Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Spectacular Walnut Advent Calendar

I had a great-grandmother who lived until I was sixteen years old who was a master at turning holidays into magical extravaganzas. We called her Oma, and in this case I think I have finally managed to out-Oma Oma. This advent calendar requires about three days of work, depending on how fast you work.

Step One: assemble materials - walnuts in the shell; acrylic paint in gold, silver, and copper; old napkins or hankies (or just old fabric scraps of thin white cotton); vintage copyright-free Christmas images collected from the Web (search Google images); and iron-on printer paper.

Step One: assemble materials.

Step Two: Start cracking open walnuts, working carefully to get two perfect halves.  You will go through a lot of walnuts in this attempt (at least double the end amount). Your goal is twenty-five perfectly cracked walnuts. (A late breaking tip from blog reader, liniecat: freeze the walnuts first and you'll get perfect halves. See the comments section below for her tips.) Use a tab of scotch tape to keep matched halves together or you will go insane as this project progresses. Paint the inside of shells with acrylic paint. Below we see copper, silver and gold.

Step Two: Crack and paint walnut halves
Intermissions: Save, bag, and refrigerate all of the walnut meat. Take one or more breaks during the course of the project with a favorite winter snack of sliced persimmon and walnuts.


Step three: create twenty-five little pennant panels. Using vintage images you have collected from the Web, print the images out onto iron-on paper. Iron individual images onto panels of white cotton. Here, many of the panels are created using corners or borders from old hankies and napkins. Blanket stitch raw edges to prevent fraying, and hem the top to create a channel you will use to string the panels.

Step three: create pennant panels.

As always, embrace mistakes. Here, a little Christmas boy has been inadvertently ironed onto the panel upside-down. Now he looks sort of like the hanging man in the Tarot deck, foretelling bad luck. We will use this panel for day thirteen.

A new tradition: the unlucky Christmas boy

The goal is to create twenty-five individual panels. Ultimately, these panels will be strung together to create one or more Christmas banners to hang over doorways, windows, or whatever. Some of the panels, along with a test run to see what one of the the final banners will look like, are shown below.

Use ribbon or string, and secure a safety pin at one end for ease in running string through the top hems of the panels.

Testing the banner

Testing the banner

Step Four: Believe it or not, we are now going to stuff the banner panels into the walnuts. Roll up individual banner panels, fold into thirds, and stuff into a walnut half. Create, print out, and cut slips containing twenty-five numbers in sequence from one to twenty-five. Insert one slip into each walnut with number staying visible outside the walnut.

Stuffing the walnut with a banner panel and number slip
Carefully dab glue onto the edges of each walnut half. I use 100% silicone glue because I find it easy to work with. I also use a toothpick to apply the glue because these edges are very small. Use whatever glue you are comfortable with. If necessary, you can hold the two halves together with masking tape while glue sets. I didn't find that necessary.

Glued-together walnut containing pennant

The final product: Below you will see the completed advent calendar, a bowl of walnuts. Make sure to remove all scraps of scotch tape at this point. The recipient of the advent calendar picks out the walnut of the day according to the numbers (i.e., walnut number ten on December 10) and cracks open the walnut to reveal the pennant panel. After unfolding the panel, it is advised that you flatten the panel beneath a heavy book for an hour or so to smooth it out. The panel is then strung onto a banner, which grows each day as a new walnut is cracked open.

For more advent calendar twists see Advent Calendar Haute Couture and A Greener-Than-Thou Advent Calendar

The finished advent calendar

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

More Talismans

Here is an addition to 21st Century Talismans.

Protection Against Urban Crime

Materials: broken auto tail light, tin can lid, pop-top tab, found scrap metal and glass, American sign graphic "enough"

Protection Against Writer's Block

Materials: scrap metal, broken jewelry, typewriter innards and key

Friday, November 11, 2011

21st Century Talismans

It's a scary world out there, which is why it's a good idea to wear protective talismans. Here are a few I've fashioned over the years. I pin them on a vest and head out the door, metaphysically armed.

Protection from Car Wrecks and Breakdowns

Materials: flattened light bulb housing, found scrap metal, charms

Protection from Plane Crashes and Flight Delays

Materials: charms, old hardware, broken chains

Protection from Stumbles, Blisters and Muggings

Materials: Broken jewelry, Monopoly shoe, old rusted hinge, recycled charms

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Eyeglass Curtains

Yet another pair of reading glasses with a snapped stem or a popped-out lens? Here I've turned what has been a periodic annoyance into a new decor concept: eyeglass curtains.

The frames of the broken reading glasses have been paired up with negatives from old photos. In this case, all images are from Oakland's Chinatown. The result is a combination of my Seeing project and a past assemblage on Inuit ghost windows.

Because I suspect that all of my reading glasses will continue to break I plan to continue this project, adding glasses to the curtains as time goes by.
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