Posts Tagged ‘paint’

painted glass votives

in our home, we like to have some time of day, at least once, where we light a candle together. usually this is a ritual around dinner time and sometimes as a special treat at N’s bedtime when we tell stories by candlelight in her bedroom. when i recently spotted this cool glass paint, i had to pick some up so we could personalize our candles even more by upcycling some clear jars.

we set up shop out on the picnic table in the backyard with our supplies and some mason jars and baby food jars. (yes, we bought baby food specifically for the jars. N didn’t touch the stuff as a baby, as i made her food, but i figured we could use the bananas in some banana pancakes, right?)

N had such a good time painting on the glass…


after they were all painted, we set them out to dry for 48 hours (per instructions on the paint.)

(still haven't made anything from our holey shells from vacay)

then we baked them in the oven (also per paint instructions) on 325 for 30 minutes, allowing them to heat up and cool down with the oven on either side of that baking time. this allows the paint to adhere to the glass – love the alchemy!

after they had cooled, the jars were all shiny and ready for tealights and votive candles. love these little ones for our back patio!

N chose to put the large mason jar she painted on her nightstand for story time at night. magical!

she chose to put the “sunrise-sunset jar” on which we collaborated on her bedroom shelf.






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biocolor suncatchers

more fun with biocolor courtesy of N’s preschool teacher! (okay, now i need to get some of this stuff!) this week N and her friends made awesomely colorful window decals in her summer camp.

first, the kids squirted the biocolor onto nonstick aluminum foil. N stuck with the concentric circle pattern (like the comet painting) but some kids applied it in other designs.

the kids ran forks and toothpicks through it to make radial burst patterns and swirls like these you see below.

then they allowed the biocolor paint to dry on the foil. her teacher told me it dried very quickly when out in the sun.

(front shown here)

after they was completely dry, they peeled the dried paint off the foil carefully to reveal these very cool plasticky forms.

(backs shown here)

they can be stuck repeatedly to glass windows, but if they are heavy, the window may require a little misting of water before application to keep them on. the lighter colors (and parts with thin application) are translucent, allowing the sun to shine through the color. here are ours from the inside…

from the outside you can see the original circles N drew.

dear biocolor paint company: wanna send me some samples to review? i’ve got lots more ideas for this stuff, and discount school supply offers lots of biocolor ideas here too!


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family portraits

after a white-chocolate-chip-and-raspberry-gluten-free-pancake breakfast a couple sundays ago, N was lured outside by the sight of her easel. still in her pjs, she requested paint (tempera) and a jacket (summer mornings are chilly in the bay area.) she got down to the business of being the artist she is.

the day before, i had the pleasure of a mom’s day out in san francisco, where three friends and i visited the SFMOMA gertrude stein exhibit and treated ourselves to lunch at cafe gratitude and crazy flavored ice creams at humphry slocombe. mmm… i digress (as ice cream makes me do.) while at the museum, i picked up a matisse post card to bring back to N since she couldn’t be with me that day. (i’ll be bringing her back to the exhibit this summer, for sure! she’d love all the matisse, picasso, cézanne, etc.)

postcard i got for N: henri matisse, femme au chapeau, 1905; oil on canvas. image from wikipedia

N said she was “so inspired by the postcard of the lady” so she wanted to paint portraits “with weird colors, like matisse did.” she asked me to be her first model. i had to sit still on a chair in our backyard while she painted me, with “weird colors.”

notice the matisse in the lower right corner

next, my pj-clad husband was asked to sit for his portrait. and he (and his coffee) happily obliged.

i love how focused she was when painting these pieces…

next, the artist asked to be the model – and she wanted me to paint her portrait. whenever i make art alongside my daughter, i do so in her “artistic handwriting,” so to speak, as a way of communicating that i am witnessing and supporting her. this also gently thwarts a child’s natural tendency to compare. (to read more on these ideas, visit a blog i wrote on how to talk to your children about art.)

after these, N made quick portraits of both of our cats, who were watching from inside the screen door. we hung these to dry on our clothesline art-drying line in the play shed, while N admired her work.

this master-in-the-making was quite proud of this exhibit!



