A collection of various gifts that were gifted to others over this past Christmas season January 04 2016, 0 Comments

Giving gifts creates one of the best feelings I personally enjoy, whether it be for Christmas or any other occasion. My favorite kinds of gifts to give are the homemade ones, whether it be food or artsy things, it's all the same to me...made straight from the heart.

Here's a look at some of the gifts that I made over the holiday season either for me to give or for others to give (thank you to all of our loyal customers for their orders) and a little story about how each was created.  

I'll start with the framed sunflower mixed media magnet I made for one of my best friends, Allie. It all started with knowing her love of sunflowers and the fact that my mom had this beautiful sunflower rubber stamp I could borrow.  Once I saw it, I knew I could make her something. The black VersaMark ink was embossed with a heating tool and I colored the flowers and leaves with acrylic paints and watercolors. Making sure to color in the center of the flowers with a golden brown hue that is uneven in color, to give it a shadowed appearance. The background was stamped with a lovely scrolling handwriting on blue alcohol inks over a base coat of Gesso. To finish the look, I distressed the edges with a dauber and distress inks, applied gold modeling creme through a dotted stencil, sprayed it in the dotted areas with Heidi Swapp's Gold Color Shine and framed it with a black magnet frame.  I've since heard from her...she loves it! 

My sister Jill also told me she loves her gift. Perhaps the photo is hard to tell but that is a "floating frame" above. I needed something to show ALL of my artwork on this particular mixed media painting because I painted to it's edges and didn't want to cover any of it up with a mat or another frame. These floating frames allow you to place your artwork between two pieces of glass. Usually this isn't a worry for me, however, this time I didn't use a typical canvas. I actually used a 10 page brochure that I received in the mail from an advertisement from Smugglers Mountain. Yes, I visited it once and am now forever on a mailing list. So instead of throwing it away after I looked it over, I upcycled it.  (I left the backside completely alone so that anyone can see the brochures other side when looking at the backside.  Of course, when hung on a wall, no one would ever know).

I learned from Pinterest one day that by taping the edges of 20 or so magazine pages, it would make a quick and free canvas. So I tested it out. With thick masking tape, I taped all four edges of the brochure. I knew that I was going to try photo transferring for the first time and knew that I'd have to Gesso the surface to start, so I covered the surface. I built layer upon layer with this painting. I used all kinds of mediums and photo transferred this pic of my sister and I, with our matching shoulder ladybug tattoos, by using ModPodge as the transfer medium. There are a lot of techniques out there and this one worked successfully for me for my first time. It basically was a normal application of ModPodge on the surface, stuck the picture I printed from my ink jet onto it, smoothing it out to release any air bubbles and waited for it to dry overnight. In the morning, it looks like a piece of paper glued to the surface of your painting. That's exactly what it is until you do this next step. In order to reveal the photo's image, you need to remove the couple of layers of paper pulp by slowly and carefully dampening the backside of the paper and rolling your fingers over it to rub it off. It took me a very long time to do this but I think only because it was my first time. When I did my mom's mixed media gift, I was a bit more confident in my attempts. 

Hers is below. My mom got this 12"x12" square "I Love You" Mixed Media canvas.  My second attempt at photo transferring and they came out really neat against the birch tree background. There's a total of three pics that I photo transferred with ModPodge. Two of them are of her and I many years ago, leaning on our elbows making the same expression. The third is one of us jumping on a wooden dock on the beach from our cottage in Gilmanton, NH, again, many years ago. I was about 7 or 8 years old...she was a young 30ish.  

This canvas took many layers and had so many different mediums applied to into it. Blue embossed butterflies, champagne colored raised stenciled designs and a wooden look that appears to be carved right out of a tree. I hoped to remind her of her youth in NH and to remind her of her current "cottage" in the NH woods today.  She opened it up on Christmas day in front of me. She loved it.


"You are beautiful" and "Smile" were two messages that I wanted to send to my grandmother Ellie. She's such a bright and cheerful person that butterflies on her favorite colored background (blue) seemed appropriate. They are on rough surfaced ceramic tiles with magnets on the backs so she can stick them on her fridge. I chose to emboss the butterflies to make them pop. The words are from a Tim Holtz book of sticker words and I just added a blue lined border to them with my Memories blue marker. Again, I used a pretty handwriting rubber stamp in their backgrounds. 

