Make a Klimt-Inspired Gift Box

Even just a hint of a sparkle or metallic sheen is enough to catch our attention and get us to take a second look. Gustav Klimt knew it, and so do we…  Here’s an idea for making some decorated boxes to package your holiday gifts in that are sure to be noticed…and appreciated!

Materials and Tools:

Photo storage box, or other box with a lid that fits over the top

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Not Just Another Pretty Face: Make an Applehead Doll

Image from www.appledolls.org

Dolls have a long, rich history across the cultures. In prehistoric times, primitive puppets were often used in ceremonies. Tribal healers in Africa, Asia, and elsewhere, sometimes utilized dolls in medicinal rituals. And, of course, most people are familiar with the idea of cursing enemies through the use of voodoo dolls (but we won’t go there right now…)

A few month ago, we looked at the tradition of corn dollies, which were believed to keep the spirits of the grain alive through the long winters, and to help ensure a good harvest the following year. But speaking of fruit faces (as we did in our earlier post about Guiseppe Arcimboldo’s unique portraits, here’s another way to use another common natural material (apples) to create the wonderful, wizened faces of applehead dolls. The Seneca Indians may have been the first to make dolls from apples, but the craft was later adopted by the mountain people in Appalachia. Today, they remain a popular folk art of the region.

I’m just going to give you the basics here, because there are several sites out there (www.appledolls.org in particular) that already do a far better job than I with the specifics.  Look for the resource list at the end of the post.

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How to Make Sugar Skulls for Day of the Dead

Image courtesy of mexicansugarskulls.com

 

Sugar art has been created in Mexico since colonial times. For the Day of the Dead, sugar skulls represented a departed soul, with the name of the person being honored written on the forehead. The skulls were then placed on home altars (ofrendas) or gravestones in honor of that soul’s return. Today, the skulls are also popular gifts. Like valentines, sugar skulls are exchanged by friends and sweethearts as a token of an affection and love that will transcend death. (If this seems like a strange idea, you may want to ready our post about Day of the Dead imagery.)

The sugar skulls sold in the markets for Day of the Dead are made using a complicated process involving boiled sugar and clay molds. But you can easily make your own skulls at home with just sugar, meringue powder, water, and special plastic molds.

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Create Your Own Sacred Space

A shrine is not a collection of objects to worship, but a place to awaken you to greater thoughts, feelings and noble actions.

Marianne Williamson

Perhaps it’s a nook in your garden, or maybe simply the top of a bureau, a corner in your kitchen or even a window ledge. However you configure it, a sacred space is place for you to meditate, to pray, to rediscover and recover. It is a place where you can honor those things you hold most sacred and precious.

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Make a Corn Dolly

In traditional European pagan culture, it was believed that the spirit of the corn lived in the crop and would be made homeless by the harvest. Of course, as we know from our post on corn rituals, this would not have been “corn” as we know it today because it was a New World crop and wasn’t grown in Europe at this time. The term “corn” here actually refers to “grain,” such as wheat.

In any event, it was customary to take the last sheaf of the harvest and fashion it into a decorative dolly. The spirit of the grain would then spend the winter in this new home until it was time to plant again the next year. The corn dolly was plowed into the first furrow to ensure a good harvest of the new crop. In many places, these dollies have become—and remain—a popular art form. Some are very intricate, and bear little resemblance to a human figure.

Meanwhile, back in the New World, many Native American groups made dolls from natural materials, and one material that was commonly used was corn husks.

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Symbols of Myself Collage

Stevie's "Symbols of Myself" Collage

Just as Frida Kahlo found solace in her art, you, too, may discover that art can provide a means to profound self-knowledge and growth. However, the kind of self-portraits that Frida was capable of producing may be just a little too intimidating (I’m speaking for myself here, okay?), so instead, we’ll focus on making a collage.

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Make a God’s Eye to Celebrate the Summer Solstice

Source: Wikipedia. Photo by Anaroza 2007

A God’s Eye (or Ojo de Dios) is often thought of as a Mexican decoration. They are used by the Huichol Indians of western Mexico in sacred ceremonies. When a child is born, a God’s Eye is created by the father and offered to the god who protects children. Each year, until the child reaches the age of five, a new, smaller God’s eye is added to one end of the original. These colorful yarn decorations evolved from the “nierika.” The “nierika,” a small square or round tablet with a hole in the center, was used as a sacred magical offering and symbolized the sun, among other things. Because of the sun symbolism, God’s Eyes have become popular decorations for the Summer Solstice as well.

God’s Eyes can be as simple or complex as you like. We’ll start with the directions for making the most basic version, but I’ll give you some ideas at the end for increasing the complexity if you are so inclined…

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Colorful, Fun Tissue Paper Flowers Are Easy on the Eyes – and the Budget!

Festive, colorful celebrations are a big part of what so many of us love about Mexican culture. And one of the best things about the traditional decorations–like these tissue paper flowers–is that they generally use materials that are easy to come by and won’t break the bank. Scatter a few of these flowers around and you will instantly create a festive atmosphere to celebrate Cinco de Mayo (or whatever…)

The directions I’m going to give you here use full sheets of tissue paper to create gigantic, showy flowers. If you prefer to make smaller flowers, simply cut the pieces of tissue in half, or even in fourths. The basic directions remain the same in any case.

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These Eggs Are to Dye For!

Those Pysanky Easter Eggs that we talked about earlier this month were gorgeous, no question! But the idea of actually making one was (at least for me)…well…more than a little intimidating. Natural dyes, on the other hand looked like something I might be able to handle. So I gave it a shot and we were all thrilled with the results. Plus, it was a lot of fun.

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Oooooh! Oobleck!

This is the wildest stuff—and if it doesn’t get your inner kid just a little bit excited, I don’t know what will! I can tell you this—it elicited a genuine “Wow! Cool!” from a 13-year-old who normally reacts with studied cynicism to just about everything these days…

Oobleck gets its name from the Dr. Seuss book Bartholomew and the Oobleck, in which a gooey green substance, Oobleck, fell from the sky and caused all sorts of trouble in the kingdom.

Making Oobleck can be used as a science experiment of sorts, because it is considered a “non-newtonian fluid.” That is to say, it acts like a liquid when being poured, but like a solid when pressure is put on it (for instance, when you squeeze it in your hand). Hit it hard and it feels like you are hitting a wall! Touch it softly and the material will flow gently around your fingers (Hmmm…wonder if there’s a life lesson in there as well?)

Here’s an easy way to make Oobleck—though it will likely still make a mess—primarily because you’ll get carried away playing with it. You may want to put down some newspaper before you begin. Just in case…

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