Monday, December 12, 2011

Quick & Easy Ornament Upgrades

While digging through my ribbon bag I found these miniature ornaments from last year:

I like to tie tabletop tree ornaments in with the bows on gift boxes, but I guess I never got around to using these. When I found them I immediately thought they'd be perfect for my steampunk tree - but they're just so small.

Enter two flat glass ornaments I just found at the Dollar Tree for - yep - a dollar:

Pull out the miniatures' metal ornament hooks, add a little epoxy adhesive, and hellooo, match made in heaven!

Aren't they pretty?

[Note to self: next time don't wear bright fuchsia while photographing shiny things.]


I've noticed this flattened ornament style all over this year, so you should be able to find some for your own craft-ventures. Then shop the miniature tree ornaments for ideas, or raid your jewelry box (old earrings, perhaps?), scrapbook supplies, metal stampings, etc. etc. (Oh! Wouldn't these be gorgeous with some decorative key hole covers?)

Ok, one more:

I found these cute plastic owls at Home Depot. They're by Martha Stewart, so I was surprised by how cheap they are. Not in price (I think the pack was $10), but in quality. The plastic rings for the hangers were messily hot glued in place, (two popped out), and though the gold finish had a nice sheen to it, they still looked so...plastic.

Enter a heavy coat of water-based glaze:

...which we then wiped off with a paper towel...and our fingers, after a while. The gloves started to stick, and it was more fun getting paint all over our hands anyway. Heh.

You can use simple craft paint for this: just make sure you put a thick coat on so it gets into all the valleys and cracks, and then wipe the peaks clean so the original finish shines through.

For my first attempt I used watered down brown paint, which gave the owl a reddish, almost coppery finish, but not nearly enough contrast. After that we switched to thick black glaze, and you can really see the difference:

That's the black glaze on left, original plastic finish in the middle, and watered down brown paint on right.

Again, we used leftover water-based glaze, but a thick acrylic paint should do the trick just as well.

And here they are, all lined up! Don't you think they look a lot more like metal now?

(I left my original brown aged one alone, there on the right. The finish isn't as dramatic, but it's still kind of pretty.)

And now a few "action" shots in the tree:

What a hoot!

(Sorry. Couldn't resist.)

Consider that last pic a sneak peek; we're still not quite done with our steampunk tree, but it's really coming along! And if we can get the topper wired up and finished the way we're hoping, then it's REALLY gonna be something.

I also have a few steamier ornament crafts coming up, including some test tube experiments and little hot air balloons. (Although these just hit the web yesterday and are totally adorable.) Stay tuned!


  1. I LOVE those owls! You've given me a lot of great ideas for my tree this year!

  2. insanely impressed with you! well done!

  3. Love your "improved" ornaments!

    Another trick you can use to distress things is Old English furniture polish (the dark brown stuff). I've used it on plastic gourds that looked too bright, and they turned out looking rather real. Old English is a trick that I learned as a costumer for distressing brand new shoes and to knock the bright white off of rubber. It's great stuff! (Just be sure to wear gloves or you will have brown hands, hehe.)

  4. Your creativity blows me away every time. And you make it look so easy! Can´t wait for the pictures of your Christmas tree.

  5. It's beautiful! You are so creative! I'm so jealous, my projects always look horrible.

  6. Wow! I love how perfect the snowflakes fit and the owls are great!

  7. Brian and I were just talking about making some owl ornaments for the tree. We wanted them resting on a key for our look, but wasn't sure where to find some. These are cute AND affordable. Double bonus!


  8. That's beautiful! I personally think that next year you should just have pretty ornaments, without the snow or the pinecones... they take away from your BEEAUUUTIFUL craftiness.

  9. Oh Jen, don't apologise for "What a hoot!" You're far more restrained here than on CakeWrecks. Love the snowflake transformation!

  10. What epoxy do you like for plastic to glass like those first ornaments?

  11. @ Niki - I used Gorilla glue epoxy (the one with the double plungers). It's great for mixing up small amounts on the fly.

  12. A trick I learned many years ago was to use black leather dye like you did the black glaze. It comes in a easy applicator for shoes and is really easy and durable. I've used it on jewelry I wear a lot and it really holds up! I also like that it's a little transparent so you can build up some layers.

  13. Your fushia shirt makes the smaller attached ornament stand out better for the picture. I'm not into owls (they were really popular in the seventies, when I was still in single digits age wise, and I got my fill of them then) but with the glaze on these, they are a wonderful addition to your tree. There was a program made for kids (a Baskins production I believe - the same company that produced Rudolph) and it had a clockwork owl in it and these remind me of him.


    P.S. It was great to see you in Pittsburgh!

  14. Comment to Alex -

    I'm sure your projects are just fine! Most people are unhappy with things they create because - 1. they made them and - 2. it may not look exactly as mentally pictured. Don't criticise yourself too hard. The real enjoyment is in the creating, not necessarily the having. Up close and personal, Jen may think that her first set of ornaments have too much glue in some spots or are a little crooked. But overall she is happy with them.
    Enjoy the process!


  15. At my house, access to gold paint + access to bay tree = lots and lots of gilded leaves. The paint holds up pretty well, though I've found it definitely helps if the leaves are dried before you start painting.


  16. I saw one hot air balloon ornament somewhere on the interweb that used a thimble for the basket instead of the tiny boxes shown in the link you provided. Both are so cute!

  17. Hope you get it done by the 25th lol Looking good

  18. Another thing you could do for that metal look is long hair and a Metallica t-shirt. Anyway, they look great. Can't wait to see the whole tree.

  19. Everything is so pretty. If only I had half the creativity you have I would be happy. I wish my Dollar tree sold those flat ornaments. I bought some that I thought were pretty flat to put pictures on from Michaels but they aren't wanting to work for me.

  20. You have the BEST ideas! Unfortunately, when I went to find some of those flat ornaments, they were nowhere to be found. Too close to Christmas. Ah, well; maybe I'll find some next year! I have so many ideas for them!

  21. I had to go searching for the owls so I could post this in the right set of comments....
    Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU -- for blogging about your owls recently enough that I remembered them whilst digging through the $1 bins at my local craft store! I'm decorating our guest bath in a "world-traveler" feel (that's what I call it, anyhow!) and I found these great old-world picture frames with a horrible gold "gilt" paint job -- that's no problem, I immediately thought. I'll just do them like Jen's owls!! Wish me luck - if they turn out half as awesome as your owls, I'll call it a win! :)


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