I love to create with my children. Nothing in this world is more rewarding to me than seeing their eyes light up when they have asked for a special something from Momma and then it appears before their eyes. The wonder and respect they have while watching and participating in the creation process will last a lifetime. It is vitally important to me in the society we live in to pass along an appreciation and love for the handmade to our children. My hope is that it will help shield them from our ever so appealing and rampant consumerism.
This project was inspired by my sweet daughter Deirdre Cosette’s preoccupation with gnomes and fairies. Per her request, Momma dreamed up these little friends, and with her help brought them to life. Enjoy and please involve your little ones in this project. It will surely be a fond memory for each of you!
Assorted colors of watercolor paints (milk paint will also work)
Woodburing tool (I used one with a flat edge versus a tip point)
Fine grit sandpaper
Small tipped paint brush
Wood blanks (of your own creation) or you may find them at Clickity Clack
Spare piece of wood for testing burns and paint colors
Note: I intentionally choose to use natural materials. Thus I recommend against using acrylic paints or chemical finishes.
:: Sand down the edges of the wood blanks.
Whether you buy your wood gnome blanks precut — or cut them yourself — this step is necessary. With a fine grit sandpaper gently sand the entire blank. Doing this helps soften any edges for little hands as well as aids the paint absorption process later on! This is a great step to have your little ones help you with.
:: Trace designs onto the wood blanks.
This is a fun step because it is completely open to interpretation. I chose to design the gnomes and fairies with a blank face and minimal body decorations — however, the sky is the limit! The store where I purchased my blanks posted their designs on their site. I used them as my inspiration. Once you have chosen your designs lightly trace them onto the blanks with pencil.
:: Burn designs onto the blanks.
Once you have traced the designs you are ready for this step. I prefer to test the pressure of my wood-burning tool on a spare piece of wood before I burn on my designs. This also allows you to practice how dark you want the burn to be. I like a dark thick burn line since it helps create a barrier between paint colors. It also adds a tactile dimension.
:: Select watercolor wash shades and test them.
My daughter Deirdre wanted rainbow gnomes and fairies with red hats. You can paint them any color you prefer. In honor of Autumn we are now working on a set in orange, red, and brown for our harvest nature table. Mix the watercolors with a little bit of water first, and then test the color on a scrap of wood. Keep adding water until you get the shade you want. Remember that the darker the shade, the more likely it is to bleed when it comes into contact with water later on. If you are making these figures for little ones under the age of three, I suggest a very light color wash as they might put them into their mouths (as all little ones do)! My favorite watercolors are Stockmar. The colors are brilliantly bright and long-lasting.
:: Paint the blanks.
Once you have colors selected, it is time to paint your burned figures! Make sure to use a fine-tipped paint brush to help you paint precisely and to prevent colors from inadvertently mixing, unless you want to make a tie-dye gnome.
:: Let the gnomes dry.
This step is vitally important. I once made the mistake of rubbing beeswax on my gnomes before they were dry, which smeared the lovely paint all over them. I suggest waiting overnight.
:: Finish and seal the gnomes with beeswax polish.
Ah, the home-stretch! Once your little darlings are dry, it is time to seal then. The sealing process makes them water resistant, but the color will not survive getting dropped in the bath. The beeswax also helps keep them vibrant and gives them a longer life! I adore the lavender beeswax polish from Nova Natural, however there are recipes out there to make your own if you wish.
I hope these gnomes and fairies give your little ones years of creative play.
Nicole Justice-Kleemann is a stay at home mother to her two little children and a slew of poultry (who also fervently believe they are her children). After graduating with her Masters degree in Teaching, she has decided to homeschool her children in the Waldorf tradition. Her journey to Waldorf and her family’s daily adventures can be found at her blog. Also, her favorite food is pineapple!