Hey, here are a bunch of gingerbread cookies I made. Yum! I learned the key to a successful gingerbread man is to use a smaller cookie cutter and not to overbake them. Perfect timing is needed. This batch came out edible. hahaha. And cute too.

My brother Jonathan and wife Jen received these two upcycled bottles. One is doodled on and the other is stenciled with modeling creme. Both were spray painted after their labels were removed and rubbing alcohol applied to clean the outside glass. Typically before I start a bottle project I run the bottles through the dishwasher to really sterilize them, always ending with rubbing alcohol to remove any fingerprint oils from the surface. A high recommendation is to always take the time to prep your surfaces, whatever they are. I once tried to take a shortcut without using rubbing alcohol and it backfired on me. The paint wouldn't take to the surface, where I had touched it. So, since I properly cleaned these bottles' surfaces, I had no trouble with the spray paint sticking.

To start with my sister-in-laws bottle, I sprayed it silver with Krylon spray paint. It took a couple of thin coats like the directions said and when it comes to spraying glass bottles, thin coats do work better. It avoids dripping down the bottle. So bonus for me for having a few excellent weather days late December to get these two sprayed. 


The stencil I used to apply modeling creme through, was cut close to the edges of the design, which made it easier to move around the bottle and not worrying about overlapping. I did have to wait in between some closer sections for the modeling creme to dry enough so that I could apply the next stencil. Using a self sticking stencil on a bottle also makes it extremely easy, compared to those that you'd have to tape on. It's because of the rounded surface. Purple burlap wraps around the bottle neck, cut perfectly to fit. I love how the fringe hangs downward on the neck. The entire piece of burlap was glued down using E6000 glue.  Let's just say...it won't be coming off anytime soon.


The Jack Daniels bottle was spray painted in Krylon's metallic gold paint. There are some straight lines that were taped off with thin masking tape and I did this to give the bottle a look of it still being labeled.

Maybe in this light above and with the cookies in the background you can see the border lines on the bottle better. Haha! The black swirls are hand-drawn with Sharpie Oil Marker. I will usually bake my products per Sharpie's instructions but since I applied Krylon paint and a clear coat varnish already on the bottle, I didn't want to take any chances with chemical fumes in my home so I chose NOT to bake it on. I informed my brother of this so that he knew to treat the bottle like art and not to man-handle it. Eventually over time the black swirls would probably rub off or thin out if he wasn't careful. Sometimes you have to inform your recipients of your artwork that it is fragile. Better to let them know so they can better take care of their gift.

"Dance & Be happy" with a rubber stamped and embossed dancing ballerina and music notes. The blue gift tag is made of wood and is even personalized on the back as pictured below. A thick white ribbon was looped through the hole creating a way for it to be connected to a gift package.  The personalized snowflake is made of paper and was completely upcycled. It was attached as an embellishment to a gift set of fuzzy socks I received earlier in the week from my niece (my new favorite fuzzy socks now btw). The snowflake tag even had a UPC code on the backside that I covered up. Gesso was applied thickly to both sides and on the front as you can see, a calligraphy message is written over the white Gesso. The backside was stamped so that the Gesso covered up the UPC code but acted as a background to the rubber stamps I chose to blend into the snowflake design. When I upcycle something like this, I feel a sense of accomplishment on preservation.

The green ceramic 4" tile has four strong magnets on the backside glued with E6000 glue. The words were created using rub on letters and ModPodged over to preserve them.  Wouldn't want the rub on letters to rub off. If Peggy didn't want to use this as a magnet, she could always just add some soft felt pads to the four magnet bottoms and place it on a countertop or furniture OR she could get a small easel and display it upright on a shelf. One more way...add a metal hanger on the back with E6000 glue and hang it on the wall. No matter what she does with it, I already heard that she loved her gifts and I'm sure they'll look lovely in her home.  Here is a set of cute Mikey Mouse magnets that I made with Disney paper. I forgot to take a pic of the other set of four Mickey Mouse faced magnets I made for her but maybe she'll post a pic of them after she gets them up on her fridge.

The paper was ModPodged over an octogon shaped ceramic tile and distress inks were applied with a dauber in a circular motion to the edges. When I do this to my artwork, it is an attempt to make the viewers eye draw in closer to the center and it brings the whole picture together. Each magnet was done in a different color and were given as a set. They truly complimented the other set of magnets. Go figure, there was also a matching Mickey Mouse paper box I made for all eight of her magnets to fit into...but I forgot to take its photograph too. 

