to have and to hold

My cousin got married!  Read about it here if you haven’t already.  Her invitation was very frank and funny: it gave the details and then announced that Kansas City barbeque and “awkward but enthusiastic dancing” would follow the ceremony.  It encouraged BYOB and reminded us that RSVPs are important: “Though we sincerely hope that you will be joining us on our big day, please do not assume that we can read minds….”

I liked the way they told us exactly what to expect from them as hosts and what they expected from us as guests.  One of the things mentioned in the details was that they would be happy to receive handmade and secondhand gifts.  I’m sure you can imagine how fast my mind took off with that idea!

letters 'to have and to hold'

I had already started a papier mâché bowl for myself, and I thought since it was going pretty well I’d make one for them too.  I had learned a couple things making my own bowl, so I felt confident that I could do an even better job on theirs since it wouldn’t be a test run.  I used flour and water to make my papier mâché paste.

flour on a plate

flour and water on a plate

flour and water mixed--messy hand!

I used plain white paper (salvaged from book boxes unpacked at the library) for the first few layers to build strength, then dictionary pages on the top layers to add interest.

a dictionary and a mixing bowl form

The problem I encountered with my first bowl was that I was way too careful.  I know that probably sounds strange, but in striving to smooth all the paper tightly against my form (a melamine mixing bowl covered in plastic wrap) I made it unmoldable.  Eventually I had to slice through the paper to gain the leverage I needed to pry the handmade bowl loose!  You can see it in the next photo, which makes me think of “Anthem” by Leonard Cohen: “There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

light shining through the crack

In other contexts, I’m all for light getting in.  In this context, though, a little duct tape was in order.  When I finish this bowl I want to use it to hold oranges–or other fruit, but every time I picture it, it’s oranges.

mending the crack with duct tape

Anyway, I set that project aside for a while, lessons learned, and moved on to the smaller bowl I wanted to make for my cousin and her lovebird.  This time I draped plastic over the bowl in a cross shape so I could pull from more than one direction to loosen the molded bowl.  I also left the plastic much looser than I did the first time!

mini bowl covered with plastic wrap

When the papier mâché had dried enough to hold its shape, I transferred it to a ceramic bowl so I could dry it in a 200-degree oven.  I read that it would dry harder under heat than at room temperature.  Before popping it in the oven, I smoothed the ragged top edge with scissors.

trimming edges smooth

After a few days drying (which ensured that the papier mâché was completely cured) I began to layer on dictionary pages.  I was going to use Mod Podge for this step until I saw on Pinterest that you can mix glue and water 1:1 and get the same result.  I already had glue, so that was a no-brainer.  (Buy another craft item or don’t…?)

DIY mod podge

I chose some of my pages carefully, saving their special words for the outer layer:





On the bottom of the bowl I pasted a little illustration of sweet pea flowers because Sweet Pea is one of my cousin’s nicknames.  She even has a tattoo of it.

sweet pea close-up

On the inside I pasted a wedding-day message that I figured will apply just as well to the everyday function of this bowl: it says “to have and to hold.”

view from top with "to have and to hold" and eggs

The eggs, which I think came from a Clinique ad, seemed like a sweet symbol of “nesting” in a new home together.  I could wax metaphorical about how marriage, like eggs,  blends fragility with the promise of life–or I could just say I thought the eggs were cute, which is about all the thought I actually put into it.  The possibility of deeper meaning is there, but that’s not why I initially chose to include the picture.  Anyway, here’s how I imagine the bowl will look when it’s hard at work holding stuff.

tableau with bowl holding keys and phone

I hope the bride and groom enjoy using it.  Would you trust your catchall items to a paper bowl?  This one turned out pretty sturdy; now I’m eager to finish the one I started for myself!

rustic recycling

Memo to all my friends and cousins: that is enough babies for now, okay?  The number of births in my social circle has been steadily climbing this year.  I posted last week about flowers for a friend’s new little girl, and today I’ll show you what I made for another friend who welcomed a little boy.  (Fun fact: both friends had the same due date, but the babies were born five days apart.)

#silver bowl with twine pears & vase arrangement

The mommy of the boy collects pears, so with this as inspiration, I set about crafting a few weeks before Ben was scheduled to enter the world.  Here’s the way I gave them to her–in a silver dish with slightly scalloped edges.  But they didn’t always look so pretty….

#silver bowl with twine pears

They actually began as burned-out lightbulbs.  I happened to have five, which is the number of people in the family now that Ben has arrived. That just made this craft seem more “meant to be” than ever.  Other supplies needed for this project: hot glue gun, extra glue sticks (I think I used about one per pear), twine or jute, and some sort of stems.

twine pears project supplies

Here’s the twine I used.  When I saw that there were 147 feet on this roll, I thought there was no way I’d need more than one roll.  In fact, I thought I’d have to come up with other creative uses for it since there would obviously be so much left over.  But actually…it looks like I used upward of 25 feet of twine per pear.  Is that crazy or what?  When I guesstimated I thought I’d use maybe 5 feet.  Oh, well; at least I didn’t run out!

gardening twine

Back to the stems for a second: I took mine off of some apples we had in our fruit bowl.  Nicole, whose project inspired mine, used twigs snapped off of a wreath in her house.  Be resourceful!  There’s no wrong solution.

apple stems

I glued on my stems right away so I could wrap around them, and I built up a glue mound at the base of each one so it would be easier to “taper” the twine toward the top.  Hopefully the glue mounds also add durability, but that remains to be seen after the finished product spends some time in close proximity to young children.  (Yes, I warned their mother that inside the twine is glass.)

lightbulbs supported on sections of toilet paper roll

I cut a toilet paper tube into sections so I had resting places for my pears in various stages of glue-drying.  They were pretty handy for keeping the pears in place.  Before I thought of using the holders the pears were rolling all over my desk, which apparently isn’t level.  I completed one pear at a time, starting at the bottom and working my way to the top.

beginning to wrap twine from bottom of bulb

Here’s what the bottom looked like totally wrapped in twine.

bottom fully wrapped

I decided for looks and safety I wanted two layers of twine, so I tried going bottom-to-top then trailing one long piece to the bottom to go bottom-to-top again, but I abandoned that method after one pear.  The curvy middle of the bulb was the most difficult to wrap, so I quickly learned that it was the best place to start.  I wrapped one line at the point where the skinny end of the bulb just started to flare wider, and I dotted glue every half inch or so, wrapping very tightly and sort of slowly.  (I’m a bit on the impatient side for a crafter.)

meeting in the middle

When I reached the bottom I wrapped the tightest circle I could to hide the glass, then immediately built up another layer on top of it and wrapped up to the middle again.  So the bottom and middle had two layers while the top had none.  I passed the starting place and wrapped to the top, then went around the stem a few times before wrapping my way back down to the middle.  That’s probably why it took so much twine!  But all the glass was hidden and I thought the extra layer resulted in a more pear-like and less bulb-like shape.  Or maybe I convinced myself of it so I’d feel better about all the wrapping.

stem detail

Here’s one finished little guy.

one pear--done

And a little heap of ’em.

five pears in irregular white bowl

And, because I can’t resist pretending like I live in HGTV magazine, here’s a little heap of ’em styled with a vase of white alstroemeria and a patterned pillow in the background.  Doesn’t the end result make you want to hunch over a table specked with hemp fibers, burning your fingers on melted glue and redeeming lightbulbs from what once seemed a certain doom?  No?  Well, see how you feel about it next time a bulb burns out.  Maybe the idea will grow on you.

five pears in white bowl with vase of white alstroemeria