Thursday, November 13, 2014

Oh What Fun Creating Putz Houses & Playing with German Glass Glitter

Well, it's that time of year for me, which means my imagination goes into overdrive, with Christmas ornament and décor ideas bouncing around in my head.....

I've been creating original ornaments for about 30 years, with new designs every year. While I never run out of ideas, in the end, I only produce to sell that which I am willing to re-produce. I've never been one for assembly line mass-production, because my fulfillment is dictated by quality over quantity. Therefore, I've got to really enjoy the design to repeat it many times.

I did create some new ornaments for this year, but I also did something out of the norm for me. I was perusing Pinterest a few weeks ago, and I saw a picture of an artificial tiered tree, and each level layer displayed an entire village of Putz houses. Something clicked in my head, and I immediately got a bug in my bonnet to try my hand at making some Putz/Glitter houses. I've admired vintage ones for years, but it just never occurred to me to make them from scratch. 

You creative types understand, that once that epiphany happens, you just can't let it go till you give it a try. I think another reason the Putz idea appealed to me this year is because I have an ample supply of German glass glitter to play with. I've been wanting to incorporate glass glitter into my Christmas creations in a much bigger way, so this totally satisfies that need.  

So without further ado, here is my first Putz house production......


Oh my. Making these completely from scratch does require a great deal of patience. Especially when you're creating them to sell, and not to keep. You can take a lot of shortcuts for personal projects, like using a glue gun. These would've been done in no time flat with hot glue, but when aesthetics are a top priority for perfect tiny details and joining walls, roofs, and chimneys, you need the open time of white glue to get it just right. I also reinforced each structure, making braces from foamcore.


Nothing speaks to your inner child better than glitter, glue, paint, and cardboard.


I've only created 3 of this design, and I kept them small to start with. Each one stands approximately 3-3/8” tall and wide.


I started completely from scratch, sketching out some designs, then cutting them out of chipboard. Since I don't have a die-cutter, and I ditched my printer years ago, everything was done old-school....pencil, cutting blade, and scissors. I used thick chipboard (I think 14ply), which I don't think could've gone through a printer anyway.



I used Snow-Tex for the first time. While I bought it to try it out for snow, in the end, I used it to create stucco walls for the houses. I painted over the stucco texture with rich colors of matte finish Tiffany blue, Red, and Chartreuse paint I had mixed specially for my projects. I chose to leave the matte sheen, to give a velvety contrast to the glitter, and they really complement each other now. 


After visiting many Putz house sites, I decided to make my snow using thick white artist paint mixed with white glue. I love how it came out. It looks much more wispy and creamy, which is the look I was going for. I applied it with a plastic clay knife tool, spreading it like frosting. It also seemed to dry a bit faster than the Snow-Tex.



I really wanted the houses to have seriously elegant twinkle, without the need to cut a hole in the back for a light bulb. Mission accomplished!
I cut the tiny icicle trim and coated it with clear glass glitter. I also added the clear glitter to the tiny black windows to make them look icy.



I have some other house designs swimming in my head, so we'll see what I'm ambitious enough to take on next. This must be said though........a lot of the larger Putz houses I've seen for sale truly deserve to be sold at a higher price than they are listed. These houses require a lot of time, patience and artistry, especially if made from scratch. I can see if they use pre-fab paper mache ones, that might lighten the load of work, but still, creativity is essential. So cheers to all the Putz house designers out there!

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Friday, November 7, 2014

Chalk Paint Before & After: From Retro to Renaissance

Earlier this year, I blogged about this retro plastic sewing storage/jewelry box, made by Lerner.

Did I really say it would be a treat to not have to design any graphics on this? Well, what replaced the time-consuming effort of designing, was the time-consuming painting of each and every raised design.....Oy.

Before:


After:


I love how it turned out, but no matter what order it was painted in, it was very labor-intensive.

Before:


After:


The base coat is Tiffany blue chalk paint, and the scrolls were painted a warm Ivory, then topped with Creme. Then to really give it the royal treatment, I accented it with a very high-pigment metallic gold. I then sealed with clear and dark wax.

Before:


After:


I love how the original texture was meant to mimic wood grain, because the dark wax really enhanced that.

Before:


After:


The interior of the drawers was craptastic red velveteen, so I stripped them and added gorgeous Italian art paper. The scrolled design was just made for this piece!


I really don't know for sure if this piece was made for sewing or jewelry, but it's now a beauty for displaying.

Well, Christmas projects are waiting, so I'd better get to it! 

TTFN, Maria

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Sunday, October 19, 2014

A Wicked Bowl the Woodland Witch made for her Potion Bottles

It is no secret, to anyone who knows me, that I have an unwavering love for all things Halloween.

