Tag Archives: paper crafts

Garden Themed Party Favors

Do you have a summer event coming up that could incorporate a garden theme? If so, here is an idea for combining my last two published projects, Make a Seed Packet Bouquet and Make Gift Tags Into Recycled Greeting Cards. Presented in a terra cotta plant pot, these “bouquets” could be a garden themed gift, party favor or table decoration. I made these samples because I needed Mother’s Day gifts in a hurry, but variations could be made for garden parties, weddings, tea parties, picnics and more.

In my project Make a Seed Packet Bouquet, I experimented with different embellishments for the corners of the seed packet holders. For this group I punched out a whole bunch of circles with a circle craft punch. Then I stamped a flower stamp on many pieces of colorful scrap paper. I cut the flowers out then glued each to a circle.

Flower stamp credt: 7Gypsies.

I then used the circles on the corners of the seed packet holders by punching a hole in the middle and attaching them with metal brads.

Stamp credits: Flower inside circle, realistic butterflies, bird egg, “Crazy Love” by7Gypsies. “Seeds”, brackets, “love” by CarolynHDesign. “Celebrate” by Making Memories. Scribble flowers and butterfly by Fiskars.

I selected two tags for each seed packet assembly, one smaller and decorative and the other larger and functional with “To” and “From” on the back.

I went to Schnarr’s Hardware to buy terra cotta plant pots and packets of lettuce seeds, then to JoAnn Fabrics and Crafts to buy a bag of natural moss. You can buy florists foam to stick the skewers into, but I had some chunks of scrap styrfoam on hand so I cut them apart with a hand miter saw and stuck a piece in each plant pot.

I wrapped each pot with tissue paper gift wrap that I had on hand, then placed some of the moss on top. I pushed each skewer in through the moss and tissue into the foam, then tied the tags around each “stem” with twine.

How did I decide which seeds to include? I chose a lettuce mix because it can be grown in a small container and harvested as micro greens. I bought two packets and divided the seeds up among the five smaller packets that I made. In order that the recipients would know what the seeds are and how to grow them, I scanned information from the back of the packet into the computer and used graphics software to make this graphic, which I then printed out.

These graphics came from the back of the Botanical Interests brand seed packets that I purchased.

After printing the above graphic I cut out the informational graphics out and glued one to the back of each homemade seed packet.

This project is adaptable to many varieties of seeds and many different themes. I hope you enjoy the ideas!

More paper ornaments from vintage cookie cutters

A celebration of my favorite color – green. Especially lime green!

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.

Colorful paper pieces made for #12daysoftomsbeard.
Colorful paper pieces made for #12daysoftomsbeard, inspired by upcycled paint sample cards.

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.

Green beard pieces I made a couple of years ago on the left. One of them made a repeat appearance on Day 1, 2023-24.

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
Cookie cutters
Pen or pencil
Scissors
Scrap chipboard or card stock
Glue stick
Metallic paint pens
Clean scrap paper
Burnishing tool, such as a
bone folder
Decorative circle punch
Glitter
Clear drying glue suitable for adhering glitter
Bright colored, pearlescent, glittery, or metallic stick-on crafting bling
Hole punch

Instructions

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.

Here they are before I added edging.

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!

This picture is for the next project, but it’s the same glitter blend I used in this one.

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.

Enjoy!

Recycled Holiday Papers – Scrap Ornament or Bookmark

Paper bookmarks made from scraps
Paper bookmarks and/or ornaments made from scraps – Star of David, Tree, Mitten, Angel, and Bell.

Christmas 2023 is technically over, according to the calendar. Anyone in the business of holiday merchandising, holiday retailing, selling holiday crafts, writing about making holiday crafts, or selling the supplies for making them can’t only work on these projects during the “correct” season or the projects would never get finished! I’m trying to finish up as many Christmas projects as I can before I put them away, so as I finish them this blog may contain some projects that seem “out of season”. I hope this isn’t too disconcerting! The techniques of course can be adapted to multiple themes and times of year. For those who celebrate Christmas and other holidays in the religious sense as well the secular, the main messages are applicable any day of the year, so I hope these projects are taken in that spirit as well.

Here in Missouri where I live, we are having a warmer than normal winter, so far. It’s still pretty wet and gloomy though, meaning of course that it’s a great time of year for CRAFTS! It’s also a good time for me to upcycle some holiday cards if I’m not saving all of them as is. I have a several projects in progress that make use of recycled cards.