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preschool playlist

just wanted to share a quick little gift idea… on the last day of preschool last month, N wanted to give her classmates something. she was quite specific about what it was — she wanted to share her favorite music with them.

music has always been very important to N – and even more so since christmas when she got an ipod touch for her bedroom that we keep stocked with her favorites. (i got her this after trying to figure out what the 2010s equivalent would be to the record player i had in my bedroom when i was 4 years old.) ipod touch docked in a sideways station

she chose all of the songs she wanted for the list… which i’ll share with you here, just because:

  • The Muppet Show Theme – Muppets
  • Rainbow connection – Muppets
  • Black Horse and the Cherry Tree  – KT Tunstall
  • Can you picture that?  – Muppets
  • Girls Just Wanna Have Fun – Cyndi Lauper
  • Bobby-O – Kimya Dawson
  • Dog Days Are Over  – Florence And The Machine
  • My Energy – Laurie Berkner
  • Little Panda Bear – Kimya Dawson
  • Googleheads – Laurie Berkner
  • I hope that somethin’ better comes along – Muppets
  • Fraggle Rock Theme  – Muppets
  • The Three Bears – Gary Rosen
  • Movin’ Right Along – Muppets
  • Puff the Magic Dragon – Susie Tallman
  • Never before, never again – Muppets
  • Victor Vito  – Laurie Berkner
  • Finale: the magic store  – Muppets
  • Fire And Rain – James Taylor
  • The Littlest Birds – The Be Good Tanyas
  • I’m going to go back there someday  – Muppets
  • Sunbeams and Some Beans – Kimya Dawson
  • School’s Out for Summer – Alice Cooper

appropriately enough, that last song IS one of N’s favorites, as alice cooper is her very favorite “muppets special guest star” when he performed that song on the muppet show (yes, the one from the 70s/80s. we have the muppet show DVDs. you know she’s a muppets fanatic.) i burned the playlist to CDs. this felt so archaic… i know i should just be uploading the mp3s to a cloud somewhere and inviting the parents in the class to gain access to it, right? i’m not there yet. then we chose some of N’s preschool art works from the year to cut into CD covers. (one answer to the question of what to do with your childs’ stack of preschool artwork)

we used our lovely tag paper punch to make gift tags that N signed for each friend.

tied them with some pretty dyed yarn…

and voila! a thrifty, thoughtful, and tuneful (it’s a word) gift for her classmates finished in an hour, tops.

rock on kids!


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watercolor silhouette

oh, i have been wanting to try this for years, and i finally got around to it this father’s day! i remember thinking about doing this when N was just born, but (weirdly enough??) i kinda of wanted to wait until she had a substantial ponytail. ha! anyway, the timing was perfect for this custom, heartfelt, handmade, on-the-cheap dad’s day gift.

here’s how we did it: i took a nice profile photo of N against a white wall one day after preschool. i asked her to keep her chin up and give a little smile. (you should see some of the hilarious outtakes during this process… )

then i used my photo editing program to turn it to black and white, and pump up the contrast. (i use pixelmator because it’s free, works well, and i can’t afford to update my old version of photoshop to be compatible with my macbook. you can probably do all of this with any very basic photo editing program.) you may need to play around a bit with things like invert, posterize, and threshold to get the right feel for a simple black and white silhouette. i turned the inside of it white, so as not to use up all of my printer ink. here are some of my steps along the way:

i printed it onto contact paper sheets with my inkjet printer. (i made a small one and a larger one because i wasn’t sure which to use.) i caaarefeully cut out N’s silhouette. then i wiped any excess ink off of the contact paper with a towel before peeling it off and sticking it onto thick watercolor paper. i ended up using the large one for this project, with 11×15″ watercolor paper.

after it was stuck down securely (especially around the edges) i used a soft, fairly fat brush to wet the page around the edges of her face. then N chose blue watercolor paint (daddy’s favorite color) to drop into the water. (wet on wet watercoloring technique.)

i had to work fairly quickly so the paint would not dry out and create weirdness (which happened anyway along the bottom, but i’m okay with that.) when the painting was totally dry, i peeled off the clear contact paper. i was so happy it came off the watercolor paper in such a clean way!

peeling, revealing

we framed it in a simple and lovely matted frame. N and i were so happy with the finished product!

so was daddy! this image is going to hang in our family photo gallery in our stairwell. we like to mix art in with our photographs when displayed – and this one sort of counts as both.


hope all the dads and granddads out there had a beautiful weekend!



