All aboard for the circus altered art train

All aboard for the circus altered art train




Ladies and Gents–step right up because Cirq Alpha is coming to town!

Loaded with spellbinding stars and breathtaking beasts, Paper Calliope’s circus train is sure to dazzle and delight you. Step up close and learn just how this spectacle was created.

I am sooooo excited to be featured as a guest artist at Alphas Stamps, that the over-the-top adjectives of the circus world do not even begin to describe  how I feel. Since my journalism professor would roll over in his grave if he saw me using this superfluous language ( “Omit needless words, Betsy!”), I will move along and get right to the point.


Circ Alpha Tutorial

Train base

I discovered this wooden train at a local thrift store and knew it would be splendiferous for my upcoming Alpha Stamps guest post.


First, I removed the wheels and lightly sanded the train. Then I gave the entire train a burgundy base–an acrylic concoction of my own making. I also cut two poles for the back of the train from wooden food skewers and painted them the same burgundy color. I added gold trim and made several of the train elements gold as well.



Next, I fussy cut many Alpha Stamps collage elements and adhered them to the train, using Beacon Zip Dry Paper Glue. For the standing conductor clown, I cut two identical images from the Reversible Clowns Collage Sheet in the Alpha Stamps Circus Kit, adhered them back-to-back and hot glued the clown into the largest of the trains holes. Then I cut two of the identical clown heads from the same sheet, glued them together and placed it in the train’s front hole.  Next, I cut two clowns from the Circus Kit adhered them to burgundy cardstock, placed them back-to-back and adhered to them to the top front of the train. I placed another clown from the same sheet on the front of the train above the grill.



I distressed inked the edges of images from Alpha Stamps Circus Kit Clowns 2 Collage Sheet, Clowns 3 Collage Sheet and Piffles Circus Collage Sheet and applied them to the sides of the train.

Decorating the front of the train are Robin’s Nest Red Dew Drops and a gold charm from an old bracelet in Paper Calliope’s strange, yet wonderful, stash of oddities. I aged its look by applying Vintage Photo Distress Stain.



Metallic Gold Dew Drops and Gold Stars accentuate the passenger side of the train. The toy elephant is actually a finger puppet I found in my stash. I closed the finger hole and made a saddle from a paper stage curtain. Finally I formed a crown for Mr. Elephant by gluing a smalle piece of Dresden Border end-to-end in a circle.




I lightly sanded the wheels and painted them white. When dry, I added burgundy, gold, green orange and blue to give the wheels a traditional circus look. True, in real life, train wheels are not colorful, but that’s the advantage of artistic license!

After reassembling the train, I cut two more wooden dowels, wrapped them in gold washi tape and attached them to the main wheels for the thingy-ma-jiggity that, well, you know, connects train wheels? As you can see from the close up picture, the tape didn’t want to stick, so I ended up adding dabs of glue to each end of the tape as well.



For the train wagon, I glued the two poles in place. Then I die cut two stars from burgundy cardstock, adhered them together and lined the edges with Stickles. When dry, I placed the stars in the center of the wagon so the backs of the figures could not be easily seen. I ensured that the stars would remain upright by adding benches to the wagon with a thick upholstery trim.




I adhered a circus ballerina from the Alpha Stamps Run Away and Join the Circus Add-on Kit to the back of the train and then attached colorful ribbons from the poles, extending beyond the ballerina’s hands to the parading animals.




I fussy cut the Circus Kit clownelephant and lion; and the Add-on Kit ballerina; added glitter; and glued in place.



To make the banner on each side of the wagon, I ran Tim Holtz idea-ology Kraft Glassine Paper Stash through a stars embossing folder and rubbed a Fired Brick Distressed Ink Pad at a flat angle against the raised stars.



I then handcut both the stars and the Bo Bunny Carnival Big Top from the Alpha Stamps Circus Kit into a banner pattern and distressed the edges with Fired Brick ink. Last, I applied “Cirq Alpha” rub-on lettering.



Falling into the “weird” category of my studio hoarding stash are the boxes and boxes of rub-on letters that my dad passed onto me when he retired and closed his architectural firm.  Don’t even asking my about my upholstery sample collection.



To complete the entire train, I hot glued Pink Sweeper Fringe around the bottom of the train.


Animal Parade


To make the animals following the train, I fussy cut two elephants and a giraffe from the Elephants 1 Collage Sheet printed a reverse copy of each animal, fussy cut the copy and glued the identical images together.



Next, I cut rectangular sections from the 90 degree folds of clear acrylic packaging to create stands for the animals.



What happens when a clown gets out of the wrong side of bed

So there I was, early one morning, ready to continue work on Circ Alpha. I examined my progress and discovered that one of the clowns needed a little inking around the bottom edges. The trouble was, he was already glued in place.

I tried oh-so-carefully to use some flexible felt with just a tiny bit of ink on it, but sure enough, I still got brown ink on the burgundy train. To remove the ink from the train I then used just a tiny bit of rubbing alcohol. Unfortunately, it also took off a tiny bit of paint from the train. I was ready for a not-so tiny bit of another kind of alcohol–the drinking kind.

Deep breath (and no alcohol, being that it was before 10 a.m.), and I was ready to work on the clown again, I decided to try applying a little distress stain directly from the bottle. Mind you, just a tiny bit.  Have I mentioned that I had not yet had any caffeine at this point and my mind was not fully functional?  Duh. There are some basic craft principles that most of us learn in elementary school–for example, paper absorbs liquids. In other words, ink spreads and ruins paper clowns.

What the hell has she done to me?

What the f### has she done to me?

So I ripped off the clown and started over, fussy cutting two new clown images (one in reverse). Somewhere along the way, I decided that since alcohol was not an option, I had better address my caffeine needs in order to get my brain working a little better, so I opened up my morning staple: a can of Diet Coke with Lime. Fewer than five minutes later I spilled a tiny bit the entire freaking can over my studio table. Luckily, nothing was irrevocably ruined. But I swear the clowns were laughing at me.


Awesome Alpha Stamps stuff I used

Equally awesome other stuff I used


15 Responses »

  1. I laughed! I cried! I sympathized! Absolutely fabulous circus train. Thank you for the instructional info. I might try my hand at some small part of this colossus.

  2. Your “Cirq Alpha” train is adorable! Let those clowns laugh away, you triumphed in the end (maybe now is the time for a little “reward” of the celebratory kind, for your achievement?)! Hats off to you and thanks for sharing.

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