As I was growing up, the best part of any holiday was crafting. This is still the case for me. DIY, crafting and creative re-use were things both my parents showed me all my life by example. My Mom for example would trace cookie cutters around images from used Christmas cards to make tags and other decorations. She may have read this as a tip in a magazine, or maybe it just occurred to her. My Mom started her crafting well before Christmas, and it was very exciting for me every year to watch her get out last year’s saved ribbon, paper and cards and start making things with it. My Mom and I crafted together and separately all season long. We made multiple trips to the Lee Wards store to supplement our stash with whatever new supplies we needed. By second grade I was having a friend over and leading her in a Christmas-themed gift-making session for a boy we both had a crush on and agreed to share between us! I still remember working on it, and how much fun it was to make together and give. Then after each Christmas, I worked on all the kits I got as gifts during the gray winter. Although other aspects of the holidays are also important, for me I can’t conceive of Christmas without crafts. Snow is not required – here in Missouri we might get it or we might not – however there MUST be fabric, ribbon, felt, glue, thread, sequins, glitter, rickrack, paint, beads and more or things just aren’t right! One of the greatest gifts I could give to anyone of any age is just a little bit of this joy.

Vintage metal cookie cutters and tin
Vintage metal cookie cutters and tin. It was very exciting to me when this vintage tin came out of the cupboard, because that is where we stored the Christmas cookie cutters. Now my collection has grown too large to fit in one tin.

In this new project, Scrap Ornament or Bookmark, I’ll show you one way to make a decorated paper ornament or bookmark inspired by cookie cutters, several of which were actually my Mom’s. This is a very easy project you can make from leftover holiday paper ephemeral such as cards, gift wrap, ribbon, twine, packaging and envelopes. Then stay tuned for a couple of variations later. Enjoy!

Tools and Materials

Christmas and holiday theme and color papers and images – new or upcycled
Christmas and holiday shaped cookie cutters
Pen or pencil
Scissors
Scrap chipboard or card stock
Glue stick
Metallic paint pens
Clean scrap paper
Burnishing tool, such as a bone folder
Ruler or straightedge for tearing paper
Hole punch
String, twine or ribbon
Ornament hooks

Instructions

Start out by tracing shapes from cookie cutters onto scrap cardstock or chipboard. Chipboard is the type of thin cardboard that is used to make product packaging such as cereal boxes and gift boxes. Cut out the shapes.

Cut out the traced shapes and cover with strips of scrap paper.
Cut out the traced shapes and cover with strips of scrap paper.

Apply strips of torn or cut paper to the front of the shapes with glue sticks. Burnish well with a bone folder, using clean scrap paper between to protect your work. You can use a thin metal ruler or straightedge as a tearing tool for the paper. Sometimes a mixture of torn and cut edges adds a pleasing variety.

Trim around the shapes with a scissors for a smooth edge. If you don’t like the look of the back of your shape, you can cover it with more strips or a piece of suitable paper.

After trimming, punch a hole toward the top of your ornament or bookmark.

Use a metallic paint marker to outline the edges. Just a bit of metallic can do wonders for a craft item!

Tom wearing decorated shapes in his beard.
Husband Tom wearing decorated shapes in his beard during our #12daysoftomsbeard annual project.

If using your shape as a bookmark, loop cord and thread through the hole, pull through and trim. If using as an ornament, you can attach an ornament hook or loop of ribbon.

Handmade paper mitten-shaped bookmark.
Handmade paper mitten-shaped bookmark.

You’re done! Of course since paper is flammable keep ornaments away from possible ignition sources such as candles or lights.

Available in my Etsy Shop

Some of the bookmarks I made while writing this tutorial are available in my Etsy shop here – Hand Decorated Bookmarks – Christmas and Hanukkah

Further Reading

In the past I have taught a card making class that uses strips of scrap paper in a similar way. You can read my tutorial here – Making Greeting Cards From Scrap Papers.

If you would like to learn how to make your own stencils out of cookie cutters and other shapes, read my tutorial Decorate Gift Packages with Stencils and Chalk.

If you would like more ideas about how to have a more sustainable holiday season, recent editions of the Ladue News had articles on this topic, one in the e-version, and one in the printed version. They cover some of the same territory but are different and by different authors. Take a look!

How to reduce holiday waste this gifting season

Eco-Friendly Holiday Cheer – starts on page 31 in December 3, 2023 issue.

