If you’re a crafter on Pinterest looking for something new to create, no doubt you’ve seen tons of DIYs blithely telling you how to make everything from poured candles to rocks carved with Dremel tools to melted crayon art. These professional-looking, beautifully photographed posts make the process seem oh-so-breezy and incredibly easy. With a few simple materials and such straightforward, step-by-step instructions, how could a poor unsuspecting crafter go wrong? Riiiighhhttttt.
Ever an optimist and eager to try new things, I’ve saved several of these pins to a private board, intending to give them a go. I particularly want to try making sea glass-like jars and bottles by painting them with Elmer’s glue mixed with food colouring. I’ll let you know in a future post how that one turns out!
I’ve already attempted melted crayon art; the Pinterest examples look fabulous and very artsy. (No photoshopping or false claims there, ahem.) According to the instructions, you chop crayons into small pieces, scatter them on paper and use a hair dryer or heat gun to melt them into groovy abstract patterns. NOT. The instructions fail to mention that the air flow blows the crayon straight off the table and halfway across the room, never to be seen again, so you have to chop up even more and figure out a way to hold them down (I used a fork). And, although I do own one, I didn’t even consider using a heat gun; it just seems incredibly unsafe, what with the close proximity of fingers and combustible materials, etc. Having said that, with a bit of trial and error, the method did work – sort of. I tried one picture but went a little crazy colour-wise, ending up with a thick, muddy mess. Had I stuck with it and used only a few judiciously-chosen colours, I might have produced something more aesthetically pleasing. But the whole thing was just too fiddly and frustrating, and nothing like the examples shown on Pinterest. Pass.
Next: since ’tis almost the season, I went for do-it-yourself marbleized Christmas ornaments, coating the inside of clear glass or plastic balls with acrylic craft paint. (Some claim you can do the melted crayon thing with glass balls, too.) One Pinterest method goes something like this:
Remove cap from ornament • In a paper cup, mix 1 tbsp paint with ½ tsp water until paint is the consistency of melted ice cream • Use 2 or 3 colours for each ball • Pour dime-sized amount of paint into ball, starting with lightest colour • Slowly rotate ball so paint flows in different directions • Add other colours one by one in the same way, allowing a marble pattern to develop as they mix and entire surface is covered • Position balls with openings pointed down so any leftover paint drains away • Let dry for 24 hours • Replace caps
Sounds good, right? Well, the marbleizing looked quite pretty as I was working with the wet paint. But things started to go partridge in a pear tree-shaped near the end of the process – and, indeed, after the balls had been sitting to dry for 24 hours and much longer. In fact, some of the ornaments I started almost a week ago are still not dry! The paint didn’t stick in some places, separating and cracking in others. When I set them open end down to drain, gravity pulled at the lovely marble swirls and, in a couple of ornaments, made them disappear completely. I had to add even more paint to put some marbling back in or fill in cracks, which accounts for the interminable drying time. And – many curses – every time I fix the cracks, new ones develop elsewhere. I’ve spent hours and hours trying to get a paltry five ornaments to work out, and only two are just satisfactory! How could such a simple-sounding craft turn out so badly? Here’s what I wish Pinterest had told me:
• Wash the balls (glass or plastic) with soap and water before using, let dry, and select multi-surface acrylic paint. Some craft paint may stick to glass better than others, and any oily residue from the ornaments’ manufacturing process may interfere with adhesion. My first attempt was with a plastic ball and was a disaster. The paint “fell down” in runny rivulets as it dried, leaving unsightly cracks all the way around (see photo, right), and no amount of desperate fixes could remedy this. I did attempt to make the cracks look deliberate – a kind of crackled, raku effect – but it just looked sad. I switched to glass after that.
• Size matters. The ornaments I used were almost 4 inches in diameter. I have a feeling paint would stay put better on smaller spheres with less surface to cover. I did purchase a smaller set; if I haven’t completely lost my mind by the end of this experiment, I may try some and post about it later.
• Don’t add water if you don’t need to. You may be able to use the paint right out of the bottle if it seems to flow well. I suspect the added moisture was partly responsible for cracking the paint as the water evaporated. And you only need to add a drop or two; use an eye dropper if you have one, and mix well.
• Drip a small amount of paint into the ball at a time. Less is more here. Too much paint will spread in blobs over too much surface and reduce the marble effect, and the more paint inside the ball, the longer it will take to dry and the more likely cracks will develop. (The only one that dried properly right off the bat was the Peacock ornament, and even then it developed a few cracks which I was able to fix without destroying the marble effect.) No worries if you don’t cover all the surface at first; the paint will continue to spread and blend until it’s completely set, and you can always cover any open areas later by dabbing with a bit more paint (see more on that below).
• Shake out as much excess paint as possible. No matter how much paint you think you’ve drained out, there will always be some extra pooling inside, prolonging dry time considerably. Protect your work surface with lots of newspaper. Shake. Shake hard. Keep shaking until you think you’ve got most of it out. And turn the ornament occasionally as it dries to help thin and move any remaining paint around.
• Do not set the ball to dry with open end facing down. All those lovely marble swirls will flow straight down, and you’ll get a single-coloured ball. (The Burnished ornament started off as a beautifully marbled gold, silver and copper and ended up as a neither-here-nor-there single-coloured metallic.) Set the ball on its side or with the opening facing up on a 45 degree angle. Change position occasionally.
• Be patient. The colours flow slowly inside the glass as you work. Because they continue to blend, diffuse and change for many hours, don’t try to get the perfect marble effect right away – you might overblend it. And plan on a drying time of several days if you’ve used a lot of paint, or it’s thick.
• All is not as it seems. As mentioned above, the pattern you see when you set the ornament to dry will not be the final result. It took a lot of desperate manipulation to get the results shown here (I trashed the ugly plastic one), and even now they are still wet and/or developing cracks.
• Wait until paint seems dry before fixing cracks. I think this was my biggest mistake; I kept adding more paint into the still-wet balls to fill in cracks and gaps (from the outside, the paint looked dry). All that extra paint is just never going to adhere or cure properly. It was only after days of struggle that I had an a-ha! moment: test for dryness by inserting a bent cotton swab. If the paint stays in place when touched, use the swab to dab on a tiny amount of undiluted paint to cover gaps. For a longer reach, overlap the ends of two swabs and secure them with a twist tie.
• Replace the cap very carefully. The paint, although permanent, is delicate inside there. The “prongs” that hold the cap on could easily scratch your hard-won creation.
• Longevity. Only time will tell how long these ornaments will last. I suspect the paint may continue to crack as it hardens, especially in dry winter climes with central heating and little humidity. When I started this project, I was hoping to make a witch ball – you know, like those beautiful blown glass balls hung in windows as a good luck house blessing. Now I’m afraid to do this with the ones I’ve made, as the paint may not hold up to exposure to sunlight.
Have you tried any DIY projects from Pinterest or similar sources? Were they successful, so-so, or an unmitigated disaster? Please share your experiences! And if you’ve tried to make painted ornaments like these, please let me know how you got on.