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Skeleton Key - Mixed Media Assemblage

By: Von Pappe II
May 24, 2018

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Skeleton Key   Mixed Media Assemblage
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On my strolls through the Vienna Woods, the city and the famous Vienna Naschmarkt flea market I always stumble across a lot of junk and tiny bits and pieces that I regard as treasures to use on later projects. These can be old books with awesome vintage covers, rusty old clock parts, keys and plaques as well as found objects like feathers or bones from forest animals or worn branches and beautifully textured pieces of bark from old trees. To me they all tell a story – mostly that of beauty in decay – and by using them on assemblage pieces I try to re-tell their stories and also add new ones from a new, additional life after the first.

Items needed:

  • DecoArt Media Fluid Acrylics - English Red Oxide
  • DecoArt Media Fluid Acrylics - Yellow Oxide
  • DecoArt Media Mediums and Specialty Products - Crackle Paint - White
  • DecoArt Media Antiquing Creams - Raw Umber
  • DecoArt Media Antiquing Creams - Carbon Black
  • Dazzling Metallics 2oz - Worn Penny
  • Americana Decou-Page (Glue-Sealer-Finish) 16oz - Americana Decou-Page Matte
  • Stampendous Quest Texture Cube
  • Chipboard Pieces (Circle Mesh)
  • Assorted brushes
  • Small brayer
  • Palette sheet
  • Small piece of foam board (3x3 inch)
  • Canvas (7x9.5 inch)
  • Old book cover (4x7 inch)
  • Old book pages
  • Vintage postage stamp
  • Designer papers
  • Used, emptied and dried tea bags
  • Rusty key, animal bones and other found objects
  • Rusty wire
  • Cutting pliers
  • Poking tool
  • Kitchen roll
  • Letter and word stickers
  • Rough fabric or linen ribbon
  • Dresden trim


Step One: Gather your supplies. Make sure the book cover is significantly smaller than the canvas, so there‘s enough space for beautiful background textures on the canvas. This project is also perfect for re-using an old painted on canvas that you do not like, as it will be covered up with collaged on book pages and designer papers.

Instruction #1 - DA18 May step1
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Step Two: Use matte Decou-Page to glue torn old dictionary pages, tea bags, designer papers and other ephemera to the canvas. Don‘t overthink this step. Simply tear and glue until you have covered up the whole surface. Do NOT seal the glued on papers, but use the Decou-Page to glue down edges where necessary. The mix of sealed and unsealed areas will later beautifully add to the random and distressed look of your project!  BUT SEAL THE COVER and put it to the side!

Instruction #2 - DA18 May step2
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Step Three: Use a small brayer to thinly spread some Carbon Black premium acrylic paint on a palette sheet. Dip the Texture Cube stamp into the paint and randomly stamp around the canvas‘ edges. Use all sides of the cube stamp to produce a lot of random layers of stamped on texture.

Instruction #3 - DA18 May step3
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Step Four: If you have a texture tool like a splatter brush or comb, use it to add some scratch like texture here and there. This is also a great way to use up the left overs from the black premium paint on your palette.

Instruction #4 - DA18 May step4
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Step Five: Dilute some media English Red Oxide fluid acrylic with water and spread across the dry canvas with a wide flat brush. Dab off with a piece of kitchen roll. Spots where no Decou-Page has been brushed on during Step Two will take on more paint than the sealed spots, which creates a wonderful random look.

Instruction #5 - DA18 May step5
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Step Six: Repeat Step Five using Yellow Oxide media fluid acrylic.

Instruction #6 - DA18 May step6
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Step Seven: Mix a few drops of the Yellow Oxide with about half a teaspoon of white media Crackle Paint on your palette. Then scrape the mix randomly onto the canvas and book cover using a palette knife. Let air dry.

Instruction #7 - DA18 May step7
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Step Eight: Brush on a mix of Carbon Black and Raw Umber media Antiquing Creams around the edges and let set. Then wipe back with a soft damp cloth until you have created a dark edge that fades towards the center.

Instruction #8 - DA18 May step8
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Step Nine: Time to play with all your gathered treasures until you have found the perfect new homes for them on your canvas and book cover. Pay attention to text on the cover that you do not want to cover up! Maybe take a picture before you remove all the parts to glue them in place with the matte Decou-Page later (I found I tend to forget where I wanted the pieces to go).

Instruction #9 - DA18 May step9
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Step Ten: If you find you have any chipboard pieces that would match the design, simply turn them into metal looking parts by painting on a thorough coat of Dazzling Metallics paint.

Instruction #10 - DA18 May step10
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Step Eleven: To add additional interest fix the heavier metal bits (like the key and the key hole plate) to the book cover (or canvas) with rusty wire. Poke holes to thread the wire ends through, then bend these on the back so all is flat and stays in place. If the wire you‘re using is quite thin, first twist the ends together before you bend them flat. This way you make sure the wire will hold the pieces in place.

Instruction #11 - DA18 May step11
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Step Twelve: Use matte Decou-Page for the pieces you don‘t want to fix with the wire. It will even hold bulkier and heavier bits in place! Add tiny elements like vintage rubber stamps, beads, word and letter stickers to finish up your piece.

Instruction #12 - DA18 May step12
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You‘re done!

Instruction #13 - DA18 May fin1
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I love assemblage art because it is a perfect way of repurposing old and disposed of objects, incorporating found objects from your nature hikes, honouring ephemera that have meaning to you or simply enjoying putting all these pieces together to form a visually appealing work of art. You can go by the looks, shapes or meaning of the objects you use – or all of that together – however you choose to do it,  assemblage art is one of the most rewarding and relaxing things to do! I hope you will give it a try (if you haven‘t done so already).

Thanks for your visit! See you soon!

Be sure to visit Von Pappe II  for more projects and to learn more about Claudia.


I love assemblages! This one would be perfect in a "cabinet de curiosités"! Gathering all these found objects, going so well together. Thanks for the step by step, great way to use these products.


May 24, 2018

This is so cool ! I really like it, thank you for sharing ! It amazes me how simple things around the house become wonderful pieces of art.


May 24, 2018

This is fabulous Claudia. Also your tutorial is well written with enough details. I'm curious-did you buy your wire already rusted or did you rust it yourself?

Betsy Skagen

May 24, 2018

Thank you so much, Lys, nancy and Betsy! @Betsy - I got the rusted wire as a gift from a dear friend and she bought it already rusted from a crafts store. I have tried rusting metal bits myself, but have never tried with wire. When I rust metal parts I put them in a plastic container together with vinegar and salt and forget them for weeks on my balcony ;) xxx


May 28, 2018

Wonderful layers!


June 12, 2018

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