Speaking of cookie cutters, my Mom and I did a lot of crafts in the kitchen and sometimes we used some of the same tools and implements in both crafts and cooking. We also both enjoyed collecting and using vintage cookbooks, food pamphlets and kitchen ware. I haven’t updated my Fun With Food web page for awhile, but the information should still be good. I wrote it to help me keep track of favorite recipes and as a tribute to all the fun Mom and I had in the kitchen. Here is the link – Fun With Food.

My Melt and Pour Soap Making web page needs considerable repair right now, but here is a link anyway – Melt and Pour Soap Recipes. I added a lot to my vintage cookie cutter and mold collection while I was obsessed with this hobby. I still like it, but I’m not obsessed like I used to be! I worked out a way to make multicolored flat soap sheets thin enough to cut with metal cutters and embed into clear soap bars. I also made some salt dough fragrance pastilles which was a fun throwback to another activity I was really into when I was young.

Rubber stamping tip: tiny stamps on paper strips

Narrow strips of paper attached to a piece of scrap plexiglass.

I work on a lot of small scale stamping projects and I stamp a lot of tiny stamps, many unmounted. Sometimes I stamp things like little words for collages, mini greetings for tags and cards, or dates or days of the week for planners and journals. I like to stamp a lot of extra paper pieces for future projects when I get my stamps out – it saves a lot of time.

When I stamp a lot of tiny stamps at a time, the task is a lot easier if I tear a bunch of paper strips with a ruler then temporarily attach the ends to a piece of scrap plexiglass with rubber bands or tape. Otherwise the paper strips are kind of hard to keep in place for a clean print since they are so light and the ends tend to curl a bit.

Here are some of my tiny stamps next to the acrylic blocks I use for mounting them temporarily with double-sided tape.

I use the fronts and the sides of small acrylic stamping blocks to temporarily mount my tiny stamps with double-sided tape. I’m not that fussy about keeping the blocks clean since I usually stamp in black. But every once in awhile I’ll scrub them with stamp cleaner or Simple Green cleaner when they get too inked up to see what I’m doing. One of the reasons to use clear acrylic blocks is to see where you are stamping! If it’s not that critical to be precise you can use any small object that you can tape a stamp to and don’t mind getting inky as a temporary mount, for example I often use the lids of pill bottles or the edges of Tic-Tac containers.

Have fun with your stamping!

Paper Crafting Fun With Tag Art

Make your own decorated paper tags for a variety of craft projects! This is a good project for using up a lot of paper scraps.

Tools and Materials

Tag Art Template (scroll up and alt-click to download or get PDF – PDF Tag Art Template)
Ball point pen
Medium weight black marker
Black rubber stamping ink
Rubber stamps with sentiments
Light colored, light weight paper
Assorted paper scraps in a selected color scheme – I used neutrals in this demo
Clean scrap paper
Ruler
Bone folder or squeegee
Scissors
Glue sticks
Hole punch
String, twine, or embroidery floss

Instructions:

  1. Download my .jpeg graphic Tag Art Template above. If you prefer a PDF file here is a link – PDF Tag Art Template. Print it out onto cardstock if you can, or print it on regular paper and glue it to cardstock for stiffness and durability. Cut around the tags and punch the holes. Now you have a set of tag templates ready to use.
Here is a selection of tag templates I made for myself out of various scrap card stock and chipboard. Besides my pattern, other good sources of potential tag shapes are cookie cutters, commercial stencils, and tags from gifts you get than you can trace. There are also clear and colored plastic tags for sale where craft supplies are sold. Those could be traced and also used as the covers for tag books.

2. Trace the tag shapes onto assorted cardstock pieces. If you have scraps this is a good way to use some up. Cut out the tags close to the lines you drew, but a little outside. That will help you cut a clean edge later.

3. Pick out some light-colored paper that complements your chosen color scheme. Use a ruler as a straight edge to tear the paper into strips. Stamp greetings and sentiments onto the paper pieces with black stamping ink.

I stamped neutral pastel color strips of paper with assorted sentiments in black rubber stamping ink. Most of the stamps you see here are from my unmounted stamp set Assorted Greetings and Sentiments. You could use any sentiment stamps that you have around or tear words out of found papers or old cards.

4. Place the tags on your work surface with the outlined sides down on clean scrap paper. Glue a sentiment on the front of each tag. Fill in the rest of the tag with paper scraps. Tear them into narrow strips with the ruler if you need to.

Adding stamped sentiments and strips of decorative paper scraps to my cut out tags.

