Belly Cast 'Off-The-Page' Memory Keeping

Belly Cast 'Off-The-Page' Memory Keeping main article image
Posted on March 9, 2021 by Lisa-Jane Johnson
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When I started creating for this article, it made me think about what scrapbooking actually is.  I asked some crafting friends too – When is scrapbooking… scrapbooking?  

What is scrapbooking?

Our first thoughts, of course, turned to photos, but cutting and sticking images into scrapbooks originated before cameras were even invented.  Also there are some wonderful scrapbook layouts without photos at all, perhaps using supplies to reflect the journaling, or by using memorabilia instead.  We also considered where standard photo albums might fit in but scrapbooking started with crafting rather than facts or photos, so the creativity part, we felt, was essential, nevertheless we still needed to define how scrapbooking creativity differs from other creative pursuits.  A birthday card does relate to an event and has creative process, but there’s still something missing.  However, with the sender’s writing on, you could add it to an album after the event and make the creative process your own, then it certainly feels more like scrapbooking – the past event, the personal touch of the writing, the added creativity, all together it captures a memory.

Eventually we concluded that it was the combination of adding creativity to items or facts to help tell a story of a moment in the past – scrapbooking was more than the photos or the information or the art alone. Keeping an album of some sort, and adding photos or memorabilia or even a written memory, and then embellishing it in some way, are all still scrapbooking because they are reminders of a specific point in time that we have then added our creative energy to, to help capture that story.  But what if we remove the book part from scrapbooking?  Can we still tell a story this way without keeping hundreds of photos and items of memorabilia tucked away in an album?  I believe we can if we apply the same logic of adding creativity to an item that holds personal meaning or memories. For example, one Christmas I created scrapbook layouts in box frames as presents for parents and grandparents. They could just as easily have been placed in one of my albums but as a one off piece they could be displayed and enjoyed by other people without having to look through my scrapbooks. These types of project are called “off the page” designs. 

The Construction Element

A scrapbook page takes its form from the background cardstock or paper you use and that size is restricted by the size of your chosen album.  However, with ‘off the page’ projects you are free to choose your format, the only limit is your imagination. You can use ready made items to begin your project or you can create your own base in a variety of ways. 

My belly cast from my second pregnancy has been on my wall in my craft room since we moved here 6 years ago. My daughter, who was the bump, is just about to turn 11 so it was definitely time to do something with it!  We purchased a kit to create the belly cast, and there are lots available now that include various ways to add things like hand prints, baby feet casts etc. It’s a bit of a messy business and you definitely need someone to apply the plaster bandages and somewhere safe to leave it while it dries.  Aside from punching ribbon holes to hang it up out of the way, it never got past the initial construction phase in the first part of the kit.  The second box was a finishing kit to create a smooth surface and hide the mesh of the plaster cast process so that’s where I began for this project – you can see the lines in the first image above that I quickly remembered to snap before we started (this isn’t where it normally lived!).  After surviving 11 years, 2 house moves and 2 renovations, the cast had cracked a little around the edges so we had to begin by strengthening these with more plaster.  Then I used very watery plaster of Paris to go over the whole cast to blend in the holes.  I preferred the matte, slightly textured look instead of the shiny smooth ones we’d seen finished in the leaflet so I kept it more natural looking with one quick coat, then a light sand and then a coating of white paint from the kit.  Now it was ready to decorate.

Preparing the Embellishments

One of the main considerations with any home-made home décor project is to think about where the item is going to go to allow you to try and match the décor and to also consider how it will be displayed.  Because I wanted the cast to stay on the wall in my craft room, I knew I wanted to use the colours of raspberry pink, baby pink and teal for the décor.  I had kept the spare wallpaper from my feature wall so I used this to help me match some coloured scraps and I also fussy cut some birds and butterflies from the design too.  Knowing where and how it was going to hang helped me to work out the placement of the different aspects of the decoration.  I didn’t want to cover the whole thing but just have a small area of flowers on 2 diagonal points. This means that I can see more of the floral side from my seat when I’m working – it’s really important to keep in mind which parts are visible at different times because you might not always be looking face on. 

