Thursday, December 12, 2013

Little white doves


I really enjoy giving gifts to my children's teachers. I used to be a teacher myself and was always surprised by the thoughtfulness of many of my students' families. My favorite gift from a family, at the end of a school year, was a bag containing numerous packages of berries - all different kinds and lots of them. I thought this was such a wonderful gift! I took them home and put them into pancakes, breads and salads for close to a week. The student and his family were particularly nice people and I will always remember this surprising and sweet gift of thanks.

As a parent, teacher gift-giving frustrates me. In our community, people like to collect money for a teacher, to be given in a lump sum (an envelope full of cash?) or converted into "a day at the spa" for the teacher. I get the sentiment behind this, I really do. I appreciate my kids' teachers so much. But the money-collection thing doesn't sit right with me. In a way, I feel annoyed with myself...wouldn't this be easy? Fork over some cash and be done with it? Yes, probably. But I wouldn't feel great about it. So I'm doing it my way. I'm making things instead.

I decided to make small dove ornaments out of clay for the teachers in my children's lives this year. We have the LB's teacher, both small Bears' music teachers, the GB's two preschool teachers and the director of our preschool, a very kind woman we've known for years as both of our children have gone through the program; she is getting married and moving to Texas in January. There are also the GB's ballet teachers but I have a different gift in mind for them.

My ornaments are simple but I like the way they came out. Would you like to see how I made them? I was inspired by some handmade clay bird ornaments for sale online, which I came across on Pinterest. I liked the look of them and decided to try making my own version.


For my birds, I used Prang DAS air-dry clay. This is a very inexpensive product and it's easy to work with. The kids use Crayola's version a lot but for more refined projects, I like this stuff. It dries a beautiful, crisp white color, which is nice for projects that you wish to remain white. It can also be painted or drawn on, depending on the project.

I worked on an old kitchen cutting mat, to protect the counter-top (in my kitchen-cum-art-studio), with a layer of wax paper on top, for rolling out the clay (using my regular kitchen rolling pin). I rolled the clay to about 1/8" thick. For the dove shape, I had originally planned to use my dove-shaped cookie cutter but my tiny heart cutter didn't sit nicely within the shape the dove cutter made. So I went online and printed out a coloring page with a dove illustration and cut it out as a template. Then I used a small paring knife (in the absence of traditional clay tools) to cut the clay. I did clean up the clay a bit after cutting; the beaks and tails, especially, required a little free-hand shaping.


Next, I cut out the heart shape, approximately where the wing would be. This creates an opening for the hanging ribbon too. I used my paring knife to loosen the clay inside the heart outline and lift it out of the bird.



As I finished each dove, I used scissors to cut out a square of wax paper around each one, so that it could be moved to the side while I made the next dove. When they were all finished, I put all six doves and their underlying paper back on the cutting mat and moved the whole thing to the dining room buffet, to let them dry. They were all dry within 36 hours; I did flip them over after the first 24 hours to let the backs have a chance to dry out.




When all the birds were dry, I used fine-grit sandpaper to smooth the edges, both around the outline of the body and within the heart-wing area. They all had rough, jagged bits from the dried clay left behind when I cut them out. They were nice and smooth after sanding.


I made hangers for each dove from narrow grosgrain ribbon, tied simply in a knot after passing them through the heart-wing. I used red, green and royal blue ribbon; all seemed festively Christmas-y to me. In hindsight, I should have left the ribbon a bit longer, to make more generous hangers, but this worked well enough. I think the ribbon was about eight inches long before tying (the birds themselves are about five inches at their widest point).


Here's one being tried out on our Christmas tree. They hang nicely and look cute. I think the teachers will like them. They will also be getting other goodies like seasonal cookies and fancy candy, so maybe these little clay doves will seem silly, but I'm glad I made them. I like making things for people. It's a part of who I am. I feel better about myself and my relationships when I put time into creating a gift. Maybe I seem like a spoil-sport, but I don't mind. I just think about that delightful week of fresh berries at the end of a stressful final-exam period and I'm more than happy to go against the tide.

