When Mistakes Influence Design

banner pile

I knew. From the moment I joined the Wicked Circus Tin swap, I knew I wanted a sideshow banner in the style of one of the great banner artists, Fred G. Johnson.

In my stash of digital art, I found a vintage fairy postcard that was perfect – she didn’t have two heads, but that’s the beauty of Photoshop. No, creating the image wasn’t the hard part. The hard part was determining the right medium that could withstand distressing, but still be bright enough to be seen. Plain computer paper failed miserably. I used transfer artist paper to get the image on fabric. No. Tried transferring to wood. Maybe. No. Yes. No.

In the end, what I used was the result of a mistake. When using transfer artist paper, the image has to be printed in reverse. I had done several correctly, but then I printed up a sheet of banners that weren’t reversed. They were useless — when transferred all the text was backwards. I decided to use them for testing materials.

Totally frustrated and ready to set the whole thing on fire (again), I sighed and picked up one of the mistake transfers. I had given up on transferring to paper or wood and decided to just experiment with distressing my “mistake”. Since I wasn’t transferring it to anything, the text was readable. The transfer paper is a mixture of paper and plastic. I started distressing it… and it looked good.

Wicked Circus Exterior

And I never would have thought of printing straight to transfer paper and using that (without transferring the image to anything) — but I love the final product. It was tough enough to withstand distressing without losing all of it’s color — and strong enough to withstand the corner grommets.
Grommet Closeup

Another mistake I made was with the stage portion. Initially, the stage was going to be solid. And then I was using a piece of scrap wood to measure the size of the stage. I was wangling it around and it got stuck… as I was trying to wriggle it out, I realized that I liked the look of the open stage. But what to put under the stage?

Chains. Lots of chains. Attached to the leg chains. Perfect.

The original mockup didn’t have this chain underneath the floor… and didn’t have the bit of “above floor” chain attached to the “underground” chain. And now the whole piece was thrown out of balance.


Which is when the “ball” of “ball and chain” came into play. I needed a space-filler and the ball was it…

In all honesty, this little mistake is one of my favorite aspects of the piece.

I love making mistakes.

And that, my friends, is the final chapter in the Wicked Tin saga.

2 comments for “When Mistakes Influence Design

  1. Carolyn
    April 9, 2011 at 10:33 am

    The piece is exquisite. I often find my “mistakes” to be wonderful surprises, but only when I am open enough to see them and not just focusing on the negative. Thank you for sharing your creative process on this wonderful piece.

    • Jivvy
      April 9, 2011 at 6:11 pm

      Thank you — I loved doing it and I loved having Knickertwist as a swap partner. The opportunity to craft for someone who does work I adore, was just a delight.

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