5. Trim the tags following the pen line on the back and punch out the holes.

6. Outline the tags with a black sharpie marker

What they call a Sharpie Fine Point I think of as a medium point marker because they make much finer ones. Any black marker will do if it gives you the kind of line you want around the edge. If you like, experiment on scrap cardstock or chipboard before you outline a finished tag.

7. Select two or three strands of string, twine or embroidery floss and thread through the holes with a lark’s head knot.

Once you have made the tags, what can you do with them?

  • Put one on the front of a greeting card.
  • Decorate a gift package.
  • Use as a bookmark.
  • Make a tag book.
  • Enhance a shadow box.
  • Incorporate into scrapbook or journal pages.
  • Make a decorative seasonal garland.
  • Make motivational notes for yourself.
  • Create decorative door hangers.
  • Label bottles or jars.

What else can you think of? Have fun with your tag art!

Stenciling plus coloring – some self “art therapy” with my Dad – PART 2

Coloring Idea #2: Rainbow Effect With Gel Pens and Colored Pencils

Experimenting with different ways to use stenciling as a base for coloring. Commercial stencils that I used to make the letter patterns are by The Crafter’s Workshop.

Sometimes when I do “adult coloring” I have a specific idea that I am trying to explore. At other times, I just want to color without thinking too much – it’s so soothing. Rainbow color gradations are a sure fire way to lift my mood. Here is how to get a fun effect with stencils, gel pens, and colored pencils.

Step 1: Tape a stencil over the design area and outline with a thin, sharp pencil. For this kind of utilitarian marking I really like a mechanical pencil. It’s easy to erase and I don’t have to keep stopping to sharpen it.

Step 2: With the pencil and ruler, draw parallel lines at intervals across the page.

Step 3: Note how the pencil lines you drew divide the design into striped areas. Outline your pencil lines in one gel pen color per stripe in rainbow order. For example, I outlined the first in blue, then blue green, then green, then yellow, continuing through to pink.

Step 4: To make sure the gel pen is dry, lay a clean sheet of scrap paper over your design then burnish with a squeegee or bone folder. Lift the paper and check to see if any of the ink is coming off onto the scrap paper. Repeat if necessary until no ink is transferring.

Step 5: Erase your pencil lines. You probably won’t be able to get all the pencil lines out from under the gel pen ink lines, but the rainbow effect will still come through well enough. If the pencil lines bother you, you could go back in and touch up your work later with opaque gel pen colors, paint markers, permanent markers or the like.

Step 6: Color in gradations in pencil between and around your gel pen lines, maintaining the overall color progression in hues. There is a lot of room for creativity in how to color in this step. I choose to make the pencil colored in areas lighter tints of the hues in the gel pens and keep analagous colors roughly together. Keep experimenting and coloring until you are satisfied with the effect.

The example at the above right is not finished yet. Here are a couple more examples I’m working on of the same idea so you can see the work a little closer.

In progress: art journal page on the left, beard pieces on the right.

This is a time-consuming way to color, but sometimes that is just what I want. It requires just enough concentration to distract me from problems I want to forget for awhile, but it’s not so hard to do that I need a lot of energy. Sometimes when you’re in a crisis great ambition isn’t really there. I may or may not leave some of the background white. We’ll see!

Stenciling and oloring on art journal page
Stenciling and coloring on an art journal page. I used a hand-cut stencil of my own design plus a commercial stencil by Tim Holtz.

Bringing the coloring to Dad in the hospital

I worked on the samples you see in this article and for PART 1 both on the go and at home in order to have samples to show to my Dad. Dad likes to do the #12daysoftomsbeard project and he requested that I bring him some shapes for it to color on at the hospital. I wanted to give him a choice of coloring techniques, so I had samples of each technique ready. I had supplies on hand to cover either choice, but to streamline my supplies I only brought colored pencils as both techniques can be done with colored pencils even though I used colored markers for the first one. Dad chose the stained glass effect from PART 1 – stenciling over patches of background color.

When I brought this project to Dad, he was only a few days past some serious seizures that affected both halves of his body, but especially the left. Dad is left-handed and I was very worried because Dad’s left hand had been in a claw-like position for about a week or more. After the seizures his hand relaxed. I wasn’t sure how much function Dad would have in the hand yet, so I prepared a couple of sheets of shapes in advance for us to color, one for me to demonstrate on and one for him. I taped the shapes to scrap chipboard pieces so they wouldn’t slide around while being colored. I also brought some shapes that still needed to be cut out so that Dad could cut some if he was able.

