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Surprise your Christmas tree; these cheerful ornaments are easy to make from wood veneer, clothespins, form balls.

Mother Nature inspired them, but she probably didn't intend to create anything quite like the ornaments shown here and on page 104. The flowers, insects, and jungle balls are loosely based on real flora and fauna, but they have their genesis in the home crafts room. Their bold shapes and cheerful colors will add life to your tree and make memorable holiday gifts for friends and family. The ornaments are simple enough that every family member can help put them together. For tools, most require only a craft knife, scissors, and a paintbrush. You'll find the rest of the materials at a woodworking or craft store. Veneer flowers and spirals These gleaming, multihued flowers and curling shapes started as almost-paper-thin strips of wood veneer. Many woodworking stores sell veneer in rectangular sheets (a 2-foot square costs $10 to $20, depending on the type of wood) or narrow rolls. Don't buy veneers with an adhesive backing. If you're going to stain the ornaments with semitransparent iridescent ink, use light-colored veneers, such as maple or birch. You could also use the veneer unpainted and still have a rich variety of wood colors to choose from. You'll need a paintbrush, iridescent ink (sold at art supply stores; about $5 for a 2ounce bottle), white craft glue, clothespins, a craft knife, scissors, and thread. Start the star-shaped flowers by cutting a sheet of veneer into 2- by 10-inch pieces (with grain running the long way). To make the wood flexible, soak the pieces in a bucket of warm water for about a half-hour. Following the sketch at left, bend the veneer to make a conical center. Apply glue to the overlapping ends and hold them together until dry with paper clips or clothespins. When the glue is dry, cut along the overlap to make a pointed end opposite the cone. Paint both sides of each cone with the same color, or use two tones. The top photograph on the opposite page shows three ways the cones can be glued together. Experiment with the designs, then join cones along their edges with craft glue. Use paper clips or clothespins to hold them tight until glue dries. Hang them from thread or fishing line. The curlicue ornaments started as 1- by 12-inch lengths of veneer that were soaked and then wrapped around a broomstick like a stripe on a barber-shop pole. Hold the veneer in place with rubber bands until dry. Clothespin bugs and critters Metamorphosed into a fanciful insect, the common spring-type clothespin will find a happy place on the boughs of your holiday tree. These clothespins can also evolve into miniature animals to decorate trees or gifts or to hold gift tags. Each creature has a painted clothespin body. Craft supply stores carry the paint and other materials you'll need to decorate the insects' bodies and appendages: construction paper, gift-wrap, and frosted acetate for wings; assorted knickknacks such as styrene foam balls, wooden buttons, tongue depressors, pins, and pipe cleaners for other body parts. Scissors, white craft glue, and paintbrushes are all you need to build them. For butterfly, moth, or dragonfly wings, cut construction paper into symmetrical curving shapes. Slip the wings into the clothespin's jaws to test that the "body" masks the wings' center, then remove the wings to decorate them. Use round-headed straight pins for antennae and wooden beads for eyes. For the wide-bodied bumblebee, cut a 1 1/2inch-diameter styrene foam ball in half, glue tissue paper over halves, then paint. Glue balls on top of clothespin; wedge and glue acetate wings between balls. Not all the insects have broad wings. Our slender green and turquoise grasshoppers each feature tongue depressor and toothpick legs that glue to the clothespin's sides. The small alligator and dogs shown below left use tongue depressors for legs and clothespin parts for other features. Jungle balls, jungle balls These occupy another step on the evolutionary ladder of fantasy ornaments. Their vividly painted outsides leave no doubt what species they represent, although nature doesn't normally let mammals like tigers, cheetahs, giraffes, and zebras start off in egg-size styrene foam balls. And the richly detailed peacock, snake, and lizard balls are a far cry from the nondescript eggs in which these creatures actually begin life. Make the ornaments from different sizes of foam balls, sold at craft stores. You'll also need bamboo skewers, a 2-inch-thick block of styrene foam, a foam brush, white craft glue, newsprint paper, modeling paste, medium-grade sandpaper, acrylic or oil-base paints, acrylic varnish, small paintbrushes, and string. To make the balls easy to work with, pierce each with a skewer and leave it in place until finished. Use the foam block to support skewers while balls are drying. Using the foam brush, seal each ball with glue and torn pieces of newsprint. Follow with a thick coat of modeling paste; let dry, then sand. Paint balls with colorful markings (for examples, we referred to books showing animals and reptiles), then seal with a coat of acrylic varnish. Remove the skewers and glue a loop of string into the hole.
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Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Sunset
Date:Dec 1, 1990
Words:846
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