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process painting

the idea of the process arts is one that i can get behind wholeheartedly. simply, it means “the practice of various modalities of self-expression for the purpose of process rather than product.” a lot of us moms, teachers, or caregivers who make art with kids (and many artists) tout this process over product concept. as an art therapist, it has been a big part of my work with clients, as well as the way i approach my own art and making art with my daughter. so i thought we’d delve into a little process painting together…

according to process arts expert, stewart cubley, “process is the actual doing, the experience in the moment. it is the journey into the unknown without assumption. it is being open to a larger dimension than the limited agendas of the mind. It is being there fully – in presence…

…the essence of the process arts work is freedom. it is about climbing out from under the demanding attitudes that enslave us, where we believe we can only be happy in an imagined future with an imagined outcome.”

in this spirit, and over the course of several days, N and i applied color (acrylic paint) to canvas together. we listened to music – one of our favorites for painting is ann licater’s flute music (which N asks for quite often when making art.) we chatted happily. we painted quietly and listened to the brush strokes, which were often rhythmic with all of these little dots and things happening on the canvas. we painted outside and listened to the birds, the wind, the people passing by on the sidewalk. we watched the painting unfold.

we approached the canvas with the agreement that our marks would likely eventually come into relationship, touching and overlapping, and that over the course of a few days, things would get covered over with layers of paint. we agreed not to “try to make something” rather just to enjoy the experience of the paint. i was intentional in the way i painted freely, so that i could model for N how it might be to watch the images shift and move. i was hoping (hypothesizing) that it might not only be freeing for her to make art in this way, but that it’s quite organic for a child…

um, not necessarily so at age four, at least for my kiddo. she became quite attached to certain images, so watching them change or overlap later became emotional. (many of the images she became attached to were ones i had made on the canvas, and when i tweaked them over painted over them, she got upset.)

this was such a rich opportunity to discuss process, and while staying within the metaphor of the art in our conversation, a deeper meaning of the discomfort of uncertainty, the idea of change, and of things being temporary was able to be worked through together and held or contained in a safe way in the art. gosh, i love art therapy.

next time, we’ll each get our own canvases — then i’ll see what develops. my guess is that it’ll be a whole different ballgame, but i wonder what might happen. on his web site, stewart cubley writes: “the process arts are uniquely effective in facilitating the inner imperative because they are:

  • non goal oriented: they do not depend on a stereotype or formula.
  • non-rational: they rely on greater reality than logic
  • unpredictable: they face us immediately with the unknown
  • transformative: they remove us from habitual patterns of behavior
  • insight producing: they stimulate a more comprehensive perception
  • freeing: they expose the restricting ways of the inner critic”

documenting changes during the process with her own camera

go forth and trust the process.

let me know what unfolds…


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beach treasure mobile

as you know from our recent post, we spent some time along the lovely beaches of the pacific over memorial day weekend, and gleaned a few treasures in our beachcombing. N has always been obsessed with holding and running around with sticks (safe, huh?) so she’s a natural at finding nice driftwood, bringing it to me, and saying, “we have to make art out of this!!!” so what’s a mom to do? make art!

we sorted our findings in the backyard and were inspired by the driftwood, (and of course by the lovely stones we used in the rock picture holder post! i’m still obsessed with making those!)

N decided that she wanted to paint some of the driftwood like we did last summer, ginette lapalme style and create a mobile from them. first, we got some exposure to the power drill, to drill holes across the top of a long piece of driftwood and in the ends of five short pieces. N marked the stick first to show where she wanted the holes to go.

then we were ready to paint, al fresco!

the two of us had so much fun striping these wooden sticks.

as we painted, we chatted about the wood and “what colors it was telling us that it wanted to have on it.” one of N’s pieces wanted light pink at the bottom (which she learned to mix for herself) because it looked like a ballerina’s slipper.


we let the sticks dry in the sun – so very pretty! (i’m a sucker for rainbows and natural materials.)

after the sticks were dry, we laid out a plan for the mobile. the next morning, a pj-clad N helped to thread the cord through the sticks, a rock, and a couple shells.

i used knots to secure everything in place.

the whole family is smitten with the outcome of this project…


so much so that we chose to hang it in our tall stairwell so we can enjoy seeing it from all angles, watching it twirl around.

i’m in love with the shamanic look of this piece – now i feel like we need to make more of them as gifts and for our backyard!



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did you see the artful parent’s 10 simple art activites post this week? [it was jean-ius! if not, you should take a peek – she even offers a printable sheet of ideas to post in your art space as reminders.] it totally inspired me to bust out some q-tips and paint and introduce N to the idea of pointillism!

first, we had a little art lesson from my favorite art history texts (good ol’ gardner and janson) and perused some seurat images.

then i put out a limited palette – magenta, orange, yellow, and cyan. (magenta, yellow, and cyan are the CMYK model of primary colors for ink printing, so they can create most colors when layered.) and our tool: q-tips.

N was excited about this from the beginning and went to work making a starry night sky and moon, and then a car driving on the road.

then she asked for her markers because she wanted to try pointillism with those. good thinking! so she created a beach scene.

this is the piece where N invented "dash-illism" because "dashes are easier"

N has just begun her next marker pointillism masterpiece… i have a feeling she’ll be working on this one a while.

momma got in on the action, too — i found it quite meditative!

try pointillism with q-tips, paintbrushes, markers, eraser tips of pencils, or do-a-dot markers.

what do you dot dot dot with?




