Thursday, December 16, 2010

SHHH! Christmas Elf At Work

I have an addiction to making Christmas presents for my family.  Its an addiction because it always ends up causing me more stress and pain than its probably worth, but I am compelled to do it every year.  A normal 2am on Christmas Eve is everyone asleep in their beds while I am working away, up to my elbows in crafting supplies, desperately trying to finish all my projects by the morning.  Typically, there is always at least one or two halfway finished gifts wrapped quickly at 4am, with a long note of intention and promise to finish it that week for the receiver.  Let's see: there was the crocheted afghan (that was 2 feet too short) of 2001 for my mom, the skirt missing an elastic waist and bottom hem of 1998 for my sister, the photo montage of my son and my dad together that had a large blank spot in the center because I didnt get all the photos developed (2009), scarves that were missing their fringe, memory books that were missing details, and a hand sewn quilt for my son that never got the appliques put on it.

I always take on too much, but I suppose its "the thought that counts?"  So this year, I let go, I admitted my limitations, and decided to honor my family by purchasing fully complete gifts while I dedicate my time to finishing my Christmas orders for my Etsy Shop.  No 2am Santa's workshop 2010 for me!  I was actually quite proud of myself for recognizing my needs this year, and finally not feeling like I am failing, falling behind, or falling short of my expectations.  Plus I found some truly beautiful handmade things (made by other people!) on Etsy for each of my family members, and I am proud to be giving them to my loved ones this year.

However, if you have the gift making bug this year, and have the space and time to do it (dont over do it!!)  Here's a really beautiful way to take old books and turn them into incredible wall art.

Shabby Chic Paper Flower Art

Start with a base that can hang on the wall, I make my own wall panel blocks and stain them, but you can pick up something from the craft store that can be painted or stained and can hang on the wall.

This wood block measures 3.5" X 3.5" is routed on the back
to hang flat against the wall and is stained in a walnut color.

Then choose some pages from an old book that has small text. Cut strips that do not include much white space, and attach to the front of our base using gel medium.  Then brush gel medium on the top to seal.

Then I drew a border around the text block with a charcoal pencil and gave it a vintage look using Distress Ink (Tea Dye color).  (rub the distress ink pad over the paper and then wipe away parts with a damp rag to blend and give a true aged feel).

Now you are done with the base, and its time to start on the flowers.  Tear a few pages from a different old book.  I used a discarded encyclopedia that I found at a Library Sale.  

Choose the colorways that you want to work with in your flower palette, and cover each page with one color of acrylic paint.  (make the paint layer thin, so you can still see the text beneath).  I chose to do a second layer of paint using bubble wrap painted with white acrylic, that I pressed on top of each painted page.  When your painted pages are all dry (you only need to paint one side), then I usually coat them with a layer of gel medium to stiffen them more.

Then cut flower shapes in various sizes that can layer on top of each other.  You dont have to over think this, just free hand cut a flower shape, the more odd the better.  I also added in a piece I cut from a paper bag, which I think make a very nice bottom layer.

Next grab a permanent marker (fine tip) and outline your flower shapes.  Again, dont over think this, I do it really fast and with super messy lines, you cant really screw this up.

Then take your cut pieces and crumple them up to distress them and put lots of good wrinkles and shape to them.  (I like to pinch the middle of each shape (where the stem would hold on) and then twist and crumple around that to help them bend out a bit more like a flower).  Then flatten them back out and rub the edges of them on the same distress ink pad.

Next I take some basic white paint and do a quick brush on around the bottom (paper bag) layer.

Now its time to put them together.  Layer your flower parts on top of each other until you get a combo and placement that you like.  Then take some crochet thread and a needle and sew an X in the middle of the flower, securing it together.  

When you've made a few of these flowers in varying sizes, start gluing them onto your previously prepped base in a configuration that feels good to you.  (I use an industrial clear craft glue, but you can use whatever you have in the house, just remember to keep it clean so that the dried glue is concealed by the flower.)  Voila! You have created a beautiful wall panel!

I am currently making 6 of these flower panel blocks as a custom order for a friend's wall.  Use your imagination and change up the sizes, shapes, and colors of the flowers, maybe add some paper leaves or vines hanging off, so many possibilities, and they are sure to make any art lover very happy on Christmas morning.  

(If you dont have the time to make one of these, but would love to have some made for a Christmas gift, me a message ASAP.  I am already in flower making mode and can guarantee Christmas delivery on any orders made by Sunday 12/19).

Happy Creating!!


  1. hey there, thanks for sharing such a detailed tutorial. looks great. i'll have to postpone making something like this to next year though ... :)

    have a great week!

  2. this is super cute!!! great tutorial, thank you for sharing.

  3. Harm- that is so beautiful. You will crack up if you go visit my blog today and see my version of "crafty gifts" Why didn't I learn anything beyond hemp bracelet making from you? sigh.

  4. This is beautiful!! Love it!


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