Here they are, in all their glory – the entries we received for this year’s Holiday Contest. Put on your fuzzy slippers, pour a cup of cocoa, and grab something to make notes with, because if you’re not inspired looking at these projects, you’re not looking!
The Before Gnome
oddbreed found this classic garden gnome at Michaels, but from the get-go, she knew he really wanted to be a misfit elf instead. After using paper clay to give him some proper elfin ears, she grunged him up using molding paste and pumice, then painted him up with a mix of acrylics.
Before and after
Ann Says: This inspires me to play with texture! And paint! Just look how much character he gains from the textured elements, along with the incredibly cool glazing effects. He has the look of elegant pottery now. Amazing work!
Sam’s Mr. Rexmas
Full disclosure: Sam is my sister-in-law, and after seeing this picture on Facebook, I compelled her to enter this contest. Aren’t I fun to have in the family?
Sam used found objects to alter this dino, creating the hat from pieces of two dog toys and grabbing the nose from an earring that lots its partner. Technically, I believe Sam was supposed to give Mr. Rexmas to a co-worker as part of a Secret Santa, but she couldn’t part with it. She and my brother then made Mr. Rexmas a swanky seasonal house:
Ann Says: Mr. Rexmas makes me laugh so hard! I could not love him more. Also, I wholeheartedly support the (re)use of plastic toys for the holidays. If you have toys lying about, you might even consider making some Tipsy Toy Taxidermy Ornaments.
Tanya’s Bad Elf
Tanya has resolved to get more involved in art challenges and contests and things in 2015, so she decided to start early with the wonderstrange contest, which we wholeheartedly endorse! She started with a plain wooden ornament, which she painted black. She sketched and colored the elves on paper, then glued them to BOTH sides of the heart, adding bows and bling to complete the transformation.
Ann Says: Double-sided!!! It seems so simple after the fact, but the best ideas often are. I love pretty much everything about this ornament: The elves’ faces, the elves’ hats, the fact that the ornament is fun to look it no matter which way the breeze blows (or which way the branch dips while the cat is climbing the tree). The circles, spirals, and stars make for a super festive background, too. So many good ideas, Tanya!
Heather’s SoCo Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Vase
If there had been a prize for the most appealing “before,” Heather would have run away with it. Here’s why:
After a fellow writing friend and collaborator left the bottle behind at the end of a “write night,” Heather decided it needed to be upcycled. She snagged some cheap comics from the local comic book shop for 10 cents a piece (score!), then tore the pages around the frames to preserve some of the best quips and one-liners. A friendly tub of Mod Podge helped the pages stick to the glass. Once everything dried, she used gesso to block out Groot and painted him on top.
Ann Says: So clever to trim Groot with lights! I love this idea! This is an especially brilliant project for those years when the holiday budget gets tight, because you can always ask for bottle donations from friends, then give your friends the gift of your time and talent. Hooray, Heather! Fantastic submission!
Sal’s Bathrobe Zombie Ornament
There’s really no “before” shot for Sal’s project, because Sal made it from scratch. She used a basic doll template to trace and cut the fabric, then drew and colored the face using markers. After painting on the socks (and for modesty, some unders), she made the doll an adorable little bathrobe, which she bloodied up for effect.
Ann Says: Holy adorable! I have a weak spot for zombies, so I fell in love with this instantly. And I learned from this that I could use art markers on fabric, which had honestly never occurred to me. (It makes sense, of course. There’s no need to use fabric markers on something that’s never going in the wash.) I might try a simplified version of this project for our tree – minus the bathrobe layer, because I am just not that talented with the textiles.
I’m not sure what template Sal used, but if you Google “small doll template,” you’ll find oodles. Genius ornament, Sal!
Tracy’s “Jerry Is Our Last, Best Hope!”
Tracy created her Christmas display from a variety of things she had in her house: This fantastic Jerry Garcia doll, a Santa hat, a cross, and tiny lights.
Ann Says: This is a fantastic idea! It’s simple, it’s festive, it’s fun, and it integrates regular decor with seasonal decor, minimizing the amount of work it takes to snazz up the place for the season. Excellent thinking, Tracy – and please tell me where you got those adorably tiny lights!
Cindy’s Krampus Ornament
Everybody loves Krampus, the dark and dastardly counterpart to Santa who chains up naughty children and carries them away. We especially loved learning that Krampus likes to pause for a refreshing minty snack in between kids! Cindy created Krampus using watercolors and Microns, then cut him out and glued him very neatly to this ornament, which is why the only visit she’s getting will be from the jolly bowl full of jelly guy.
Ann Says: Some representations of Krampus verge on the excessively scary, while some go too far toward the cute and cuddly. Cindy got it JUST right! Her Krampus is menacing, but he’s not going to eat your kitten. Kittens don’t taste good after peppermint, anyway. Beautiful work, Cindy!
Heather’s Most Foul, Cruel, and Bad-Tempered Rodent You Ever Set Eyes On
On a trip through a thrift store not too far from where she lives, Heather spotted this beribboned bunny:
“All I could think about,” she said, “is with a little love, this could turn into the bunny from Monty Python and the Search for the Holy Grail” after munching on a knight. If you don’t know what she’s talking about, here’s a little clip to help you along.
Meanwhile, here’s the altered bunny, whose transformation she achieved with gesso, paint, and a bit of Christmas trimming:
As time goes on, she will be dressing it up in different seasonal outfits, like some people do with a statue of a goose or a dog.
