Handmade Icon Ornaments

you'll need brushes, modpodge, wood and icons

Handmade ornaments are always so personal and welcoming in a parish setting. At St. Basil’s, our first set was worn out by many loving and curious little hands. So, I decided this was the year to make a new and improved set that could withstand the love and storage abuse. I’m sharing this process with you in the hope that you’ll want to give it a try.

Here are the simple steps:

First of all, you need a Paul Bunyon of a husband to slice two dozen 1/4 inch circles from a medium sized hard wood branch. Now, we don’t cut trees down here every week, but we happened to be clearing some brush in our backyard and had the branches available. If you aren’t comfortable slinging a chainsaw around, go to Michaels or other similar craft store and buy a bag full of wood slices. That’s a whole lot easier.

Next, you’ve got to seal the wood. I learned this the hard way. On my first try, I sprayed gold paint directly onto the wood slices and it just absorbed right into the wood. On the second try, I sprayed polyurethane on the slices to coat and seal the wood. Then, I spray-painted all the slices gold on both sides. You can find cans of gold spray paint at Home Depot, Walmart, and craft stores.

Finally, I took a drill and bored holes into the top of each painted slice to make a sturdy place to thread a ribbon through the ornament. Finished with the wood preparation, now I was ready for the fun stuff: pasting and decorating!

A good quality image is needed for each icon ornament. I went digging in our “holy trash” pile of old calendars and bulletins for images and also printed some from the internet. We decided to use images of Jesus and the saints related to the season: St. Herman of Alaska, St. Lucia, and St. Nicholas. I’ve attached a page with small versions of the images we used here.

Once you’ve gotten the images you want, gather medium sized paint brushes, a bottle of Modpodge, glue, glitter and a spool of narrow ribbon. Glitter makes this project extra fun. There wasn’t a single kid that made an ornament that didn’t want gold glitter all around the icon.

At church on the first Sunday in December, we gathered up the kids, young and old to make the ornaments. I had the images already cut out along with the Modpodge, glue and glitter waiting.

Each child selected an image and got to work. First, I had her glue the image down on the wood. Then, she dipped her brush into the Modpodge and painted this mixture over the entire surface, until the whole side was completely covered and saturated. A couple of moms helped their very young children with the process. We also had a few teens join in the project. After the ornaments dried a few minutes, the glittering began. Basically, the kids had free, artistic reign here. Some glittered ALOT, others just a bit. Last, a gold or red ribbon was threaded through the drilled hole at the top and tied into a loop.

The ornaments dried for several days and went right onto the tree. I think they turned out beautiful. Hopefully, they will hold up a few years. If you give this a try, or have done this before, please leave a comment about your experience below.