Showing posts with label Ornaments. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ornaments. Show all posts


Clay and Copper Geometric State and Mountain Ornaments

Sidenote: our first little studio apartment was featured on Thrift Core yesterday!  Take a little stroll down memory lane and remember that time we squished the two of us and our cat into an itty bitty studio for over a year!  Good times.  Thanks Van!

The holiday season is upon us, which means ornaments are back!  In the past few months, I have received a few emails from folks interested in the Oregon Love ornaments I made a few years back, which got my wheels turning thinking about new ways to make some state ornaments.  I wanted to go more modern and (dare I say?) even a little trendy with a cool geometric design, and I decided to class these puppies up with some high end touches like leather and copper leaf:

I am officially in love with my new creations.  They are all listed in our Etsy shop, so check them out and pick yourself up a gorgeous ornament for your Christmas tree!  Please please pin them, share them, get the word out!  I'm dying to sell a bunch of these this holiday season.

I chose a selection of states to make for the Etsy listings, but I could also make any other state or even a whole country.  I love how Etsy added "variations" to their listing system, so people can choose different options and finishes from one listing; I put the states I already have, and then an "other" option for those who want to leave a note with a different choice.

I am going to give more general DIY instructions than usual for this project, partially because I think you should just buy one from me, but also because this is honestly a rather advanced project.  I'm all for sharing and being open, so I still put together a rundown of the steps, but if you can't fill in all the little details on your own I wouldn't really recommend attempting this one, unless you simplify it a lot.  That said, I can never stop myself from writing more, so there's still a good amount of advice here.

This project requires a bit more in the way of materials than my normal gig, so if you don't already have this stuff, the start-up cost is rather steep.  My tools included:
- a couple paintbrushes, a larger one for acrylic paint and a smaller one for copper leaf (as a painter, I already have an unnecessary amount of brushes, so I picked from that assortment)
- white acrylic paint (again, I already had some quality Titanium White paint, from way back when I used to use acrylics in high school)
- Liquid Leaf in copper
- deerskin leather cording
- 20 gauge copper wire
- various pliers for working with the wire (I already had some jewelry making stuff, and ended up using these three: needle-nose pliers, bent-nose pliers, and a wire cutter)
- Crayola Air-Dry Clay
- some serious patience and great fine motor skills!

That last one is definitely key.  Can I just say, OOF.  I literally spent hours doing fine precision work.  In the future it will be faster, because I was figuring it out as I went along and had to spend lots of extra time making changes and adjustments to my process, but still.  Fair warning.

I started out by using the same clay technique as last tim (DIY post here), except this time I used air drying clay.  The first time I made ornaments I was working as a teacher with free and easy access to a kiln and clay; this time around, I could use the kiln at Chris's school (as long as they had room and we're already doing a firing, which isn't as often as I would like), but it would add a lot of time and extra energy to the process and I would have to buy my own clay (I probably could have figured that out, but it doesn't seem like normal clay is sold in small portions at art supply stores).  I had been curious about trying air drying clay, and I figured this would be a good opportunity.  It works pretty much the same as regular clay, and my ornaments were totally dry and ready to paint in about 2 days.  They are a little more breakable than regular fired clay, but once they're all painted and such they seem sturdy enough for regular ornament use.

The photo above shows one of each type of ornament I made once the clay was all dry and ready to go, along with the little triangle stencils I cut out of a brown paper bag that was in my recycling.  I ended up only using the small one, but it was nice to test out some different sizes with the stencils.  You'll notice there are some clay triangles there, too... I decided to add a new shape other than just states using the same techniques, so I made a set of three different triangle sizes to be sold as a set.  The idea was they would be like simplified mountains.

The actual next step is to paint each ornament white with a layer or two of acrylic paint.  That step isn't actually represented in these pictures, because I figured that out later.  More on that discovery in a moment, but if you're actually doing the DIY, now is the time to paint.

Then I figured out where I wanted my design and very lightly traced it onto my ornaments with a super fine point pencil.  This picture also shows another step that got cut once I figured out the paint thing: the middle ornaments actually have a clear sealer painted on the design under where the copper leaf would go.  Since the ornaments will actually already be painted white at this stage, no sealer is necessary.  Using the Liquid Leaf, I very carefully painted several coats of copper onto the design, allowing the stuff to dry completely between coats.  Steady hands are the name of the game here, as there doesn't really seem to be a way to erase mistakes.  This stuff smells super toxic and apparently contains a chemical that could cause cancer (though only according to the state of California... silly other states, pretty sure if it's carcinogenic in CA, it's the same everywhere else), so definitely make sure your ventilation is good.

