The Magic of Transformation
One of the most satisfying aspects of the creative process is transformation--when our humble caterpillar projects evolve into gorgeous butterflies.
In truth though, transformation is not easy to achieve. But with a little practice, you can learn to create this effect in your work much more often.
And for you Art Glitter lovers, I’ve got the perfect Art Glitter-based holiday project for learning more about this process.
The Byzantine Baubles Ornament Kit
These ornaments pictured here are examples from my Byzantine Baubles Ornament Kit.
Making this kit will carry you through a genuine transformation process–each step evolves the project from its humble, brown kraft paper origins into its final, bejeweled, glittery wonderfulness--it’s truly a great example of how lots of small details create a final result that’s truly greater than the sum of its parts.
A how-to video is available to people who buy the kit, but I’m sharing all the steps here along with some of my best design tips and tricks in order to inspire you to start your own wonderful versions of this project just in time for the holidays.
To make this kit you’ll need: Paper Mache Ornaments, Metallic Paint, Transparent Ultrafine Art Insitute Glitter; Art institute Dries Clear Glue, The Art Glitter Ultrafine Metal Glue Tip, German Dresden Trim; Glass Pearl Cabachons and a paintbrush.
Paint all your ornaments first and let them dry thoroughly. I like to use metallic paint and I usually use two coats.
Decide where you’re going to dry your ornaments before you start painting—I like to stick a tack in the side of my worktable.
Practice drawing lines and dots with the ultrafine metal glue tip on scrap paper before you start working on the actual ornament:
Get a feel for the tip and the design you want to make. I provide a template for my looped design in my kit, but you can look in pattern books for other inspiration.
If you work out a pretty design that you like first, it'll help you use your glitter wisely and figure out what part of your pattern should be in what color before you start on the ornaments themselves.
Simple is best. As you can see on the Byzantine Baubles ornaments, I use a simple all over loop pattern with gold dots.
Filling the space with a repeat pattern is a great way to make your final product look good-- don't worry if your drawn lines and shapes aren’t perfect--the repetition of the pattern and the gorgeousness of the glitter hides all kinds of imperfections.
Once you’re ready to work on your ornament, it’s best to work in stages:
If you’re using a multi-sided ornament like mine, draw your glue pattern on one or two sides and then sprinkle your glitter before the glue dries.
If you’re working on a round ornament, pick a section that’s small enough to be comfortable working on, and do the same as above.
Once you’ve sprinkled your glitter on top of your wet glue, you’ll notice extra glitter seems to stick everywhere on the ornament—even the non-gluey areas. Don’t worry, you’ll be able to brush off the excess glitter after it’s dry.
Hint: You might actually find it easier to work on more than one ornament at a time because it will help you resist the temptation to continue working on the wet one.
Once you’ve created the entire background pattern and it’s dry, you can brush off the excess glitter with a (dry) paintbrush:
Now you’re ready to add your second color. For the Byzantine Baubles Ornaments, that means adding a simple glue dot inside each loop of the pattern.
Again, it’s better to work on only one or two sides at a time so the glue has a chance to dry.
Don’t forget to resist the temptation to brush off the excess glitter until the glue has dried.
Once you've covered your entire ornament with gold dots and brushed off the excess glitter, you’re ready for the next step.
Your ornament should be looking pretty snazzy at this point, but these next two simple steps are key to making the ornament look like something else—something more exotic than it is—this is what makes it feel transformed:
By wrapping strips of traditional German Dresden Trim around the center of each ornament, it starts to look like a jeweled encrusted secret box or a Christmas-y version of a Faberge egg.
We can reinforce this feeling by adding oversized, flat backed glass pearls (cabachons) to three sides of the ornament, (just glue them in place with the glitter glue). The glitter, the trim and the pearls all work together to create an over the top fancy feeling that’s perfect for a Christmas ornament.
Now the ornament is done. It’s thoroughly transformed from its original state—kraft paper? Whaaa? Who knew?
We’ve elevated our project by combining materials in a new way that creates something larger than the sum of its parts. This in turn sparks the imagination of the viewer to connect our design to other images, ideas or feelings in their experience--personal memories or shared cultural symbols and objects.
All of this happen in nano-seconds—and most of the time, as the viewers, we’re not aware of it. And it might sound high-falutin’ but I believe that creating connections like these in our viewers’ minds is what makes good design good—and when you’re developing a craft project, that’s what you’re doing—designing.
More Design Tips
Things to consider if you’re developing your own ornament designs based on what I’ve been teaching here:
Keep your design and palette simple.
Use just a few colors for an elegant feeling and lots of colors to create a riotous, party feeling. For these ornaments, I stuck to a narrow palette--I use one bold color for the paint and the main glitter and use gold as the accent.
I then echo the gold from the glitter in the trim and the pearls—if I had used white pearls, for instance, it would have looked weird and detracted from the design.
So before you discard an element that doesn’t seem to work, ask yourself if it’s the size, the shape or the color that isn’t right—change one thing and it might be perfect.
Repeat shapes and lines—I repeated a lot of circles in my ornaments—the looped pattern, the little dots, the round pearl cabs—balancing repetition with slight variation creates visual interest and harmony at the same time.
Constantly strike a balance between variation and repetition:
When I first added trim to the middle of my ornament, I instantly loved that it created a closed box feeling because it created more story, which in turn created more visual interest.
But by repeating the gold color of the dots, I also kept the “visual interest” under control because it was connected to the other elements of the design—too much harmony and a design gets sleepy—too much variation and everything looks choppy and confusing.
I hope this project has provided you some ideas about how you might create transformation in your own artwork, design, and craft projects.
If you’d like to order this kit and download my step-by-step how to video, please click here: http://makegreatstuff.com/byzantine-baubles-ornament-kit/
What do you think about these ideas about the role of transformation in your art making or crafting? Does it seem crazy or are you intrigued? Please share your thoughts, I’d love to hear from you.