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.
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..."