The copper leaf is super metallic and awesome, but it's hard to appreciate the shiny-ness in straight-on photos, so here's an angle shot where you can really get the full effect!  Originally I was just going to use metallic gold craft paint, but then I was like "nah, gold leaf will be so fancy and cool!", but then I read the directions for gold leaf and decided that sounded like too much work, so I went with the liquid stuff.  It is thick and crazy and puts velveeta to shame (in my head I was just going "liquid gooooooooooold!" while painting, because that's seriously what it looks like).  At the last minute I decided to go with copper instead of gold, because I like how warm the color is, and I think it's a little more interesting than plain gold for some reason.  Plus the copper wire looked killer against the leather.

Originally I planned to spray the whole things with acrylic gloss finisher to make them all shiny, as if they had been glazed.  So I did that to my first batch of states and triangles, and then sadness ensued.  The natural clay color, which had been pretty close to white turned a yucky off-white yellow color, and the copper got a reddish glow to it that just wasn't very nice.  I also actually preferred the more matte look of the clay against the metallic copper, so something definitely had to be done.  I still wanted to put something on the plain clay to seal it and make it a little stronger, and to make it feel more high end than just plain clay, so I tested out some white acrylic paint and it worked like a charm.  I did test spraying the gloss on top of the white, and it stayed bright white, but I ended up deciding against that because of the copper and my preference for the matte look.

Obviously I also decided to add more triangles (this time open in the middle, just to make my life more difficult), but you can see the difference between my first attempt (on the left) and the final product with the white paint done first (on the right).  I actually went back into all the glossy ones and fixed them by sanding down the gloss a bit and carefully painting over both the white and the copper.  Not recommended.  So many hours.  But at least I didn't waste any clay.

The hanging mechanisms are rather tricky to make, but I really wanted a high end look, and I just love how they turned out.  I tried a couple different methods first, but the best combination involved tightly wrapping the wire around the ends of a leather loop, bending a little geometric loop (looked cleaner than a circle), and tightly pinching it all together to keep it firmly in place on the leather.  The bent-nose pliers are my favorite for this, though I also had to use them in combination with the needle-nose pliers on a few bits.  This part is definitely tricky and took some practice to get it right, but now I can consistently make awesome little loops.  One of my first attempts was a bit more complicated, but I think it would look awesome in a bigger form as a necklace, so that might be a future project.

Here are the cord's copper end bits up close, so you can get a better idea of how they fit together.

Then I made little rectangular (actually they're more like isosceles trapezoids to be quite specific--wider at the base and narrower at the top) copper wire loops to attach the ornaments to the leather cords.  They're kindof like split key rings, but with corners, and not as tightly squeezed together.  I had to make the shape, then bend it open to carefully attach it to the ornament, and then press it back into place.  It takes some finagling.  Then I can add a cord just like you would with a key ring.  I made cords in both brown and black, so this way I can easily switch out the cords depending on what color people want, but leave the copper loop in place, since that part is more difficult to attach.

And there you have it!  After a few hours (and days for drying time) of work you're done!

Here are my finished mountain triangles, for sale on Etsy here.  As you can see, they needed longer copper loops, since they have a pointy top.  They are awesome as a set; subtle, but very cool.  I think they would not only make great ornaments, but you could also use them as gift tags for super fancy wrapping jobs!  You could just slip your ribbon through the loop to attach them to the package, then write your to and from message with a fine sharpie on the white.  You could really do that with any of the states, but the triangles seem to lend themselves to that purpose more readily.

And from behind, they are clean and simple.  I love how the clay shapes always have a little of that slightly irregular handmade look, but they still look quite polished with the leather and copper pieces.

Massachusetts ornaments for sale here!

I LOVE how the designs turned out on the states.  I chose the states I did partially for personal reasons (I grew up in Oregon, went to college in New York, lived in Massachusetts with Chris for three years, and was born in and just moved back to California), and partially trying to think about who is buying state ornaments (we all know Texans love Texas... plus most of these states have huge populations).

New York ornament for sale here!

I found the one evergreen tree in Ojai and stole a couple of its lower branches for the photo shoot.  It was on the corner of one of the busiest intersections in town, so it was a little awkward... but I needed festive greenery!

Oregon ornament for sale here!