Ann Says: I could not stop laughing when I saw this. My husband had to come running in to see what on earth was so funny. I wish I had thought to transform a bunny this way! It’s clever, it’s nerdy, and it’s very well done. Bravo! If I could, I’d make a little wreath of bones to sit all around it. (Look at the bones!)
Els’ “Heart of Forth Worden” Ornament
Els started this incredibly cool ornament with a rubber heart, which she transformed with paint and embossing powder. The lead crystal drop at the bottom is an antique, a part of a 1900 light fixture from Fort Worden, located in Port Townsend, Washington.
Ann Says: The women of wonderstrange love the anatomical arts, and we ogled this pic for a long time, very appreciatively! The skull bead adds just the right touch. I am totally inspired to think about organ ornaments, as weird as that sounds. (It would be fun to have a whole little tree of bones and anatomical organs, though, right? Oh oh! Or a bone tree with organs dangling from the branches! Oh oh oh!)
Karen’s Two-Headed Fred
Karen started with this sweet (well, saccharine?) ceramic piece that features two precious little children holding hands. Thankfully, she and her paper clay had quite a different vision for it.
Ann Says: Holy transformation! This is incredible! Sarah and I both adore two-headed things (as, I think, do most sensible people). Karen gets major kudos for her vision here. Their heads are just the right distance apart to make this work, and the giant, double-necked, slouchy Christmas sweater is perfect! Major applause!
Debby’s Octiloo Ornament
Everyone who knows Debby’s work will instantly recognize her distinctive style in this ADORABLE little Christmas freak ornament, which I completely want to steal.
Ann Says: Seriously. Stealing. Looking at this, I’m not even sure I’m above it. I’d totally be forgiven by law enforcement, too, because who can resist tentacle jammies?! NO ONE! (Fantastic work, Debby! As you may have noticed, I’m smitten!)
Els’ Cthulhu Tolls the Bell
Els did a pretty fantastic thing with her second submission for our contest: She preserved the basic silhouette of a vintage porcelain bell from the 1960s, even as she added polymer clay tentacles, paint, and sparkle nail polish to transform that bell into Cthulhu. Looking at the transformation, you can see what it was, and you can see what it is, and there is perfect harmony between the two.
Ann Says: Not in 100 years would it have occurred to me to do this. I would have felt the impulse to cover the bell completely, or to try to make the curve of the bell into sand (?) or earth (??) or something (???). Els’ choices were far superior. I find this a deeply satisfying and clever alteration. Plus, I’m betting it’s still functional!
Amy’s Family (Christmas) Tree
Full disclosure: Amy did not finish this in time to submit it for official consideration in the contest, but I encouraged her to send pics anyway, because this is another great idea!
Amy started off with three major components: 1) an ornament stand that she received as a gift for being a subscriber to Country Woman magazine; 2) a set of 12 day of Christmas ornaments that her mother used to display; and 3) a heart-shaped ornament that she had her husband purchased for their first Christmas together.
She covered the stand in floral tape and gel medium, then added substance to the ornaments with paper clay.
At that point, she started painting the ornaments to resemble her family: Husband, children, significant others, and grandchildren.
The heart ornament from Amy’s first Christmas with her husband will eventually go on top, and each ornament will also feature a heart motif on the back.
Ann Says: This is an heirloom in the making, something Amy’s grandchildren can show their grandchildren. I just love this idea. It would make a great gift, too! Can’t wait to see this when it’s finished!
Audrey’s Dark Angel
Audrey took second place in the contest with her dark angel, which started out looking pretty traditional:
Audrey removed all of the elements of the dress that she didn’t like, plus the wings and the halo. “After that,” she says, “I used paper towels and Mod Podge to create something in the void of her chest, and made the ‘heart’ she’s holding.” Audrey draped the angel in cheese cloth and arranged rooster feathers on her back to serve as wings, securing them with wire. Black and red acrylics finished out the piece.
Ann Says: We were really impressed by a number of things here, not least (of course) the amazing beauty of the finished piece. The rooster feathers give this angel serious presence and scope, which is important when you live in a place with high ceilings like we see in the picture. The combination of new and original fabrics is seamless, and the draping lends both to the grace and (again) the scope. Altering a mixed media piece is not the easiest thing to do, but Audrey really used her materials well, and she created gorgeous overall coherence.
Amanda’s Rocket Raccoon Nutcracker
Our top winner in the contest was Amanda, who started off with a challenging item to alter:
To transform this classic nutcracker into Rocket Raccoon from Guardians of the Galaxy, Amanda used Sculpey to alter the facial shape and profile from Homo Sapiens to Procyon Lotor, or you know, a human-type dude to a raccoon-type dude. She removed the drumsticks from the nutcracker’s hands, using one of them to serve as the armature for Groot, who took up residence in what used to be the drum. The result is an impressive, nerdtastic, thematically appropriate Rocket Raccoon nutcracker who is holding Baby Groot.
Ann Says: What really dazzled us here was just about everything. Amanda looked at her nutcracker and realized – even at the structural level – how it would make a terrific Rocket, from the short pants of his outfit to the “Groot pot” he already had in front of him. She also executed her idea really well, from the clean paint lines to the sculptural work. This is not a cutesy, cuddly, toned down Rocket; this is a badass Rocket, which is (of course) perfectly fitting for the character we see in the movie. We also loved the way she recolored and remodeled the hair to get the shape of Rocket’s face. Great job!
Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who submitted! You are so inspiring!