I brought some pre-cut tags with me taped to a scrap card stock backing and also gave Dad the option to cut some out himself.

I showed Dad an overview of what we were going to do, then I offered him a chance to try cutting some shapes. He did a great job on them – with a right-handed scissors no less! I was overjoyed and a bit teary-eyed to see him doing so well. I told him this is what I want for Christmas – to see you able to do this! It seemed like a miracle compared to how he was just a few days before. For awhile I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to ever talk with him again, much less do art together!

We used some beard shapes and holiday inspired cutouts as backgrounds for colored pencils.

I suggested some color schemes for Dad – primary colors, secondary colors, and analagous colors. It wasn’t critical that the pieces be of any particular color scheme, but when I teach a project, if I can I like to include some useful art information. I’m not a trained art therapist but I am a trained artist so I can legitimately call these activities “educational” even if I can’t officially call them “art therapy” (Darley and Heath).

I got some colored pencils out for him to cover each scheme, and let him pick from among them. Instead of covering the whole background like I did on mine, he mostly drew small shapes all over the background without covering it all the way. And instead of coloring in the negative spaces between stencil markings, he put numbers on his tags, numbers 1-11 to go along with the #12daysoftomsbeard. He was short one tag, so I’ll make a #12 later when we get to that.

In this kind of project, expressive arts for therapeutic purposes, the process is far more important than the finished results (Darley and Heath). There is no reason to try to change what Dad wanted to do if it varied from my samples. Dad has always been creative – I was so glad to see that ability is still there!

Stenciling over colored tags.
Stenciling over colored tags. Commercial stencils used to apply these patterns are by The Crafter’s Workshop.

Here I am drawing stencil lines over the colored in shapes before filling in the negative spaces with black permanent marker. The main difference between coloring over marker vs. colored pencil is that the colored pencil creates a slightly waxy surface which might resist the marker at first. To help with this, I outlined the black areas in gel pen before filling in with a black Sharpie marker. The gel pen sticks better to the colored pencil and once the outlining is done then it’s not hard to fill in with the Sharpie.

Embellishing with sequins and squeeze paint
Embellishing colored pieces with punched paper shapes and sequins.

I have started embellishing some of the pieces that we colored with punched paper pieces, glued-on sequins and little dots of squeeze paint to go along with the stenciling.

Caption

When #12daysoftomsbeard starts on December 25, we’ll have a good selection of items to display on the beard. Hopefully people will send us more parts as a challenge to incorporate each day. The first year we did this activity, in 2019, I started out by clipping little pieces of paper to Tom’s beard with tiny clothespins. To keep things interesting, we’ve been gradually elaborating by making little garlands, involving Tom’s glasses, adding found objects and props, incorporating parts of the background, using far-out creative filters and more.

What will happen?

Some of my favorite #12daysoftomsbeard pictures from 2019-2022

Above is a commemorative artistamp sheet I made to show off some of my favorite beard pictures from the first three years we did this project.

Works Cited and Recommended Reading

Darley, Suzanne and Wende Heath. “The Expressive Arts Activity Book: A Resource for Professionals”. Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2008.

Stenciling plus coloring – some self “art therapy” with my Dad – PART 1

The 2022-23 Holiday season for many people is probably going to be the closest they’ve had for awhile to normal patterns of celebrating. My Dad and I have made some attempts to join in this year, but to be realistic most of our energy has been absorbed by the effort to get and stay healthy. My Dad has been having some medical issues since mid-October and I’ve been staying with him frequently at his house and visiting him him a lot in the hospital. Except for the past week – I just took a week off because I seem to have been hit by a flu-like illness (not COVID, I took the test!). I’m on the mend now. Dad has been taken care of during this time at a rehab hospital and will be coming home later this week if all goes as planned.

When he’s discharged, I’ll be providing some care he’ll need for about three weeks. I’m not sure how much either of us is going to be able to attend holiday activities in person. We will probably have to sit a lot of it out. But we will try to keep in touch online!

The annual project #12daysoftomsbeard is one that my husband Tom and I have been doing every year at Christmas time. It’s a 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 he poses for me with different items in his beard and I apply wacky filter effects then upload the results to Instagram. We invite people to send in pieces to use in the beard. My Dad in particular really enjoys this activity and he wanted to work on some beard parts while he was in the hospital. I’ll show you how we combined stenciling and coloring to make a bunch of pieces to use in Tom’s beard during the 2022-23 Christmas season. I’m going to try to make an extra big deal out of it this year for my Dad and myself because we are going to miss out on most other holiday activities this year.