I was trying to explain the triangle thing to Chris the other day, which turned out to be all too easy.  I told him how I feel like "geometric," "triangle," and "mountain" are buzzwords right now (especially when they're all combined), and just about every other front page treasury on Etsy is somehow related to that, so I went to see what was on Etsy at the moment, and BOOM.  Geometric triangle mountains was the theme of the current front page.  Chris was amused, and my point was proven.  Also, metallic things.  Perfect for the holidays.

So, yes, I'm totally trying to play into the current trend, but I do really love these.  I think the sharp angles of the triangles play nicely off the organic shapes of the states.  They kindof give the feel of showing geography in a way, even though they're not exactly placed where there are real mountains in some cases.

Texas ornament for sale here!

I also think these lovelies are a much more stylish take on the classic state love concept.  Just about every state thing out there has a heart on it somewhere (and obviously I'm down with that because I made Oregon ornaments with huge hearts!), but these are more subtle and fancy.  Obviously you love your state if you're hanging a state ornament, so why not make it less literal and more of a creative statement?

California ornament for sale here!

And now I'm dying of hunger and desperately need food, as I foolishly decided to get this post done before lunch.  I'm rather stubborn and refused to stop even though it's now after 2 pm.  So hungry!

Anyway... what do you think of my new ornaments?  Do you like what I'm calling the geometric triangle mountain trend?  What do you think about copper vs gold?  Have you ever used air drying clay?  Liquid Leaf?  Are you a state love kinda person?

And remember, we would be SO grateful if you would share this with anyone you think might be interested, or pinned a picture or two to Pinterest!  You guys are the best :)


Wool Twig Ornaments

The ornament making continues around here as we head closer to Christmas (read all about my adventures in ornament making here), and I just came up with a totally new idea for a cool organic shaped ornament, which I am very excited about!

Here are my two wool twig ornaments hanging from our antlers. The little blue wool felt star is just there for extra pizazz (but I made it, too...). I don't know why I didn't think of hanging ornaments from the antlers sooner, because that just looks awesome.

from here

The idea came to me when I saw this adorable Anthropologie letter ornament. They used metal to make branch letters, which they covered in wool, but I wanted to make ones that were even more organic.

from here

I also had these amazing yarn wrapped antlers in mind, which is maybe what made me think of displaying my ornaments on our antlers, now that I think about it...

Here's what I made! It took a bit of time and patience, but I really like how they turned out, and I'm already making plans to get more colors and make more.

I used actual twigs that I picked up in our yard (Odo kept trying to steal them from me), and some wool roving I already had lying around from previous needle felting projects. I was a bit limited by only having a couple color options, but I did my best with what I had. A free project is always a good thing.

The steps are really pretty simple, and hard to take good pictures of, but here are a few pictures to give you an idea of how it was done in case you want to try:

I started by tying the piece of yarn that would later be the hanging loop onto the twig in the middle. I did one knot on either side of the twig to keep it secure, and so I would be able to hide it well.  For the first wool twig I made (the light pink and blue one in the other pictures), I didn't think to add the hanging loop until I was almost done so it had to go at the edge; I wish I had thought of it sooner, so it could have hung from the middle like this one.

Then I started at one end, and wrapped the wool roving around and around a little bit at a time. The ends of the twigs were the most annoying part, but you just have to be patient and keep wrapping and smoothing until it sticks. In general, the wool sticks to itself really well. Just remember to keep wrapping in the same direction; a few times I got turned around with my twisting, especially when I was layering little stripes, and then it would get all messy looking.

When I got to the hanging loop, I just went right over the knots and end bits. I had a lot of fun deciding which colors to put next to each other and experimenting with spiraled stripy areas to achieve a balanced and interesting final color layout.

Here's how it turned out. I like the combination of the rusty red, white, and light and dark blues. It feels festive, without being too holiday specific, which is definitely something I strive for with all of my ornaments.

This is the first wool twig ornament I made. This one was a little easier due to the shape of the twig (if you're going to try this project, I recommend choosing a twig that doesn't have narrow spaces between its limbs), but I do wish the loop came from the middle instead of the tip.

What do you think of my wool twig ornaments? Will you try to make one? What colors of wool roving should I go buy to make more? I'm thinking of making some to sell on Etsy, too... is it weird to sell a twig wrapped in wool? Have you made any ornaments or holiday decorations this year?


Let the Ornament Season Begin

The holiday season is upon us once again, and the ornament making has begun anew!

