For the last four years, my husband and I have been doing a conceptual art project called #12daysoftomsbeard. It’s a fun way of combining crafts, installation art, photography, mail art, digital art and conceptual art into a holiday celebration for us and our friends and family and anyone else who wants to join in. From December 25 through January 6th Tom poses for me with different items in his beard. I then apply wacky filter effects then upload the results to Instagram. We invite people to send in pieces to use in the beard. Sometimes Tom is more than just the muse and model and helps make some of the pieces and art direct it.
I make a lot of the pieces for the beard – until we get more participation, if we ever do, I’ll be making the majority of them. Not that I mind. Each year it’s been kind of an endurance contest to keep coming up with ideas for 12 days in a row, though well worth it. The activity is creatively fruitful and yields a lot of ideas I can explore throughout the year in other art and craft projects. This year was different though – at the end I was ready to keep going when it was over! So was Tom. He kept floating ideas to me, and me to him. At the time of this writing I’m still on a roll.
During the second year of the project I was really turned on by colors and made a lot of colorful paper pieces to put on Tom’s beard to accompany collaged paint sample cards that I salvaged and upcycled for my stash back when I worked at Central Hardware in 1989. I still have some left, and I still enjoy them! I decided to try a different color scheme for each day and see how many different ways I could interpret it. Did I develop all the ideas as far as they could go? Not even close, but it was and is a great exercise.
Cookie cutters are convenient sources of shapes to trace, and might also be part of what makes this project “conceptual” – #12daysoftomsbeard could not happen in the format I’ve chosen without modern tools such as social media, smartphones, and digital filters. On the other hand, Christmas is nostalgic and comforting in times of uncertainty and technocratic threats, and what symbolizes holiday warmth and low-tech pleasures more than home-baked cookies made with vintage cookie cutters? I’ve decorated my paper “cookies” with craft bling instead of colored sugar, little silver candy balls, sprinkles, and whatever else is shiny and delicious.
There are lots of ways to bring in the “color of the day” to my beard photos, if that is the theme I’m on at the time. I use clothing, backgrounds, props and filter effects. I also purpose-make some colorful shapes from decorative paper and craft supplies. Because I have to work fast to complete one photo each day, most of them are really easy to make. In four years I’ve accumulated a lot of pieces. I can’t keep them all, so some of the pieces get sent on to other people, and others I’ve offered for sale as bookmarks in my Etsy shop. I’m going to keep some around, like these green ones, to re-use in temporary assemblages and actual decorations. (Decorations ARE temporary assemblages, aren’t they?)
Following is a simple plan based on circles for decorating paper ornaments cut from the traced outlines of nostalgic cookie cutter shapes.
Paper selection is important for this project because the design is so minimal. I’ve found that a monochromatic color scheme combined with metallic, glitter, and pearlescent surfaces is a pretty easy way to produce a finished result that looks sophisticated. See what paper and packaging is around that you can recycle. Greeting cards and gift packaging often are generously blinged out. Christmas card envelopes frequently are lined around the flap area with metallic paper that is perfect for this look. Then if you need to augment your finds, check out craft suppliers for coordinated special effect craft paper stacks. For this project you only need small paper pieces – take a look at small paper stacks in coordinating metallics, glitter paper, foil printed and more in your chosen colors to help you affordably build a stash of your own.
It’s a lot easier to make these than to explain why I did it, so let’s get to it!
Tools and Materials
Colorful and metallic papers – new or upcycled
Pen or pencil
Scrap chipboard or card stock
Metallic paint pens
Clean scrap paper
Burnishing tool, such as a bone folder
Decorative circle punch
Clear drying glue suitable for adhering glitter
Bright colored, pearlescent, glittery, or metallic stick-on crafting bling
Get out selections of cardstock in the color scheme of your choice. Punch out a bunch of paper circles with the circle punch and glue them down with a glue stick. Burnish well with a bone folder or other burnishing tool for a tight seal, with clean scrap paper in between to protect the paper from rubs and tearing.
Turn over the cardstock pieces and trace outlines from cookie cutters onto the back with a pen or pencil. Cut out the shapes.
Press on plastic jewels, or dimensional stickers onto some of the circles.
Add some bling to the edges either by outlining in metallic paint marker, or squeezing out a glue line and sprinkling with glitter. I outlined half my pieces with paint marker, and half with glitter since I think the combination is pleasing.
To make my glitter more interesting, I mixed four colors together – yellow, green, metallic silver, and white opalescent. I had done some experiments with glitter on other pieces and I think a blend way more interesting than just a single color glitter – though the opalescent and variable kinds are pretty good on their own. Yes glitter is messy, and glitter glue pens are easier – I like those a lot too – but what fun it is to make your own blends!
Let the pieces dry, punch a hole, and they are ready to display as you choose. My husband mocked me for writing this in yesterday’s article, but I’m going to say it anyway – since these are just paper, they are flammable. So don’t put them too close to candles or lights.