******************

Thank you for your supportive comments on my last post. Yes, the mountain is that close to my house; I took the photo from my front yard. That's actually one of the smaller peaks; the highest one is easier to see from my back yard. The mountains are only a few miles away. I feel very fortunate to live in such a beautiful place. I appreciate the holiday-preparation advice; I always try to keep the season in perspective, but there's still plenty to do even without trying for perfection. The last thing I want is to put forth the impression that I have a perfect life, or that I am striving for one. Neither do I wish to be overly negative here. I needed to vent, but I'm feeling better now. In the immortal words of Joe Walsh, "I can't complain but sometimes I still do..."

47 comments:

  1. Those turned out great Jen! I think a white dove is a perfect ornament for the season. I remember the days when my kids went to public school and shopping for teacher gifts. I would usually buy them a pretty tree ornament, but now we homeschool so we don't do that anymore. Now we just do Sunday school teachers, piano teachers and so on.

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  2. Jennifer. They are perfect. I love the way the ribbon hangs them. Inspirational. They would make lovely gift tags. Love the new photo x

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  3. These are just lovely...perfect, thoughtful teacher gifts.
    Marianne x

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  4. These are beautiful Jennifer and homemade gifts or specially chosen gifts beat cash or gift cards any day in my book. Anyone can throw cash and it takes no thought!

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  5. I agree a handmade gift has more love than a money gift x

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  6. Your doves are gorgeous and what teacher wouldn't be over the moon with these! Such a lovely idea and so well made.
    Patricia x

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  7. They are lovely! The heart center is so cute and useful too. Elisabeth x

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  8. Oh Jen these are gorgeous - who wouldn't be thrilled with such a thoughtful gift? I tend to get chocolates or candles but the most memorable one was a second hand pencil (used) from Morocco! Sigh x Jane

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  9. Lovely decorations. I got your post straight away today! Jo x

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  10. I think they are lovely, I normally make something....not sure what to do this year as my daughters teacher in a man, baking would be good but I don't bake! :) x

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  11. You can vent any time you want. I think it is wonderful to read a real blog, because life is not always gorgeous completed projects, perfect housekeeping and perfect kids. Actually my life is far from any of those thing. I like your teacher gifts so much. I always tried to do something special for my kids teachers, well that in addition to the generic money collection present.
    Hugs,
    Meredith

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  12. It's nice to hear about gift giving from a teacher's point of view!! Very helpful with my planning :)
    I adore your homemade ornaments...simple but very, very sweet.

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  13. They are lovely. I would be thrilled to receive one of those if I were a teacher.

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  14. I wouldn't feel as comfortable giving a joint cash present, and nothing beats something that is hand made with love and time. Your little doves are beautiful and will make treasured reminders on the teacher's trees year after year, long after money is spent :) xx

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  15. Your doves are very nice. I'm sure they will be treasured.

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  16. Jennifer, they are just precious! I think I'm going to look for that clay next time I visit the craft store. I sure your gifts are appreciated more than an envelope of cash. I'll take sweet, thoughtful, handmade gift anytime!

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  17. Hey a new photo!! Lovely smile :)
    I always think homemade gifts are the best kind. I always think that it's the thought that counts. I still treasure a present I received from a counselling client of mine. I had not seen this person for about six months, and she left a hand made book mark at the doctor's reception for me. It had such lovely words written on it. So thoughtful and kind.

    Your Doves are lovely.

    Leanne xx

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  18. Jennifer, what lovely doves...they turned out wonderful. I absolutely love creating and making new creations with clay. =)

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  19. Aww Jennifer these are just gorgeous. xx
    Clare

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  20. Jennifer,
    The first thing which caught my eye was your new photo-beautiful:) These Doves are treasures and what lucky teachers your children have. I taught preschool and then special ed. just a few years ago and I cherish the gifts that came from the heart, do you know I still have some that I hang on my sweet tree in the family room.
    Thank you for your inspiration!
    Holiday Hugs,
    Jemma

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  21. I love your sentiments about teacher gifts. We have collections here, but I like to try and make something with the children as well, with handmade cards and tags. I'm thinking maybe chocolates this year. Making chocolates is something I'd like to try. The doves are beautiful, I'm sure the teachers will really appreciate them. I know I would - there's something very special about handmade things.

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  22. Oh these are so wonderful! Love love love! :). Perfect gifts.

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  23. I love your little lovely doves, honestly they are so cute.