I have a sneaking suspicion that I was a prop master in a previous life, because my holiday decorating usually morphs into “setting the stage”, creating a mood and view meant to transport me to another place, time, and story. But I digress......

A few years ago, I felt the need to create a Halloween candy bowl. I hand-painted a black bowl with a variety of eyes from the creature kingdom, and added glow-in-the-dark paint on them. It was quite pain-staking, and even though I sold it, will probably never create another one.




The following year, I painted a totally differently themed bowl, this time with an Old World gypsy witch in mind.


The year after that, I kept it more simplistic and understated, and let the number do the talking.


Last year, I created my glue-gun witchy potion bottles, which have certainly made the rounds on the internet. Since it is my belief that these were lightning in a bottle, I don't feel the need to out-do them. But as usual, my Halloween mood can't be silenced, and yesterday my imagination woke me up with an idea. Not to sell, but to inspire.


I thought it would be fun to have useful props that continued the theme of my potion bottles. So what else would this woodland witch have in her home?


How about a bowl for tossing her runes or greens in? But in your case, for handing out Halloween candy! How about party snacks! Or maybe just as props for setting that mood!


Part of the allure of the potion bottles was the upcycle virtue, but also the low cost of the project.
Although this isn't an upcycle, I did focus on keeping it on the cheap.


Here's what you need: a cheapo basket in the size you require. If you want it food-safe, line the basket with clear plastic bowls from the dollar store. (You won't need the liners for handing out candy, but you would for pretzels, hors d'oeuvres, etc.)


Plastic skeleton hands from Michael's. $1.99 per bag of 12.
Spanish Moss
Glue gun and thin wire


I hot-glued a thin layer of Spanish moss around the outside of the basket.  
If you're like me, you like to keep your holiday décor as temporary as possible, so you can dismantle the components to use for other projects throughout the year. 



In this case, I chose to wire the hands to the basket. Using very thin gray wire, thread the ends through the basketweave from inside to outside. Position the hand so you can twist the wire ends around a finger. Twist the wire so the hand doesn't move, snip the excess, then tuck the wire ends between the fingers out of sight. (This is the reason I used a basket rather than a bowl, so I'd have something to thread the wire through.)


After securing the hands, you can now add more moss, tucking it in around the hands to make them look more embedded. Add more moss to completely hide the basket, including the rim. Totally up to you whether you cover the underside or not.


As is typical of my M.O., I couldn't stop there. The bowl turned out so well, that it deserved to be elevated to centerpiece status. I collect shapely wooden candle holders, and I had the perfect one for this bowl. I painted it with black and brown chalk paint, then attached the basket to it.

Since the basket is thin and flimsy, it's very important to secure it properly. A screw alone would tear right through the weave, so you need to add a piece of wood or metal over the basket to secure it and give it stability. The wood doesn't need to be thick, just not flexible, and the closer it is to the full diameter of the basket, the better. A piece of a paint stir stick or wooden ruler would both work great. I had a tongue depressor, so I drilled a pilot hole through it and the center of the basket. (If you don't drill a pilot hole, you will most certainly split the basket material and the tongue depressor, since they are both thin.)


After drilling a hole into the center of the candle holder, 1 screw through the depressor, basket, and candleholder, and all was stable. I painted the tongue depressor black brown to match the basket, and now it's ready for use or display!

 Along with the basket, I made a point of buying the contents at the Dollar Tree also, just to show how inexpensive this creation can be, and how readily available the components are. If you choose to line the basket with a clear food-safe bowl for a buffet, you don't need to attach the bowl to the basket. When the snacks need refilling, just take the plastic bowl out for refilling, then insert it back into the display bowl. If you'd rather attach it to the basket, you have some options -- hot glue, strong double-stick mounting tape, or even velcro.


At this point, all that's left is what to put inside. I bought these “Bloody Bites” for the glow-in-the-dark fangs, but they also include red “oozing” candy blood bags.


Red hard candy, so they could be a blood red filler.


And plastic eyeballs. These were kind of boring, but they were good and cheap for a starting point. And since the glue gun was still on......


Using a permanent red marker, I drew lots of red veins all over the eyeballs, then hot-glued the main vein lines. (Another option would be to paint all the eyeballs with glow-in-the-dark paint.)


Using a red marker again, I colored each hot-glue vein, so they'd look like they were bulging red veins. After doing that, it occurred to me that there were probably red glue sticks, so I've ordered some off Ebay. Can't wait to try them.



And that's it! Let go of your grown-up inhibitions and let your imagination play!
 

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