If you want more background information on #12daysoftomsbeard before reading on, here are a couple of my earlier blog articles about it.

Instructions for #12daysoftomsbeard

SWOT Analysis of #12daysoftomsbeard

Tools and Supplies
Beard printouts – scroll to bottom of the page for links to 6 graphic files to download and print
Cardstock and chipboard
Pencil and eraser
Ruler
Black permanent markers
Black gel pens
Colored pencils
Colored markers
Painter’s tape
Stencils and/or cookie cutters
Scissors
Hole punch
Scrap paper for covering work surface
Glue stick
Squeegee tool or bone folder

Optional for Embellishments
Sequins
Glue
Squeeze paint

Coloring Idea #1 – Stenciling Over Colored Markers

Stenciling over colored markers

Instructions

Scribbling some colored backgrounds is an easy way to make vibrant backgrounds for stencil art. By filling in the negative spaces with black marker, you can create an attractive faux stained glass effect.

Step 1 – Color in the background with markers in random patches to make something similar to camouflage patterns

Step 2 – Tape a stencil over part of the work area and outline in black gel pen, black fine tip marker or black fine tip pen.

Step 3 – Repeat with different stencils until the whole design area is filled with outlines.

Step 4 – Color the negative spaces in with black marker.

Step 5 – With a glue stick, paste paper pieces to chipboard or cardstock and cut out.

Step 6 – If needed, touch up the edges with black marker to make a neat edge.

Stay tuned for PART 2: Rainbow Effect With Gel Pens and Colored Pencils.

Paper Art and Crafting Technique – Making Templates From Chipboard

Directly above is a faux postage stamp sheet collage I started almost a year ago. Here is how it began. I was sorting through some old papers and I found two computer printouts that another artist, nonlocal variable, had sent to me as mail art a long time ago. The printouts were of faux postage designs featuring computer manipulated photos of Ray Johnson – an artist who is considered by many to have been the founder of the modern mail art movement. Ray Johnson is the subject of a lot of mail art projects. I participated in one such project myself in the fall of 2019. I also featured some pictures of Ray Johnson in my #12daysoftomsbeard art project because when my husband Tom is clean shaven, he looks so much like Ray Johnson that when I was working on the mail art project, Tom thought at first glance that I was using pictures of him!

In the same stack of old papers, I found an advertising booklet that had black and white portraits similar in size to the Ray Johnson portraits in the old printouts. At least they were close enough in size to possibly be used together in a faux postage design. I took a faux postage base I made a long time ago and use a lot and started laying down the portrait pictures on it to get ideas.

I originally had the idea to put the smaller portraits inside silhouettes of the Ray Johnson images and alternate the two on the stamp sheets. I made templates from scrap chipboard to help me cut multiple silhouettes and negatives of silhouettes from colorful paper scraps to play around with. I ended up saving the smaller black and white portraits for a future project and I kept the Ray Johnson images for this set of stamp sheets.

When I make chipboard templates for a collage or other project, I keep them in folders named after the project they were made for so if I want to I can use them over and over for related art projects. If I’m really turned on by the designs, I am likely to use the templates many times. I also made a bunch of rectangle templates to go with my faux postage stamp background, using tracing paper as an aid to finding which piece goes where on the collage. I numbered the chipboard pieces and their position on the tracing paper to help me get organized the next time I use the templates.

I arranged the different colored small rectangles on my collage sheets where I wanted them. I glued on the Ray Johnson images, some miscellaneous found images, and used black permanent Sharpie markers and stencils to draw on some bold designs in black marker. I printed out postage stamp related words, phrases and images with black permanent stamping ink onto white blank sticker paper, cut them out and stuck them on my collages to make them look even more like sheets of imaginary stamps.

I thought they needed more texture to look finished so I used freehand drawing plus stencils again to apply marks with paint markers and colored pencils. The final marks I applied were a bit of colored pencil outlining the white sticker pieces to make them look more integrated with the whole.

Here are the commercial stencils I used in the project. They were designed by the Crafter’s Workshop company:

Mini Patterns

Mini Shape Landscape

Mini X Trail

Mini Rows of Lines

I probably will display the resulting “stamp” sheets as framed collages some time in the future. I’ve scanned them into the computer where they will be reduced to a smaller size so that they look more like real postage stamps. Then I’ll print out and distribute the finished stamp sheets to some other mail artists. Many mail artists collect faux postage as art or use the resulting stamps as part of another piece of mail artwork.