Creating projects off the page means you are not restricted by a page protector in an album so you can go wild with 3d embellishments. I’ve been wanting to try these rolled flowers for some time so this was the perfect project on which to use them. There are lots of different designs of flower templates available from the internet but I used my Silhouette Cameo machine to cut them for me. I cut lots of scraps in 4 inch and 2inch squares and arranged them on the mat to match my screen so that I could cut lots at the same time. You need quite a sticky mat for this! After carefully peeling them up from the mat, I set up a crafty video chat with a friend while I rolled the flowers. I used a quilling tool to help because my hands can be a bit uncoordinated sometimes but it’s not necessary. You start from the outside and roll in towards the centre. The inside colour is the one that is seen most so you need to bear this in mind when you choose your direction because it feels counter-intuitive to initially hide the side you want showing. When you have rolled to the centre, let it go slightly so that the flower opens up. Most designs come with a “tail” for you to apply your glue to which then creates a bottom for your flower. The best adhesive for these flowers is hot glue, which oozes between all of the layers. It’s quite tricky at first and some of mine look a bit wonky but flowers are natural and nature is never identical anyway. Plus when they are all together in a flourish it does hide some of the messier ones. 

As well as the rolled flowers I gathered some hessian flowers for bases, a hessian tag for my tiny amount of journalling, plus some turquoise gems for a bit of bling. I also die cut some leaves to add to the natural feel of the flowers growing up around the belly. I printed a small black and white photo of me having the cast done and mounted it on some coordinating cardstock. Then I was ready to assemble. 

Decorating the Cast

I used blue-tak to initially position the photo and then used the hot glue to add the hessian flowers as a first layer. Next, starting with the area around the photo, I added the leaves, flowers and other embellishments beginning with the larger items and then filling in the gaps with smaller and smaller items, slightly spreading out as I went. I wanted to create a natural looking crescent type shape towards the bottom left with the photo and then then a lighter scattering at the top right.  After adhering pretty much all of the flowers and leaves, I propped it up and stood back to get a better view. This is where I realised my mistake, having forgotten my own advice about keeping in mind the different viewpoints. I’d been working at a different level to that which the cast would be seen on the wall and I’d attached the photo almost underneath the curve of the bump and in a very skew-whiff fashion! I managed to prise it off taking only the layer of white paint with it, and then stuck it back on again further up and at less of an angle. 

I ended up spreading further than I thought so that the flowers were really visible and not hidden under the curve. I then only added a small amount to the top right to balance it out, adding my little tag for the date and name. I’m much happier seeing this on my wall now!

More ‘off the page’ fun

Of course a belly cast on it’s own could be considered a scrapbooking project because it has a definite memory of a moment in time attached to it, and the obvious involvement of plaster of Paris in it’s very construction fulfils the creativity aspect. Some off-the-page projects are less obviously memory keeping, such as this little bird house that I created for my husband’s new workspace.  After 11 months of Covid restrictions, lockdowns and homeworking, he finally relented and got himself a proper rising desk instead of using an old worktop balanced on some drawers and the edge of the spare bed. This marked a huge moment for us because it led to us properly finishing the guest room / office and ticking off another milestone in our very protracted Victorian house renovations.   

You can find lots of fun 3d inspiration around the internet and on Creative Fabrica of course, with some incredibly complicated designs if you are that way inclined. I’m a very novice paper engineer so I cut this simple bird house on my Silhouette. You need a decent weight of cardstock or patterned papers and a strong adhesive to stick the tabs down. I used red line tape with papers that would work with our sunny yellow walls.  It didn’t seem finished as a bird house without someone to live in it so I paper pieced a little feathered friend to sit on the perch, only adhering the right hand side so that I could slip the photo behind the free edge to hold it in place. I printed the photo of my husband at his desk in black and white so that it didn’t clash with the wall colour. Then I journaled on the reverse of the photo about how it has taken us so long to get to this point, but that we really feel like we are getting there now. 

You could take this idea to the next level by creating an elaborate hot air balloon and fussy cutting your family from a photo to add to the basket hanging below. Or you could make a car and have someone sat inside. The possibilities are endless when you are not restricted to a 2d page. 

I hope you’ll share your makes with us if you’re inspired to create an ‘off the page’ project!


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