Monday, July 14, 2014

DIY Cotton Batting Mushroom/Toadstool Christmas Ornaments

Left, the largest cotton batting mushroom was finished with iridescent white glitter. The Center and Right cotton batting mushrooms are finished with glass glitter. The effect reminds me of morning dew.

Left, I've selected a vase with an unusual top to help me "mold" my largest mushroom form. Center, I've designed three prototype mushrooms to photograph for this blog. Here you can see that I have almost finished the sculpting process and have drawn polka-dots on top of two toadstools. Right, the third toadstool/mushroom will have a solid red cap with a frosty trimmed edge instead of spots on top.
 Supply List:
  • masking tape
  • white school glue and white tacky glue
  • newsprint
  • white cotton balls
  • modeling paper mache pulp (optional, for one of the cap polka-dots)
  • glitter, glass glitter and or mica flakes for decorative finishing
  • red and white paints for finishing
  • wire for inserted hooks
  • a small selection of wine glasses for the top shapes of mushroom caps
  • acrylic sealer or non-yellowing fixative 
  • large embroidery needle and wire for hanging
Cotton batting mushroom ornaments painted.
Step-by-step Directions:
  1. Below I have pictured the detailed process of crushing newsprint while wrapping it into shapes with masking tape. This is the first step in the process of sculpting cotton batting mushrooms. Of course, the tighter you wrap and crush the newsprint, the denser it becomes and consequentially, the stronger your ornament will be.
  2. The masking tape should be applied to every part of the newsprint's outside surface in order to  ensure that the form may be layered with much glue and paint. The masking tape is the modern replacement for the former use of wheat paste and strips of newsprint. This substitution is superior in many ways: it is easier to manipulate, cleaner to work with and rodents/insects are not attracted to it's odor.
  3. You will need to crush two elements; a cap for the top of your mushroom and a stem to attach to the cap underneath. As you can see from the photos below; I have designed three variations of a mushroom in order to emphasize how one object may be interpreted in so many ways.
  4. After you have constructed your form, you will then need to untwist the cotton balls so that you have long strips of cotton batting to work with. These strips are ideal for wrapping or "spinning" with when covering the mushroom stem. 
  5. Use a generous amount of white glue on top of the form as you wrap the cotton batting around the stem. Let this step of coverage dry.
  6. Now cover the cotton wrapped surface with glue again and wipe it into the cotton's surface with your finger tips. You may add several layers of glue and cotton in order to achieve the desired surface on your ornament. There will be bumps and you will learn to smooth over these with additional glue, pressure and small thin sheets of the cotton as you go. Give yourself time to accomplish this and work near a warm vent or sunny window so that you may speed up the drying time of the craft.
  7. Some of you may choose to use cotton batting sheets to cover larger surface areas in a more uniform manner. However, I chose not to do so for this particular project because: I knew that I would be adding texture to the mushroom cap for the polka-dots and I also want my students to see that such elements may be successfully sculpted with little more than a skillful light touch if one is dedicated to learning the craft the hard way.
  8. Below you can see by the photos how I have wrapped the mushroom with cotton batting and also how I have marked with a red tipped pen where I will add my polka-dot details to the mushroom caps. One mushroom's dots are made by rolling bits of cotton between the finger tips with glue in order to shape small balls. The other dot detailing on my larger mushroom sample was made by mixing modeling mache and dabbing it directly on to the drawn surface to create a rough raised texture.
  9. If you should decide to use the miniature rolled cotton balls to decorate the top of your own mushroom ornament, I would also glue an additional layer of cotton batting over these and then a final layer of glue on top of this batting surface to trap the balls into place. This kind of attention to the practice of sculpting with cotton batting is what ensures that your handwork will not only survive but will some day be another person's heirloom.
  10. Before painting your cotton batting mushrooms, be sure to wipe down the finished sculpture with a final coat of white glue. I use my finger tips for this process but some of you may prefer to use a soft brush instead.
  11. Use a large embroidery needle to dig a small whole in the top of each mushroom cap. Then insert a wire hook along with a generous portion of tacky white glue to the whole. Leave this to dry so that you may have a way to hang the mushroom from a tree branch. If you prefer, you may wish to add a long wire to the bottom of the mushroom instead, by the same means, so that the ornament may be attached to branches from underneath the stem.
  12. Use acrylic or watercolor paints to decorate the surface of cotton batting ornaments. Do not paint with oil based paints when working with cotton batting as these will corrode the ornament's surface over time.
  13. After adding a few red and white touches of paint,  glue glittery powders, glass beads and mica dust to the surface of your mushrooms.
  14. Finally spray the entire surface of each cotton batting ornament with either an acrylic sealer or a non-yellowing fixative.
Step-by-step photos of me crushing and wrapping the cotton batting mushrooms.
Detailed photos of me wrapping the mushroom forms with cotton batting.
Two ways to finish details on top of the cotton batting mushroom caps.
Cotton Batting Toadstools hanging among the evergreens.

More Mushroom/Toadstool Christmas Ornaments:
Old-fashioned papier-mâché toadstool ornaments from a 2012 Craft Fair by Kathy Grimm. These little guys have the traditional faces applied to their stems.

      A mushroom (or toadstool) is the fleshy, spore-bearing fruiting body of a fungus, typically produced above ground on soil or on its food source. The standard for the name "mushroom" is the cultivated white button mushroom, Agaricus bisporus; hence the word "mushroom" is most often applied to those fungi (Basidiomycota, Agaricomycetes) that have a stem (stipe), a cap (pileus), and gills (lamellae, sing. lamella) or pores on the underside of the cap. These pores or gills produce microscopic spores that help the fungus spread across the ground or its occupant surface. Read more...

Left, Amanita muscaria, the most easily recognized "toadstool", is frequently depicted in fairy stories and on greeting cards. It is often associated with gnomes.

More Links to Mushrooms:
Fly Agaric toadstool growing time-lapse

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