In my bookmaking workshop a few weeks ago, several educators asked how to make the rubbing plates we used to create the texture accordion books during the class, so I thought I would share the steps here. Below is an example of a set of rubbing plates I made recently for a family art program at The Dorman School in Springfield, MA (students pictured above). I chose the textures: string, seeds, leaves, “hair”, “raindrops” and grass, based on a selection of illustrations from the picture book The Black Book of Colors written by Menena Cottin and illustrated by Rosana Faria.
First, collect pieces of thick chipboard, mat board or corrugated plastic to use as the plate support. If you are using chipboard or mat board I recommend sealing the surface first with a coat of Acrylic Gesso (available at art supply stores) before cutting them into your desired size. Brush it on at least one side and let it dry completely (30 minutes to an hour). Collect natural materials outside like leaves, grass, seeds, twigs or bark or purchase beans, grains, seeds or other materials from the store. Experiment with different materials and see what you like best!
Next, cut down the supports to the desired sizes, ours are in 5″ or 6″ rectangles or squares. Spread an even layer of Light Modeling Paste (available at art supply stores) with a thick brush or plastic spatula on the gessoed side of the board. Press the natural materials into the paste so they aren’t peeling away or lifting up. The paste has a consistency like thick cake frosting.
The paste acts as an adhesive as it dries. I recommend attaching leaves with the raised side facing UP so you will get a better rubbing. Set your plates aside overnight to dry completely.
The next day, trim any excess material hanging off the edge of the plate (grass, string, etc) and make sure the surface is thoroughly dry before sealing them. To seal the plate I used Minwax Water-Based Polycrylic Gloss (available in the paint department at the hardware store) and brushed an even coat over the top and sides of each plate and left them to dry outside in the sun or on a table indoors. Brush on as many coats as you like, drying thoroughly between coats. Two coats usually does the trick.
If you’re looking for other ways to use Polycrylic Gloss, check out my Printing with Found Materials 2 post.
How do you use rubbing plates in your classroom or at home?