DIY Decoupage with John Derian
John Derian Shares his DIY Secrets with Vogue Magazine
John’s early obsession with printed matter ultimately led him to decoupage, the art of cutting and pasting paper. Since 1989, he and a small studio of artisans in New York City have been creating glass plates, trays, bowls, and other decorative home items with imagery from his vast and ever-expanding collection of 18th and 19th century prints. His pieces are coveted and collected across the globe.
In conversation with Vogue magazine, John indulged them with the following Q & A:
First off, how do you find the prints that you use?
They’re mostly 18th- and 19th-century prints from dealers and antique bookshops but 99 percent of the images come from instructive books. And, of course, whenever I am traveling I keep my eye open for paper goods.
The subject matter I tend to work with documents all the beauty from the natural world—it’s classic and timeless. I feel at peace in the outdoors, and I think that is somehow captured in these images.
What’s the process like after sourcing? From the designs themselves to glass application?
I decide what I think will best show the beauty of the images I find: Will they work better larger or smaller? Would just a detail be enough? Then I mock up the pieces in my studio, and the team at my workshop piece it all together and I see what works.
Most of the trays are a single layer of paper, with glue evenly applied on the surface of the image. Clear glass-blown trays from Virginia get placed on top, and the glue is moved around, leaving an even, cloudy film that dries clear. Then they get finished—painted with a gold border along the edges and felted. The 3-D pieces like cake pedestals and lamps have a similar but more labor-intensive process, involving anywhere from three to 60 individual pieces being cut and glued one at a time.
Do you have any advice for those looking to start doing decoupage themselves?
Use any kinds of images that you are drawn to. I have been doing this for so long—27 years!—that people sometimes think that decoupage is supposed to look exactly like my pieces, but it’s endless what one could do