Please enjoy this content! This tutorial will be taken down in August. It will be featured in a Skillshare Class this coming winter. Techniques: Painting, Glittering & Embellishing Victorian Spun Cotton Fruit & Vegetables
My first experience with seeing spun cotton fruit & vegetables was back in the 1990’s when I first started working in the Holiday Retail Industry (Christmas, Easter, Halloween, Valentine’s Day). I was enchanted by the simplicity, and the faded opulence of spun cotton fruit, and vegetables. Each example that I saw was so unique. Some of them appeared to have been created from the artist’s imagination rather, than a strict interpretation of nature. The production of spun cotton fruit and vegetables developed around the late Victorian era and flourished in the early part of the twentieth century with the advent of “cottage” factory production in Germany. As time progressed, they would be produced in other countries as well.
When did spun cotton fruit, vegetables and other “special shapes” develop? The answer to this question is less clear. During the 1840’s Christmas celebrating, in the modern sense with trees and ornaments, became popular. This was largely due to the Christmas tree that Prince Albert of Saxon Coberg presented to Queen Victoria around this time. This tree, combined with a display of gifts and Yule logs, was well received by the Queen. She loved it, and whatever the Queen loved everyone else would love as well. These early trees were decorated with real fruit, candied confections, and toys. Eventually a market for permanent examples of the above “consumables” and “expensive gifts” developed. This opened the door to Christmas collecting that many of us enjoy today. In July, when I’m browsing Christmas ornaments at my local craft store I wonder what Prince Albert would think about our dedication to Christmas Decorating? I wonder if he would be amazed by it, surprised, or slightly appalled? I guess we’ll never know!
1. Christmas Antiques, Decorations & Traditions; Constance E. King, Antique Collectors Club Ltd. 1988
2. Holiday Toys & Decorations: Margaret Schiffer, Schiffer Publishing ltd.
3. Some of the historical facts shared in this article were obtained from my direct communication with Industry Historians, antique dealers and collectors that I have met along the way.
This project was a lot of fun!
I went over to Smile Mercantile Craft Company and bought a bunch of spun cotton fruit and vegetable shapes. They also have an Etsy shop that I have ordered from.
TIP: If you are trying to create a collection; it’s helpful to keep the size of the shapes in mind when you are ordering. There is NO “standard” size, and they are usually measured in mm.
Antique, Airbrushed Color
The secret weapon for “antique looking” spun cotton fruit? Color them with stamp daubers and ink. This is the easiest way to get blended edges and that soft “airbrushed” color.
For the antique “dirt” I like Tim Holtz Distress Oxide “Antique Linen”. Also, I prefer his circular ink daubers. Just be mindful to let your ink dry before you layer your colors!
I like to use a heat gun. Currently, I use an industrial heat gun. But you can use a Embossing heat gun that is sold at your local craft store. Regardless of what you decide to use please be careful. It’s easy to burn yourself & the spun cotton shape that you are working on.
PLEASE, BE CAREFULL!!!!
DON’T GO JUST YET!
I will demonstrate some techniques for you!
Let’s Make and “Antique” Our Ornament Hangers
I learned how to make ornament hangers from Susan Weber of Susan’s Christmas Shop in Santa Fe, NM. While employed there I must have made about 10,000 of them! No joke!
The process is simple…
“ANTIQUE” THE WIRE
This step requires the use of a product, a metal finishing solution, called Silver Blackener-JAX. This product is flammable and requires that you use protective gear, and is not a suitable medium for children & some adults to use. Please follow the manufacturer’s guidelines when working with this product. If you don’t want to use this, simply paint the hooks with a dark acrylic paint. Antique some whole pieces of wire, for the leaves, and set aside until later.
If you can’t find a selection of tiny leaves, then you can cut down larger leaves that will match the size of your ornament. Don’t worry about having the perfect leaves! A simple generic leaf shape is just fine. With hot glue, attach the leaf with your ornament hook.
Now For The Fun Part!
Let’s Decorate Our Ornaments!!!
You can decorate your ornaments with natural, and unnatural colors. Feel free to “Go rogue” and use colors that are “outside of nature.” I will go over glitters and angel hair bullion at the end of this post. For now, let’s focus on the color.
TIP; blending and building the color; imagine that you are applying eye shadow. It’s the same technique.
For this apple I used three colors; canary yellow, orange and red. Start coloring your apple by choosing a section for the yellow undertone. This lighter color also gives the apple dimension.
Next, working around the yellow, fill in the rest of the apple with orange. Carefully, so the transition is blended.
The last step it to color in the red/s.
Tip; sometimes it’s necessary to go back and fill in with some orange to brighten it up.
Attach the leaf and the ornament hook.
For my turnip I used two colors; Tim Holtz Distress Ink “Fired Brick” & Distress Oxide “Antique Linen.”
I’m sure that you noticed that I have been using a lot of Tim Holtz Ink for this project; they have a great antique look to them and I find that they blend well.
Fill in the top of the beet with the red, BUILD the color and allow it to dry completely before you work the antique brown tone over it.
Lightly work the antique linen color over the red and the white part of the beet. Don’t over do it! It’s supposed to look accidental, not deliberate.
Attach the green-leafy part of the beet. For this I just cut up a silk leaf and glued it in with the hook.
Tip; I think a bit of glitter around the top looks great.
For our very poisonous mushrooms I used a combination of inks and white acrylic paint (for the dots).
Tip; be careful, not too much pressure on the stem…they like to break.
After the ink has dried…hot glue on the scalloped base & the greenery. I like to dust them with glitter.
DO YOU LIKE CARROTS? I DO!!!
For the carrots I used a combination of yellow and orange & bit of green. In addition, I added some dimensional slashes with a bone folder. Incising the carrot should be done carefully! The spun cotton has a tendency to split if the top layer is damaged.
For the top of the carrot I like to add a bit of green ink. For tiny spaces like this, I like to use these small paint daubers that can be found in the stencil section of your craft store.
Next, fill in the colors…
Attach that Topper & Ornament Hook!
GLITTER ME PLEASE…
THE REST OF THE GARDEN…
In some of my hero images you may have noticed that some of the ornaments have been glittered and wrapped with gold wire.
GOLD OR SILVER BULLION
What is this “bullion”? It’s is a super old-fashioned style of crinkle wire that was used to wrap Victorian ornaments with. This is a specialty item that will need to be ordered online. Two sources are Etsy.com & Blumchen.com. For this project I used Angel Hair Gold Bullion. When you place your order make sure the gauge of the wire matches the size of the ornament you are making!
As always I like to use my signature combination of glitters; fine iridescent and big circular semi opaque clear.
TIP; with a brush, apply a light wash of Mod Podgeto the ornament. Remember, too much glue will result in “splitting” of the surface of the ornament.
TIP; only glitter part of the ornament. It’s supposed to look old, like it lost part of its glitter along its journey.
YOU ARE DONE!!!
All of the products used in this post have been purchased with my own money. I have suggested them to you because I have found them to be the best option for making this project. This is not a sponsored post.
I hope you liked this post! More importantly, I hope it inspired you to create!
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Have a wonder day, and remember…Magic is all around you!