If you were reading our blog last winter, you know that Christmas is my favorite holiday, and I get a little craft crazy.  Last year was the first time we had our own tree to decorate, so of course I had to make piles of ornaments for it (you can read all my ornament posts here, and other Christmas related posts here).  I had so much fun with it, and I even sold a few, so this year I decided to make some ornaments a little earlier and list them in our Etsy shop

Buy one here!

I work at the front desk of a children's museum, so on slow days I have a lot of spare time, which I usually use to read, but lately I've been bringing my sewing box and making these ornaments instead. I started by making three more of these snow cloud ornaments that I made last year. I posted a DIY all about how to make these snow cloud ornaments last year, so if you want to get out your sewing supplies and spend some time making something, check out the DIY instructions here. Or you could buy one of mine on Etsy

When I was digging through my sewing stuff to find all the supplies I needed to make the snow clouds, I realized that I had a tin full of awesome vintage buttons that used to belong to Chris's grandmother.  There were tons of interesting and unique buttons that I thought would add a great vintage vibe to my handmade felt ornament style, so I decided to experiment with designing a new ornament, and I think they came out awesome!

I went with a tear drop shape and picked three buttons to be sewn on to either side.  I tried to pick buttons that had some sort of cohesive style for each individual ornament, then I chose felt colors and contrasting thread colors. 

Buy it here!

These pictures show both sides of each ornament, so you can see how the buttons are all different, but work together. 

Buy it here!

This one is pretty silly with brightly colored buttons that are mostly animals (a green duck, a pink and blue cat, and white rabbit, and a colorful bird).

Buy it here!

This was the first one I made.  I love how these ornaments are a combination of handmade and vintage. One thing I liked about my snow clouds is that they are just winter themed, so you could use them to decorate for Christmas, Hanukkah, or the season as a whole; these button ornaments take it to the next level, in that they are festive but totally season and holiday neutral; you could even decorate with them year round! I really like how they look hanging on a door knob, and it could be cool to add one to a gallery wall of art to mix it up a bit.

All these ornaments are available for purchase in our Etsy shop, but if you're crafty and want to try your hand at making your own, here are some simple instructions (this tutorial assumes basic sewing skills):

I started by drawing the shape I wanted to make on a piece of paper to use as a pattern. Then I folded my piece of felt in half, pinned it to keep it in place, and traced the shape onto the fabric using a disappearing ink pen made for such things. In this picture I've done all these steps, then started cutting around the shape, being sure to cut through both pieces of felt evenly, so I end up with two pieces that fit together perfectly. 

By the way, I took these pictures with my ipod at work, so they are not the best, but I think they get the point across.

Next, I simply sewed around the outside edge of the felt, keeping my stitches small and even. I like how the stitches look, so I didn't try to hide them like usual, which makes this project a bit easier, too. 

Once there was only a small opening left, I stuffed the ornament with some polyester fiber stuffing. That stuff (haha) is super cheap at the fabric store, and I've also picked up more for even less at yard sales.

You could start and end your sewing anywhere around the edge, but I chose to leave the top for last. That way, once I added the ribbon it wouldn't be flopping around in my way as I finished sewing. To add the ribbon (for hanging the ornament), I simply cut a piece of ribbon, folded it in half, stuck the ends inside and sewed right across. I made my stitches a bit smaller so I was sure each side of the ribbon was securely fastened. 

Then I tied off, making sure to keep my knots hidden between the pieces of felt. 

Next, I chose my buttons and decided how I was going to arrange them on the ornament. I used my disappearing ink pen again to mark little dots where each button would be sewn on. I poked my needle in between the stitches on the side, so my knot would be hidden inside the ornament.

Finally, I sewed on the buttons! I went back and forth with my thread between opposite buttons and pulled tight, so that they press down into the padding of the ornament a bit. Of course, I was careful to keep my stitches hidden under the buttons, and I did a few pass-throughs for each button to make sure they would be secure. I tied off under a button, hid the end of my thread inside the ornament, et voila! You're done!

What do you think of my ornaments? Which one is your favorite? Have you started preparing for the holidays yet? Have you made any cool holiday DIYs, too?

Linking up with The Well Crafted Home


Ornament Sales

This post is a wee bit late, but I just wanted to share my adventures in selling ornaments this Christmas. It was surprisingly rewarding, and I just love knowing that my homemade ornaments now belong to three very deserving and friendly people across the country! Of course I get excited every time I sell anything, be it a book on, or a vintage item from our Etsy shop, but it's way more exciting when I sell something I actually made with my own hands.