    Lluisa xx

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  24. These are so lovely and personal, I am sure that the teachers will treasure them for many years. I hope that you have added a tag saying handmade by Jennifer so that they know they are handcrafted especially for them. I see that you have been having a bit of a blog spruce up, it looks very nice, and I like the picture of the rose in the snow that you have added to your header. xx

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  25. Love your doves Jennifer! You clever girl you. The teachers will appreciate for sure ☺

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  26. Well...you know they are splendid gifts!
    Anything handmade is sure to please♥
    Love your new photo...you look sooooo happy!
    What I want to know is.....little Miss Crafty.....what have you done with all the leftover clay hearts????

    Cheers!
    Linda :o)

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  27. Silly? Are you kidding me?! These dove ornaments are beautiful! I would think think any teacher would love to receive one of these. I worked in the school system a long time ago (one-on-one aide) and received some gifts at Christmas. My favorite gifts were anything homemade from either a parent or child and personal notes of appreciation.

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  28. These are BEAUTIFUL!!!!! I love them friend and will be pinning them!! Let me just say thank you for this post. I was told by a mom in my daughters class that they will be collecting for our teacher too. One lump sum for a gift card and to be honest (I was a teacher for many years too) I was bummed. Thinking oh...maybe we won't get to make her something fun. So after reading your post I have decided to push forward with our original gift. It is the little things that make life awesome like your beautiful ornaments!!!

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  29. They are lovely I bet the kids teachers will love them.

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  30. Those doves are gorgeous - and I would be so grateful to receive one- As a teacher I appreciate any gift- but the ones that are handmade with love- always mean so much more- that's why I have a collection of handmade cards, notes, pictures and little origami cranes overflowing my spare room. A scribbled note in crayon, is often the most heartfelt gift:)

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  31. Giving hand made gifts is a good thing ... I'm sure all the teachers appreciate the care you take over making something for them. It is is much more personal x

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  32. They're beautiful. I would much prefer home made gifts if I were a teacher, they're so much more personal.

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  33. I think they make a lovely, thoughtful gift that will give the teachers something to remember your children by in future years :)

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  34. Yes like you it really grinds me when people ask for money for a collection. The idea is for it to be personal and I always make something. For me Christmas is all about handmade and giving something to everyone. I love your clever and beautiful idea of the dove, it really is gorgeous and I am sure the teachers will cherish it for many years to come. Mine is a little less exciting, its chutney and some soap, but the sentiments are all there. Enjoy your weekend xoxo

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  35. I love that you made these gifts for the teachers in your children's lives! They turned out beautifully, and I'm sure will be cherished decorations for many years to come. Thanks for the tutorial, too!

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  36. These are so lovely! They look very effective, hung on the tree like that. It's really nice that you made a gift, it's a nice thing to do if you have the time. I'll be giving chutney and jam to our teachers this year, but I'm stashing this idea away for another time. I've never used air-drying clay before and it looks like a lot of fun. x

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  37. Your doves are so lovely and a wonderful presents for the teachers. I'm sure they will appreciate them so much.
    Sarah x

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  38. Your doves look so lovely. I'm sure they'll be really appreciated by their teachers. It's such a lovely idea for gifts and one I'll be saving up for the future.

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  39. The clay doves are really pretty Jennifer! I love that you took the time to make the ornaments. I made lots of things for my kids' teachers too, but admit that I sometimes just bought a nice candle and holder for it. I think the cash idea is just missing the whole "spirit of giving" completely. Enjoy this weekend ... I always like the weekends leading up to Christmas ;) Wendy x

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  40. Your doves are so lovely! What wonderful, thoughtful gifts. I hope you have a great weekend!

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  41. Gorgeous little doves Jennifer, a lovely thought! Hugs, Joy xo

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  42. Hi Jennifer, Anyone would be happy receiving a gift like that!!! Handmade with love!!! They are really lovely and looks perfectly in place on your tree!!! Have a great day!!!
    Love
    AMarie

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  43. Lovely, thoughtful gift.they are so pretty.

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  44. Your doves are gorgeous, Jennifer, but I'm a bit bemused by the modern trend of giving gifts to teachers. This was totally not the case when we and our children were young and I think it's far from universal over here even now. A Christmas card yes, but a gift from every family to every teacher? That's really something new to me.

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Thank you for leaving a comment. It's so good to hear from you! I don't always have time to reply but I try to answer questions when I can.

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