It’s almost Christmas! Wahoo! One of our annual traditions is always grabbing an ornament from any vacations that we take that year, and also DIYing some for other special moments. It makes decorating the Christmas tree so much fun when you can relive sweet memories from years past again and again.
That’s why I was so excited to participate in an ornament exchange this year! Not only do *I* get a surprise in the mail from a blogger buddy to hang on our tree, but I’m also able to create a unique ornament for her to (hopefully) enjoy and display.
And since I love me a good keepsake, I decided to whip up this personalized ornament that features my partner’s picture and details (including a map) of her recent travels!
Clay Vacation Map Photo Ornament
The 2015 Holiday Ornament Exchange!
This year I thought it would be fun to take part in an ornament exchange for bloggers! Last year I did a Halloween blogger swap and had a great time with it, so it was a Christmas one for this year!
We had over 80 bloggers sign up for this exchange, which consisted of spending no more than $10 and either purchasing or creating an ornament for a blogger that we were randomly paired with. The ornaments have been revealed daily over the past two weeks, and there have been some really cute ones showcased already!
My Exchange Partner
I was lucky enough to be paired with Jackie from RunwithJackabee. She recently vacationed around Uruguay with some girlfriends (lucky gal!) and I’ve been super jealous of all the amazing photos she’s been posting on Instagram, like this cool one:
Since I’m a super huge fan of all things personalized (see my Project Gallery for lots of proof), I thought it would be fun to create a little keepsake for her to remember her 2015 Uruguayan adventure every year. I always snag an ornament while on vacation, so I thought I’d give Jackie a unique and personalized goodie for this swap.
I mean snowmen and Santa and reindeer are cool and all, but you can find them anywhere! For this swap, however, I wanted to give something that was 100% unique and tailored for my partner….I hope Jackie likes it!
My Inspiration Behind This Ornament
I’ve never been to Uruguay myself (ahhhh, maybe someday….), but Jackie’s photos made it look like a very relaxed and carefree place. Definitely not stuffy, formal, and refined like France (been there, done that!). Therefore, I wanted this ornament to match Uruguay’s vibe, or at least my perception of it.
Sticking a photo in an ornament frame or even Mod Podging it onto a clay or wooden ornament would have worked, but I wanted something…..cooler. Plus, I liked the idea of combining the map of Uruguay WITH Jackie’s amazing photo AND the details of her trip, so an experiment was born!
I’ve made clay ornaments before, like my son’s cute little footprint for his first Christmas, but doing a photo transfer onto one was completely new. Luckily this video tutorial made it look pretty easy, so I was eager to get my craft on and see what happens!
- Oven-bake clay
- Old cookie sheet
- Old rolling pin
- Stencil of map of Uruguay
- Xacto knife
- Laser-printed vacation photo
- Vinyl decals of vacation place & year
- Matte Mod Podge & paint brush (not pictured…whoops!)
Making the Clay Ornament with Photo Transfer
I first pulled out an old cookie sheet and rolling pin that we no longer use for food (they are strictly for crafting now), and rolled out some white oven-bake clay until it was roughly 1/4″ thick and large enough to fit the entire image.
While researching this photo transfer technique, I learned it’s important that you use an image printed on a laser printer as opposed to an ink jet one….something about laser ink having plastic in it and lots of technical mumbo jumbo.
We only have an ink jet at home, so I had my husband print off Jackie’s photo at work (thanks babe!). You can also use a copy machine at an office supply store like Staples. Also make sure you mirror your image if you need it to face a certain way, especially if it has text. I forgot to do this which wasn’t a huge deal, but it did lead to an interesting final product…more on this below.
I then placed the image facedown onto the clay and started wetting the entire surface with water. You can use a spray bottle to spritz the water on, but I didn’t have a spare one at the moment, so I just used my finger to dab the water on a little at a time. Worked like a charm.
I kept adding water until the entire surface was covered, making sure that there was nice contact onto the clay and not any huge wrinkles.
Here comes the cool part! To transfer the image from the paper to the clay, I just started to lightly rub my finger in a circular motion until the unprinted white layer started to come up in clumps, but the colored image remained.
Don’t press too hard or you’ll rub off all of the ink along with the paper and/or create indentations in the clay….no bueno. If you notice any parts that are not coming up easily, just add more water and let it soak in, then try rubbing the paper off again. This is where you can create some cool effects too by rubbing off some of the ink if you’d like.
Here’s what it looked like once most of the paper backing was removed….looking pretty cool, huh? I really like the weathered look of it….just right for a beach shot! I think if you’re hoping for a true photo realistic image, this transfer technique won’t be the best. That’s what frames are for. But if you want a hip and different vintagey vibe, give this method a shot!
Next it was time to turn this clay slab into a Uruguayan clay slab! I cut out a stencil of the country in some card stock with my Silhouette Cameo, but you could also print out a map and cut it out with scissors too.
I positioned it over the image, but since I forgot to mirror the picture before printing it, the only way I could fit Jackie and most of the hand sculpture was by having the image be on the back side of the ornament….nuts! It’s not a big deal though, just wish I would have caught it earlier so the picture could be the focal point on the front. Oh wells.
An Xacto knife was then used to trace and cut the clay along the edges of the stencil. Don’t worry about being too precise here because you can always smooth out any edges or imperfections with a moistened fingertip before baking and also some fine sandpaper after. I actually really liked the rough edge look, so I didn’t do much smoothing.
All of the excess clay was then peeled away.
Since this is an ornament, it of course is going to need to hang, so I used a straw to create a hole that I’d thread some twine through later.
After the ornament was baked and then cooled down enough to handle, I added the location and year to the front of the ornament. I used blue and yellow vinyl (also cut with my Silhouette Cameo) since those are the colors of Uruguay’s flag.
You might have noticed that this decal is a little different from the one depicted in the Supplies image at the top of this tutorial. When it was time to apply it, I decided that original decal was not only too small but also too boring, so another one was cut. I think this topsy turvy one fits the ornament’s vibe much better.
Jackie’s Completed Clay Vacation Map Photo Ornament!
And here’s Jackie’s final ornament….I LOVE how it turned out! It’s got a cool, vintage, weathered vibe….almost like an Instagram filter! The front side with the vinyl is textured too, and it sort of looks like it’s a typography map showing different elevations….how appropriate!
This ornament especially looks neat at night with the Christmas tree’s white light glowing all around….I hope Jackie digs it too! :)
Other Ornaments from Today’s Exchange Reveal
Here are the other ornaments that are also being shared today!
- An Oregon Cottage: DIY Scrabble Tile Grapevine Wreath Ornaments
- B is 4: DIY Christmas Woodland Ornament
- Made in a Day: Modern Wrapped Tree Ornaments
- Home on the Corner: Paper Pinecone Christmas Ornament
- Lexi Michelle Blog: DIY Paper Pine Cone Ornaments
- Love My Messy Messy Mess: Favorite Things Decoupage Ornament
HUGE Ornament Link Party!
Stay tuned for our upcoming HUGE Ornament Link Party! This will open on 11/14 and will showcase not only ALL of the amazing ornaments from this holiday exchange, but YOU can also come link up any ornament tutorials you’d like to share!
If You Enjoyed This….
Make sure you check out some other ornaments I’ve shared!
Thanks so much for stopping by, and happy holidays!