Instructions for #12daysoftomsbeard

WHAT: If you have ordered something from my Etsy store recently, or if you get a Christmas card from me, you will find inside one or both of the following invitations for #12daysoftomsbeard.

Invitations with tags to decorate. Sometimes I include a little packet of paper ephemera to help people get ideas or inspiration, if they need it. If you want an invitation and did not get one in the mail, you can download one at this link – #12daysoftomsbeard tag invite.

These tags are intended for drawing on or decorating, then sending back to me, so that I can hang them on Tom’s beard each day from December 25 to January 6. During that time I will take a crazy picture of the results to put on social media for people to find when they search for the hashtag #12daysoftomsbeard. Last year Tom and I experimented with different lighting effects, backgrounds and filters to come up with something unusual each day. Last year I tried to group the beard art items, background and filters by color because bright colors usually go far toward cheering and inspiring me.

Here are some examples of tags I decorated last year, a couple that people sent in to me, and a few images that resulted.

WHY: We mostly like to do this because it’s a lot of fun, and it makes us laugh! You should have seen my MIL’s reaction when she saw the orange picture of Tom! “What have you done to my son!!!” We could do this without any participation from others, but we appreciate it whenever anyone wants to join in. It’s an extra creative challenge to use something someone else sent in, and it’s a way to connect with people who are sometimes separated by distance or who I don’t even know in “real life”.

Why do people paint rocks and leave them for others to find? Why do Jeep owners put rubber ducks on random other Jeeps? Why did I put a banana peel on my head earlier this year and have my picture taken with it on? Why did people in Toronto make a memorial display for a dead raccoon and share it on social media? Group activities and performance art projects are a satisfying activity for some reason, for quite a few people. I will probably write more later about the psychological reasons why that is the case.

Earlier this year I started a SWOT analysis of #12daysoftomsbeard to try to use some of what I learned in marketing class to try to increase participation this year. I didn’t finish the analysis yet, but I will keep adding onto it in the future as I finish sections. Here it is if you want to read what I have written so far – SWOT Analysis of #12daysoftomsbeard.

HOW – One idea I want to try for increasing participation is to provide some more specific instructions. The wording on the invitations reads: “To play, color, glue, punch, stamp or otherwise decorate this tag.” For some people, that will be enough guidance, others might feel comfortable with something more specific.

I am going to suggest techniques to try, and post examples here on this page. Watch this space as I add them! Since I like to use mixed media a lot, it will be a challenge for me to use just one technique at a time, so maybe I’ll try that. Enjoy!

Drawing

Coloring

Stenciling

Stickers

Hole punches

Design tape – also known as Washi tape or Paper tape

Collage

Rubber Stamping

Image Transfers

?????????? – What other techniques could be used?

Here are four examples of beard invitations I made for the 2022-23 season. They are meant to look a bit like chunks of hair that when assembled and applied to Tom’s face, will resemble a beard. I added a QR code to this web page so people could quickly find out what it is and what to do with it. Here are links to all six variations.

Beard Parts 1

Beard Parts 2

Beard Parts 3

Beard Parts 4

Beard Parts 5

Beard Parts 6

To participate, print out one or more of these sheets. Color or decorate the beard pieces with the designs and materials of your choice. Mail the pieces to Tom and I. Then check the hashtag #12daysoftomsbeard on Instagram between December 25 and January 6 each year to see what happens!

For more inspiration

Here is a link to a slideshow of images from the web page of IUOMA – The International Union of Mail Artists. I’ve been uploading the beard pictures to this gallery as I go. Intermixed are images that other people are uploading of conceptual art that they are both sending and receiving. This slide show changes daily as new images get added and older ones drop off. It might give you some ideas! Sometimes I put this slideshow on the screen while I’m working for extra inspiration!

Slide show of photos from IUOMA

Easy Thank You Cards

Rubber stamps by Rubber Stampede (Thank You), Hero Arts (flowers) and unknown (passport stamp collage).

