Sunday, September 27, 2015

Making a mini Christmas Village Using Styrofoam

Today I made the styrofoam base for the Candyland village! Why does it have to be 90 degrees here?

  I started out with three 4x8 sheets of polystyrene insulation from Lowes. I used a utility knife to cut out a bunch of odd shapes, then I stacked the shapes together with wooden BBQ skewers. 

Next, I used a cool tool from Hot Wire Foam Factory called a sculpting tool to cut through the styrofoam. When you turn it on, the wire heats up and lets you slice right though styrofoam. I love it. You can even bend the wire into different shapes. This is my third hot knife and I definitely like this one the best. They didn't pay me to say this.
Disclaimer: I'm no artist. All the sculpting was done haphazardly and awkwardly. But it looks really good. I think this is one of those projects which you literally can't mess up. The messier the better. And when I painted the ice with blue paint, I didn't know what I was doing.....I just painted any of the recessed areas and left the closest areas white. No real science here either. 

Once the sculpting was done, I took apart all the pieces and glued them together. I thoroughly researched what type of glue to use and I settled on Glidden Gripper. And they didn't pay me either.
 It was pretty fun to carve little stairs into the snow mountains and to visualize where all the little lighted gingerbread houses will be placed.
I added a few heavy jugs to the top of the mountains so the glue would really grip. Then I started painting the ice with blue acrylic paint. I used whatever old paint and brushes I had on-hand.
I must say, I love all you crafters who post videos to Youtube. I never would have thought to carve stairs and paint ice unless I had seen it on the internet. 

 Once the base was done, I decided to make a frozen pond. I sculpted out a shallow hole, painted it blue, then poured in some clear two part epoxy.
I knew I wanted to make frozen water, so I once again turned to Youtube.  This was a few days ago.

I found a bunch of methods so I tried three out. Clear silicone, mod podge, epoxy. I poured the mod podge way too thick. After 5 days it was still too gooey. The caulk never dried at all, so maybe I had a bad tube. The epoxy worked super awesome.

The epoxy I used is leftover from a tiki project we did a few years back. We used it to coat a wooden bar that we made for the backyard. I remember it being pretty expensive so we saved it hoping to make use of it someday. It's from FiberGlass Coating, Inc. here in Florida.

It's supposed to dry perfectly clear, but I think it has a bit of a brown tinge. Once I add skaters and some flaky fake snow, it will look great!

I could have gotten super picky about this project and really made everything perfect. But I'm happy I decided to be content with not being super perfectionist about this. 

Next step: I got some fiber optic hair extensions on Amazon for a few bucks. Yes I just said that. I'm going to see if I can incorporate those into the snow somehow. Then, I'll run some RGB light tapes along the back and add a few blue icicle lights to give it some dimension. Then I'll add more mountains to the back and I'll be DONE!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Making Faux Gumdrops for the Mini Christmas Village

I made some faux gumdrops for the mini Christmas village this year. They turned out really good and I'm super excited to see them in what I call the "Candyland section" of the village display. Here's a pic from the 2010 display. We lay down a styrofoam base, then add houses and accessories. Then we add snow.
Some folks might use real gumdrops for this, but all the lights get pretty warm and I don't want a sticky soup melting in my house. Plus, I cannot store really candy...that would be begging for a rat and bug infestation.
I used two ice cube trays, plaster of paris, acrylic paint, clear glitter, and sewing pins. It couldn't be easier and it definitely brought out my crafty side.

I mixed the plaster of paris per the instructions. I filled up the trays and let them sit overnight.
One of the funnest parts of the project was the EXPERIMENTATION at the beginning. Before I made the entire batch of gumdrops, I made a few, painted them, then glittered them to make sure I would like them. I quickly realized a few things.

First, filling the trays completely with POP, made the gumdrops a bit too large for what I want. So, I decided to only fill the trays 50%. 

Next, it was a pain to paint each one, then set it to dry without smearing the paint off. So, I decided to try sticking a toothpick into each gumdrop after the pop set for about 15 minutes. I was really happy with the toothpick, but I wanted something that wouldn't ruin my styrofoam. Safety pins!!! I'm pretty proud I thought of this. It helped me paint and glitter them in a snap. Plus, the tiny little pinhole won't be noticeable in the styrofoam.
I used super inexpensive acrylic paint from Walmart that I already had. I mixed up different tones and had fun with it.
I think I'll use them to form little fences and borders around the village. I guess I could make gumdrop trees too.