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Sunday, January 3, 2010

Christmas Ornaments Project

Last year Martha Stewart Living magazine ran an article on how to make these pretty Christmas ornaments that look like Wedgwood jasperware ceramics, which I love. My great-grandmother, Nana, had a cookie tin in her kitchen with a Wedgwood jasperware design on it, which I remember admiring during our Sunday visits to her apartment.

Since I now have a little collection of these cool cookie molds from House on the Hill, I decided to try my hand at making the ornaments. My partner in crafts, Sharon Morris, decided she wanted to make some too. So one pre-Christmas afternoon, we embarked on this adventure.

The first thing we had to do was mix the proper color acrylic paint into Paperclay. This was nice, squishy, messy business. The latex gloves from my earthquake emergency kit came in handy. Good thing we covered the kitchen table with brown paper. (The floor was not so fortunate.) Sharon mixed up a batch of green.

I decided to work on blue. The article gave formulas for how many tablespoons of each color per pound of Paperclay to mix in. Once we got the colors nice and evenly mixed in, we followed the directions in the magazine and sprayed the molds with mold release spray and then packed in some Paperclay and set about to unmold the ornaments. Easier said than done!

The directions don't tell you this: the mold release spray has to dry before you can start molding and you need more than one coat. Even with the spray, the Paperclay was sticking in all the detail areas of the molds, so we had to scrub them out with toothbrushes, dry them and then respray with mold release spray and let that dry. Our patience wearing thin, we resorted to the blow dryer.

The pieces continued to stick in the molds. The acrylic paint we mixed in for color made the Paperclay much wetter and stickier. I decided to mix more Paperclay into mine. They still weren't unmolding cleanly, so I gave up on the mold release spray and tried brushing the molds with cornstarch. Voilá! (After finishing the project, I went to the Paperclay website and they recommend using talcum powder.)

The green was even more problematic, as the formula for the green color contained more paint than the blue did. Steve got home from work, and we still had the kitchen table all in a big mess struggling with the green ornaments. After mixing more Paperclay and cornstarch into the green mixture, and compromising our standards a bit, we were done.

Now the ornaments were to be left to air dry overnight. I guess that "room temperature" is a relative thing. It was typically chilly and wet here in San Francisco, and the darn things weren't drying after 3 days. I put them on my drawing table and trained my lamps on them up close. After a day of that treatment, they did dry.

The ornaments dried a bit lighter in color and much lighter in weight. They are quite durable now too. I brushed off any remaining cornstarch. The next step in the process was to sand and smooth the backs and sides of the ornaments. An emery board worked well for the edges. This created a bit of dust, but it was easy.

Now to paint the raised details in white acrylic. This was another process which took a lot longer than I expected. I ended up needing to paint 3 coats to get the white to look opaque enough. Mixing in some white gouache helped with the opacity. I used a tiny brush to get the little detail in the branches and sun's rays.

Using tacky craft glue, I glued loops of grosgrain ribbon onto the backs of the ornaments for hanging. I cut out decorative paper to glue over the ribbon. To finish the ornaments, I glued more of the ribbon on the edges.

It was lots of work, but a nice result. I love how the details on this cow one show up.

Finally, I put each ornament in a cello bag and tied them with colorful ribbons. Ready to ship back home to the family.


Sharyn Sowell said...

ADORABLE, Dorothy! Love these. And wouldn't it be fun to make your own molds and do it in those? Fun for Valentine's Day or birthdays, or sweet for a May basket...

Dorothy Reinhardt said...

Thanks, Sharyn. Yes, it would be cool to make your own molds. I have not done much 3D work, or any bas-relief. I was looking online for material to make molds. They have some that you mix 2 compounds together and mold it over your piece. I'd like to try it.

Stacia said...

W-o-w! These ornaments turned out stunning. After all that work, they turned out great. Family heirlooms!

Barb Johansen Newman said...

Dorothy, now that I am getting my hands into Paperclay, this was such an informative post! It never occurred to me that you could add color BEFORE you sculpt!

Your ornaments also made me want to take a bite! They looked like the most delicious candy/white chocolate.

Carol said...

Found your blog on Google. I wanted to give the Martha Stewart Ornaments a try last year but life got in the way ...this year a must do. Great tips that will make the process easier. I had thought reading the directions from MS that it would be a lot of paint. Cornstarch is on the shopping list. I have you bookmarked in case of a 911. Cheers to you!
Carol Yapel Butternut Creek Folk Art