Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Small Tree (Egg Ornaments)

Hello, everyone.

As Thanksgiving is over, and the refrigerator is slowly approaching normal (from total overload!) levels, we've begun getting Christmas things down and the decorating is slowly getting going.

The small tree is up. Next to the polyclay ribbon candy ornament is a little ceramic ornament left over from when I would give gifts to my CCD students every year. It has a painting of the Holy Family on the front. On the other side of the ribbon candy ornament is one of the ones made during the mad tassel phase: embroidery floss makes lovely tassels that are just the right size for hanging from egg shells.

One practical note: with the fake trees, the top is too floppy to hold up a tree topper of any normal kind. I had to add a stiffener to it in order to get the star to stay upright. The stiffener is wired onto the tree with green pipe cleaners and is pretty much a permanent item. Then when decorating the tree, I put the last of the white mini-bulbs up at the very tip so the star would be lit from within.

Another practical note: the small tree looks much bigger because it's on top of the coffee table. I put a table cloth over the table to protect the surface from scratching by the tree stand. This also hides at least some of the extension cord clutter.

Almost all of the eggs made it onto this one.
Some years past, when MIL would come down for several weeks at Christmas time, we would have a large tree in the living room, a 3-foot tree on top of the buffet in the dining room, and this tree in the upstairs hall. That was when there were helpers still living at home with us, of course. Now we're cutting back on the over-the-top decorations. This year I decided to put the upstairs tree in the room with the piano. (The buffet was retired to the Salvation Army with the over-large table and chairs that matched it. They weren't heirlooms or anything like that. We just felt like we were crowded out of our place a bit.) The 3-foot tree was outside in the Man Cave shelving over summer a couple of years ago and a mouse moved into it and chewed up the whole thing, so that one is gone. That left only two places to put all the egg ornaments that have been made over the years--and this tree is in better proportion for the smaller items.

The trick with eggs is to use your handy corsage pin to break up the yolk before you blow it out the holes that you carefully drilled with your Dremel. (Or chipped patiently open with the said pin and a starting hole made with the point of a sharp knife--less mess on the tools, but more eggshell breakage!) On the side, there was so much eggshell cutting going on at one point that DH got tired of finding egg white on his things and got me one of my own!

One nifty thing to do with an egg shell is to cut a slice in the shell while the egg is still inside, allowing the cleaned shell to be used to display a tiny angel or other scenic element. My grandmother's friend Mrs. Beckley was an expert at this and even made an egg shell with a tiny skating scene once. She sent us each an ornament, back when I was a child, and I still have mine.

The Beckley egg
She used graduated pearl beads and velvet cording around the opening of the egg, along with the golden fringe. There is even a bit of frou-frou on the back of the egg! She was an amazing egg artist.

(This photo taken before we stopped buying a fresh tree every year--now, sadly, we have fake. The expense of the extremely large fresh floral item over two or three years was the same as the cost of a nice fake tree which lasts for five years or more. And let's not talk about the problem of keeping smelly mold from growing in a water-filled tree stand for several weeks!)

When making Christmas eggs, I find that painting the washed and dried egg shell with gesso covers over the slight texture of the natural shell and makes it stronger. Then the shell can be perched on a bamboo skewer--one that you don't intend to re-use for food--and spray painted. That will give a smooth, shiny surface for further decorating. (Link goes to a really huge container of the stuff. My gesso is in about a 2 ounce bottle! And if you're only painting egg shells it goes a long way.)

The children and I would have "Christmas in July" over the summer holidays and make egg ornaments. They would paint words or even little scenes on the shells. They never broke an egg shell, either--they were all old enough for elementary school by then. (For younger children, I'd stick with popsicle stick crafts. There is only so much manual dexterity available before about age 8!)

Model paint works really well for painting words and tiny scenes, but requires mineral spirits for clean up. The tiny brushes sold in the model department are wonderful for the work.

Acrylic paint works well also, and is very easy to clean up, but after the paint is all dry the shell must be sprayed with sealer before any lacquer coat is added. Otherwise the carefully painted flowers or whatever will run. The tiny brushes can still be used, or one can go with a more elaborate floral kind of decoration.

Acrylic paint is also more generally available (in scads of colors) even if there is no hobby store in the area. Wal-Mart has it, Hobby Lobby and Michaels and JoAnn all have it, and if one gets into elaborate shading and such there are even blenders and extenders to give more working time. The gesso is also sold in little plastic bottles in the acrylic craft paints section of stores.