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cardboard box challenge: butterfly storybox

we are honored to partake in tinkerlab’s one year anniversary cardboard box challenge, alongside so many amazing bloggers! when presented with this challenge, i wondered how we could incorporate two things that N is naturally curious about exploring right now: illustrating (like a fiend!) and butterflies. i like to go with the flow…


with mother’s day coming up, my own uber-creative mom is on my mind a lot… and this blog is purely an homage to her. i decided to attempt to replicate a “visual aid” my mom created with me for science class when i was in about third grade. a perfect marriage of cardboard, drawing, butterflies, and celebrating MOM!

first, this crunchy boho-chic (um, pretty please?) momma got a new pair of birkenstocks (long overdue! sigh – but not so chic.) the box they came in seemed perfect for the challenge. i used an x-acto knife to cut a little window in the top of the lid to serve as our “screen” for the story to show through. then i sliced Xs across from each other in the top sides and bottom sides of the box, which is where our dowels (cardboard tubes) would go. that was the grown-up part of the project.

yes, i have big feet & when it comes to birks, i'm classic arizona or maybe a florida

next, N chose turquoise acrylic paint to cover the box, and used a small paint roller to paint the entire box. then she picked plum purple paint to paint the dowels. i remember that the version my mom and i made in the 80s was wrapped in fabulous hot pink butterfly wrapping paper, but we opted for paint so we could open & close the box afterwards.

while the box was drying, we cut a long thin strip of white scroll paper (from the roll of paper that goes on her easel.) we discussed the life cycle of a butterfly, which is currently what N is learning in preschool. on monday of this week, they watched the butterflies emerge from the chrysalis with wet wings and fly away. she is fascinated to say the least!

N named 4 stages of the butterfly: egg, caterpillar, chrysalis or pupa, and butterfly. as you see above, i drew boxes vertically along the scroll of paper for each stage, and two extra – for a title page and ending page. N is a sucker for puns, and got a great idea to draw a butterfly dancing on a stage for her title page: “stages of a butterfly”

she then got busy illustrating each of the phases in the cycle.

and was quite proud.

after the box was dry, N added many different butterfly stickers to its surface.

we opened the lid and used packaging tape to tape the top of the scroll to the top dowel and the bottom to the bottom dowel. (i love that this box has a hinged lid so that we can open and close it to perhaps insert different “stories” later!)

that's the image of the butterfly dancing on a stage. get it? ;)

once the story box was complete, N was sooo excited about it! “we made a TV!” she exclaimed. i’ll let her give you the little tour through her story, winding the dowels at the top and bottom to crank the scroll through the images…

the four stages – images spliced together

click image to enlarge to see details - those are droplets from the "wet wings" in the last image

ta da!

the end (i'm sure the box could have used another coat of paint)

thank you to rachelle at tinkerlab for this challenge and for one year of your oh-so-inspiring blogs! and huge gratitude to my amazing mom for your contagious creative spirit and igniting my passion for self-expression! i hope i can do the same for my daughter.

happy mothers’ day weekend, mommas!


wanna see more cardboard creations?


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guest post: open studio with 2-year-old

one of my dearest friends and among the shiniest people i know, my brilliant art therapy colleague, sabrina bajakian, was kind enough to offer us a peek into her amazing art studio in bozeman, montana, where she engages in art-making with her 2-year-old daughter, who we’ll call S. i am always inspired by the mindful way sabrina approaches her own art process, and the thoughtfulness she puts into creating/holding an inviting and safe space in which S can begin to engage with materials. through sabrina’s lens and in her own words, she captures such pure creativity, beauty, and wisdom. let’s visit sabrina’s studio and her precious little artist. take it away, sabrina:

"I follow"

25-month-old S has been coming to my art therapy studio since she was in my belly. As you’ll see she’s got an affinity for the color blue. Today S suggested I make a snowman. I followed her lead. She then decided to add details & fill in the snowman.

"New Beginning"

After warming up with the snowman painting, I wanted to give her a clean slate that would be her imagery alone.

"Free Space"

I’m amazed, and as a parent, relieved, that S is beginning to work all on her own without assistance for a few minutes at a time.


I’ve titled the photo above after Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s book. As an art therapist, I am very interested in how we might achieve optimal experience. This is the state of mind – state of being that we are all after – being immersed in an activity that we enjoy and is just the right combination of challenge and mastery.


Age 2 is prime time for a kiddo to say, “I made that!”.


