the hardships that was imposed on people during the Depression era, crafters had to be most innovative and make use of resources that were at hand.

It was customary at that time for households to receive multiple Christmas cards with the same image from charity agencies. After the festive season many of these cards were unused and presented an ideal opportunity during the cold winter months to create 3-D pictures using the resource of multiple copies of the same image.

The craft rapidly developed and moved from layering techniques to actual paper sculpturing. Initially 3 or 4 copies of identical prints were used, but this was further developed to include more prints thus more detail.

It was during the late 70's and early 80's that the craft really developed a surge of interest. It was at this stage, that folks started to take an interest in the craft and further developed techniques that added both flair and artistry.

Modern Techniques

As indicated, 3-D Paper Tole is an interesting and exciting art and craft of depth, contour, and perception. Five or six copies (and in some cases many more depending on the complexity) of the same print are used.

The 3-D picture is built by cutting out certain parts of different prints of an identical image, then by shaping, layering, and gluing the pieces to the base print using neutral cure silicone, a 3 dimensional effect is created. The option of applying a lacquer or glaze to selected areas is open to highlight the 3 dimensional effect.

There are 3 principle areas that when looking at a 2 dimensional image the crafter must visualize, those being, the background, the middle-ground, and the foreground with several intermediate layers between the background and foreground.

A natural perspective is gained by properly and skillfully shaping each cutout piece before gluing it. In our view, one of the most important techniques that will really elevate your finished tole from being really good to magnificent lies in the skill in which you shape or sculpture the individual elements of the picture.

So often people do a wonderful job of cutting, but then fail to properly shape or sculpture relegating their finished piece to "ho hum" status rather than truly magnificent piece. There is a big difference between "layering" and "shaping or sculpturing", the latter 2 categories being the same technique to really add realism to your picture.

Once the picture has been composed, certain areas that the artist identifies can be selectively coated with "Glass Kote" lacquer to highlight those areas and provide a light source, which tricks the human eye to accentuate the 3-D effect. Think of the iris of you eye as being equivalent to the lens of a movie camera. If you point the camera to an object that is reflecting light, the lens is constantly changing its aperture responding to light changes from the object. Your eye operates the same way. We can therefore trick the human eye, by carefully and selectively coating areas of the finished picture creating to an observer, a more accentuated 3-D effect.

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