My Dad and I are making Thank You cards following the funerals of my uncle Dave and brother Larry. Tom helped a lot too with the gluing. I’m feeling the effects that a lot of people feel after serious grief and trauma: disrupted sleep, fatigue, brain fog, joint pain, muscle pain, etc. These symptoms are normal for some people after trauma and severe stress, apparently, but of course make everyday functioning relatively difficult for a time. A bike ride on Sunday with friends helped a lot. I asked Tom to be my coach and help encourage me to do the ride. He pumped up the bike tires and pumped me up emotionally and took a hot epsom salt bath with me before we got dressed for the ride to help loosen up my stiff and sore body. With that I didn’t need any pain meds like ibuprofen which I had taken from time to time the previous week. He helped me break through a big barrier and function better. I was really discouraged and scared by how sore I was and how bad I felt. I’m very grateful to have a loving husband to help me get over some rough spots and build on little victories to gradually improve over time. This is extremely hard even with help. I hope and pray that people out there who need support can get it from somewhere. As I find grieving and mental health resources online I’ll keep adding them to my self care Pinterest board.

In the meantime, Dad and I are extending the effort to make cards because we have abundant supplies on hand we enjoy using and we find the activity healing and therapeutic. But with not feeling terribly well I had to come up with a card design that was relatively simple so that we would not tax ourselves beyond our current abilities to make them. They are just challenging enough to force us to concentrate a bit but not so hard we want to give up in frustration. I have to take a lot of breaks, but I’m not giving up! Of course if you want to make your own similar cards you could use any suitable sentiment in place of “Thank You” to fit any message you want to send.

Supplies You’ll Need

Blank cards with envelopes – Dad had a whole bunch of envelopes in different sizes already on hand, so we cut plain white paper to the envelope width and folded the pieces in half to fit. If you prefer, you can buy blank cards with matching envelopes at craft stores.

Assorted papers in light, neutral colors for the two largest areas on the card, with subtle patterns on them. The design on the paper should be light enough to stamp on in medium to dark colors.

Assorted papers in more contrasting neutral colors and patterns for the narrow stripe on the front of each card.

Rubber stamping ink in a “harvest gold” color, a taupe color, and black.

Clean scrap paper to help with gluing

Optional – interesting die cuts, design tape (also known a paper tape or washi tape) and stickers for extra interest

Tools You’ll Need

Paper trimmer

Metal ruler for tearing paper

Scissors

Glue sticks

Squeegee, bone folder or burnishing tool

Rubber stamps. My friend Kate recently gave me a large collection of pre-owned stamps. I will gradually be offering some for sale in my online shop as I have time to get them listed. I did set aside some of my favorites to keep for my own collection (of course). To start out my Dad and I selected for these cards two Thank You stamps, two postage related designs, and three wildflower silhouette stamps. Unfortunately I’m not selling the exact stamps I used in this card because I really love them and there were no duplicates in the pre-owned collection Kate gave me, but you can use similar stamps in their place.

Instructions

  1. Glue a narrow strip of paper that is from the higher-contrast selections about 1/3 from either the left or right from the side of the card.

2. Cut and tear out pieces of paper in light neutral colors with subtle background patterns and glue them to the fronts of the cards on either side of the strip you glued down previously. I tore the edges that overlap the central stripes for visual interest. On some of the cards I added some stickers and design tape for a little extra interest if I thought it was needed. As you’ll see in the final graphic featuring variations on the original design, I added some hexagon die cuts I had made some time ago. When I was designing the prototype card, I asked Dad to pick out stamps he liked from my collection, and he also took out these hexagons, so I looked for ways to use a few and I liked them on some of the cards. Trim the paper to the edges of the card front when done gluing.

3. Stamp three flower stamps on the wider background side of the card in harvest gold or similar ink color. My Dad switched to a red-brown ink later in the process which also looked very good.

4. Stamp a Thank You stamp in black, and if you think the card needs a little more interest, stamp postage related designs or some other accent stamps of your choice in a taupe ink color as in my example at the top of this article. You might decide your card needs more or less done to it depending on what background papers you choose. See the graphic below for a bunch of variations that we made.

Here is a collage of some of the cards we made showing how many different ways you can use the same stamps. The additional lower case thank you stamp you see here is by Tim Holtz. Dad did most of the stamping and decided some of the cards didn’t need so much on them which is a fine design choice you can make when the papers are interesting. If you would like to download a high-res version of the above graphic (with more designs on it) to use in projects like stickers or faux postage sheets here is a link:
Printable Thank You Graphics

Additional Resources:

My Pinterest board for Greeting Card Idea and Sketches

My Facebook album for free coloring and paper crafting downloads

With more time and energy, I probably would have created a card that uses stamps that I actually sell, some of which I designed. For now the important thing was to make something nice that is also fast and easy. But if you want to browse my collection of stamps in my Etsy shop here it is: Stamping