Here are what the six 4" ceramic ballerina with musical notes all looked like before any lettering was applied. I wrote other phrases on them like "Dance like no one is watching" and "Let's Dance". I gave the pick to my friends Joe and Coy first, as they were the ones that inspired me to make these and then gave the rest to some of my nieces for a Christmas gift. This should give you an idea on the variation you can get out of a few rubber stamps and paint colors.

Another cool gift that these two friends asked me to make for their holiday gift-giving were a set of 8 stepping stones. They've been to my house and admired mine in my yard and took it to the next level when they asked me to add all four of their relatives names into the stepping stones. Here's how they turned out:

Well, here's all eight of them on my terracotta tile floor:

And a close up. Check out that black grout work!  Doing these is time consuming and messy if you're not carefull. But when they are done they are just...so worth the effort. Most of the time spent comes from the laying out of all the glass tiles. I have to make sure each stepping stone has an equal balance of blues, greens and iridescent colored tiles, plus have a balanced amount of square tiles vs. rectangle tiles AND are laid out ahead of time onto the concrete paver prior to gluing them down into a pattern that is completely perfected in my mind. This is where the time is spent. That...and waiting for the grout to dry. Hint: Don't grout on a rainy day. Humidity in the air does not allow for adequate drying times.

The lettering for their names at first was a challenge to me because the tiles were half the thickness of all the other tiles. When grouting, I couldn't see placing anything on the stepping stone that wasn't level to the rest. So I built it up. I placed another thin tile I happened to have on hand in my supplies underneath each of their letters in their names. It increased the tiles thickness to match the others.


Their names were placed onto the stepping stones in a crossword puzzle type of way. Two of their names were vertical, the other two were horizontal.  These can be placed inside or outside and only need a coating of grout sealer applied to preserve them for outside use.  I also made my dad a set of four stepping stones for his yard while I was making these.  Since he loves red, I threw some red glass tiles into his. They contrasted so much with the blues theme that they looked wonderful in the arrangement. I have heard from everyone and they truly loved getting these as their gifts. The only complaint was from my dad and it was on how heavy the gift bag was with all four of them in it together. LOL. (yeah, I did that). 


These two 3" square ceramic tiles were painted and rubber stamped with two different butterfly stamps. The black lines were raised using embossing powder and you can see that beautiful scrolling handwriting stamp I tend to use in my backgrounds. My sister Julianne got these for her fridge in addition to a mini dragonfly canvas I painted for her but forgot to take pics of. Maybe she'll post a pic of it here. If not, trust me, it was adorbs. I had heard that dragonflies bring good luck. 

This "Best Friends" Mixed Media is the only one in this blog that I didn't make...my niece Alex made this under my advisement and learned a bunch of new techniques. She had a blast making this and was so excited to give it to her bestie. A lot of effort and thought went into this project and I think my niece can now appreciate the amount of hard work that goes into one of these projects. It took her a couple visits to my studio to make this and I honestly think she did a spectacular job.

You might have seen from a prior blog that I gave my letter carrier this mixed media painting. I just bumped into her out at the mailbox and she told me how much she loved it. What a nice thing to hear. 

I had a special order for a Pysanky turtle egg that I made and with it came a special note from her sister that read: "There should always be a turtle in the house. - M". I added a matching paper box with handpainted turtle on top plus a gift tag with the message written as instructed.


That's the backside of the gift tag with a shell stenciled with modeling creme and blue sparkly circles to make bubbles that were leftover from making this special order crab box below to go with another Pysanky order.

A Christmas tree card filled with stars was embossed and painted with gold paint. It sends a wish of Peace. "Star Light, Star Bright - A wish for Peace on Earth tonight".

And lastly, I'll share with you the thank you card I made for my parents. They hooked me up with a TON of art supplies and I really wanted to make them a card using some of it. So I broke out one of the Mixed Media kits and stamped, inked, designed and created this mostly yellow original card.

A piece of screen was used as a stencil with my distress inks on the upper inside of the card plus has two rubber stamped flowers and a "Thank You" glued to the center. I did write my own personal message around it before I sealed it up in the envelope.

Make sure to always sign your art. This is the backside of the card with one of my signature rubber stamps "Original Art by Jennifer".  It's original alright. Hope you enjoyed looking at these projects that pretty much consumed my December. Now onto January. Too early for beach stuff huh?