First up, my Oregon Love Ornaments (which I wrote about making here):
In that post I mentioned I would be happy to sell a few if people were interested, and I ended up selling two! I happened to have two extra ceramic Oregons that I had already made but hadn't glazed yet (the other ones I made ended up on my tree or as gifts for friends), so I was able to quickly glaze the ornaments in colors selected by their new owners and send them off!

One of them went to Lo of The Inspired Pint, who is a fellow blogger and Oregonian, although unlike me she actually currently lives in the lovely state! I sent her a white Oregon ornament with a purple heart (her favorite color), and she posted awesome pictures of it on her Christmas tree!

From Lo's very kind post about it, here

So pretty, if I do say so myself!

from here (same place)

It's really quite exciting to share my little handmade guy with another blogger! I love how blogging can connect people who would never normally meet. It really makes the internet feel much more personal and friendly when I can build relationships with awesome people from all over the place.

My other Oregon ornament went to Heather in Washington DC, whose boyfriend is from Oregon and needed some home state love represented on their tree. I glazed theirs in a teal blue with a white heart, and they loved it! Unfortunately I don't have any pictures of that one yet, but I'm crossing my fingers that they'll send me some soon.

The other ornament I sold was my felt snow cloud (read about it's birth here).

the snow cloud before I sent it off

That transaction happened through Etsy, but the buyer sent me a sweet email explaining her back story behind the purchase, and it is adorable. Here's what she said:
"My little granddaughter is 3 1/2 and said that what she wished for from Santa was a pink bike and a cloud. When my daughter asked her why she wanted a cloud, she said "it would be fun to play with." Well, no denying that (very imaginative thought) but how to produce the gift? When I saw your very cute cloud ornament on etsy I thought it was perfect. And she'll always remember the year she asked for a cloud."
So cute! I hope the little girl likes her cloud.

I had so much fun selling my ornaments this year, I think next year I'll make more ahead of time and see how many I can get out there... conquering the world with artsy ornaments, one Christmas tree at a time!


Paper Gem Ornaments

I know, I know, the blog has become Christmas crafts central for the past few weeks, but I'm pretty sure this will be my last ornament post because the tree is officially FULL.

Here are the new additions:

As you may have noticed, this picture is not actually on our tree, but rather the same outdoor evergreen bush I have used to model all my other lovely ornament projects.

Today's ornament adventure comes to you from, where you can find a printable template to make the exact same ones, along with some great directions!

Inspiration came from this picture on Pinterest:

originally from

The link on Pinterest led me to the blog, which gave me the printable template. Talk about convenient...

I printed it out on glitter paper. Yes, glitter paper. I didn't know it existed either. It's basically just nice white paper with a bit of glitter embedded in it. Not too flashy, but a little shine here and there. Of course the glitter didn't show up very well in my photos, but it adds a nice texture to the actual things, which is the important part.

You can read all the directions over at minieco, so I won't bore you with the details, but here is my token in-progress shot:

You can see all the lovely dotted lines for folding, and there are little flaps for gluing the pieces together. I used a glue stick, and maybe there was a better way, but for me it was one of those things where you have to slather on the glue and then poke and prod as it keeps popping out of shape for what feels like forever until suddenly -- BOOM it's done. It was weird, but makes total sense when you think about. Once you hit the sweet spot where it's perfectly in place and there's some glue in the middle you're good. It just takes a bit of building frustration to get there. Of course, being the impatient person I am, I didn't actually read the instructions so maybe they have some good tips for these things...

But it was all worth it when you have these awesome little paper gems!

So cool and simple!

Next I added some thread so I could hang them as ornaments. I used a needle to poke through the top of each one:

I made sure to poke just a small bit at the top, but enough to give the string something to hang on to without ripping through.

Et voila!

Three super cool paper gem ornaments! I'm not quite sure how long it took me since I made them in bits and pieces over the course of a few days (as you can tell by the backgrounds of the photos... quite irregular), but I imagine that if I sat down to do it all at once it would take maybe a 1/2 hour to make all three. Quick project, folks.

Here they are on their own...

So fun. So simple. So pretty!

They look awesome on our tree. Maybe we'll take some more detail shots now that it's all set (completed with two lovely ornaments I bought on sale at West Elm yesterday! My first visit to an actual West Elm store, and it was great. I couldn't resist two of them, at at 20% off they were only $10 for both!).

Now I need to think of some subtle ways to bring a bit of Christmas cheer into the rest of our apartment without being too... cheesy. Trying to keep it classy up in here. Any suggestions?
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