How to Make Potato Print Wrapping Paper

hi i'm julia hood the manager of school and family learning at reynolda house museum of american art here with another pop-up studio of activities that you can do at home earlier this year someone asked me julia what can i do with all of these extra paper grocery bags that are collecting in my house what can i make and one of the things that you can do is to make your own wrapping paper now you can use you can make plain wrapping paper but today i'm going to show you how to use a potato and cut it into a design and we'll make stamps onto your paper and then we'll wrap that into a nice um hand decorated gift for the holidays so i'll show you what you need to complete this project and how to do it first you need a potato young artists will need an adult to help cut the potato into thick slices you can cut the potato in half but it will be easier to carve it if it is flat on the top and bottom so thick slices are the way to go you need a piece of scrap paper and a pencil to plan your design you will also need a paper clip to transfer and carve your design a paper clip will be the safest carving tool but older kids and adults may prefer to use a butter knife to help with some of the cutting if you have small cookie cutters smaller than the width of your potato you can use them to also help you cut out your stamps we're going to use acrylic paint today you can use temper paint for potato prints that you want to hang on the wall but if you're going to use it as wrapping paper you want to use acrylic paint you'll need a paint palette a plate works very well for this a soft brush and several paper towels finally you need a paper bag scissors some tape and a ribbon if you have a cookie cutter you want to use for your design press it firmly into the side of the potato until a little more than a quarter of an inch of the cutter is in the potato and it is evenly pushed in take a butter knife and cut around the sides of the potato about an eighth of an inch to a quarter of an inch from the top edge

remove the cutter and the ring of the potato that you get refine the design by carefully trimming with the butter knife if you need to

but you can also make your own design think of a simple shape maybe you want to start with a heart or a triangle draw your design on scrap paper and make sure that your design is a little bit smaller than the shape of your potato pat your potato dry with a paper towel then place your design on top unfold your paper clip slightly and poke the paper along the lines of your design going through part of your potato this will create a series of dots that you can use as your guidelines for cutting

then think about which part of the design you want to take color the part that is tallest will receive paint it's just like a rubber stamp so you carve away the parts you don't want to see in your design here i carved away the area around the star on the outside so that i'll see the star on my stamp if you are cutting away the outer areas you can also carefully use a butter knife to trim away potato but this is a little bit harder and you have to be very careful

you might want to carve away the inside of your design however trace the design with your paper clip then use the round part of the clip as a little knife pushing it down along the lines made by the holes you're cutting down about an eighth of an inch to a quarter of an inch then you'll carefully scoop out the bits of potato inside the lines that you made

before you make any prints dry the potato with paper towels test your designs by painting the flat side of the potato with paint firmly press the potato straight down onto your scrap paper and hold it for about three seconds then lift straight up try not to let the potatoes slide now that you have at least one stamp you are ready to make wrapping paper open up a paper bag and cut from the open edge along a corner fold all the way down to the bottom when you hit the bottom corner turn and cut all the way along the fold that separates the bottom from the sides then flatten out your paper squeeze paint onto your palette and paint some onto your potato like we did in our test repeat making stamps until you have a nice pattern all over your paper

you can even use two different stamps with different colors to create a new pattern let your paint dry and wash your brush promptly after finishing you don't want to let acrylic paint dry in your brush here i took a small piece of construction paper to make a gift tag to go with my present enjoy this super fast present wrapping or skip ahead to see the final product

share your creations on instagram facebook or twitter using hashtag reynoldathome find more videos helpful downloads and other resources at the reynolda at home page on

Are you looking to add an extra special touch to your gifts this year? With a few household materials like paper bags and potatoes — yes, potatoes — you and yours can create beautiful handcrafted wrapping paper this holiday season.

Find inspiration in prints from Reynolda’s American Art collection:
Jim Dine, The World (for Anne Waldman), 1972
Alan Shield, Sun, Moon, Title Page, 1971

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