After she decided she had enough time at her big page on the wall, S continued her free play in the studio. She loves to make sense of things in her world and sort them by color. In the photo above, S is selecting blue chalk pastels, blue oil pastels, blue colored pencils. Clearly, Blue is the Best Color there is!


I offer S a box to paint and decorate. We haven’t ventured into the world of collage or assemblage together yet, so this is truly a first. She builds upon her skills with paint. What you don’t see in this string of images is how and when I am stepping in to give her a hand. As a general rule I wait for her to say, “I need help” or to be invited or directed: “Mama, paint!”

"Selecting Gems"

Again we’re seeing this budding experience of “Flow.” This kind of freedom, I think, builds confidence and imagination.

"Focused Work"

I also think this state of mind (only when we’re older?) is one of divine connection. For anyone who has worked in a creative capacity, we know that some of what we make comes from our preconceived and planned design. And, then there is what comes from our unconscious individual and collective consciousness.

"Gel Medium"

Gel Medium, how I love this stuff. It’s probably like Mod Podge, but I’m personally more familiar with this product. It’s a painting medium for acrylics, is essential clear, glossy paint, that can be used as a fairly strong, flexible, shiny, transparent adhesive. Dries quick, no smell, cleans w/ water.

I simply tell the little one that mama is putting glue on the box and she can stick things in it.

Together we pull out my bins of collage objects. I have one bin that I especially like that has shiny things. S digs around, selects a few things, puts the lid back on the box and carries her 3 selections to the little table. I’m amazed that she didn’t just get overwhelmed and lost in this process. She is a focused person for being so young!  This is definitely more fun for me than for her!!!

Her little fingers are getting some great fine motor training.  She has to practice pinching & picking up small gems & gets a little frustrated with sticky fingers.  I step in and wipe with a warm washcloth.  I ask her where she’d like me to pour out some glitter & she points to a spot on the table, “righdaar (right there)”.


These opportunities to have choices are key for a child S’s age – or any age.  Little ones have to follow suit with the schedules & rules we adults impose so much of the time. From a developmental perspective, allowing a 2 year old to exercise autonomy and control are essential. What a fun way to help a child evolve through their developmental milestones!

"All done"

We both so enjoyed our art time together.  I didn’t have any expectation about how or if this piece would look finished to my adult eye.  S worked on it for as long as she wanted which was until she could no longer fit gems on the box top.  She tried to put heavy, glass beads on the side but learned that woudn’t work.  I let her try this out & before she got too frustrated I explained what I saw, “looks like those are too heavy” and offered her some blue star stickers to try instead.

"Washing up"

Washing up and helping to clean up are fun for S (so far!). These are glory days. Savoring every moment.

thank you, sabrina, for letting us join you and S in your artistic process in the studio! your perspective and offerings are so very inspiring!

if you’d like to learn more about the amazing work sabrina does in the world, visit her web site:


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N has been in a particularly creative mood these past few days, as she has been sick and mildly feverish. she does some of her best imagining in that somewhat warm-brained altered state. today i found a stash of old construction paper wedged between some files, and N and i decided to break out the acrylics and make some paintblots.

i suppose this is similar to rorschach’s inkblot test – or at least the images look that way. i just want to note here, for the record, that rorschach’s name was in no way mentioned in my three years of graduate level art therapy training, so i wasn’t doing this as an art assessment whatsoever. just playing with paint and paper and N’s imagination!

she had lots of fun choosing paper and paint colors and squeezing the paint onto the paper.

then folding, patting, pushing, squishing the paint around in between the fold.

and opening the papers back up to reveal the surprise of a design! “i love not knowing what it will look like!” she said, as she opened fold after fold.

she did some simple ones using one color.

"blue butterfly"

N also explored using several colors with two different techniques: 1) all at once and then fold and 2) folding between each color.

"an angel with a big heart"

they revealed some really amazing images, and i loved hearing about what they each looked like to N.

in her words, (L to R, top to bottom) they are:

  1. fire breaking into a nest of yellow eggs
  2. janice (from electric mayhem) with big colorful eyes and big lips
  3. an angel with a big heart
  4. a fox face
  5. two bunnies giving each other eggs
  6. a baby
  7. a butterfly
  8. the ocean
  9. ribs or bones (looks like hip bones to me!)
  10. a turkey about to clap
  11. blue butterfly
  12. someone saying “mmmmm”

this is an easy and fabulously fun way to spark creativity! while paint is wet, you can add sequins or glitter. and after the paintblots are dry, it would be fun to embellish the images or scene with crayons or markers. these would make excellent t-shirts! maybe next time we’ll do this with fabric paints…

what would you do with a series of paintblots?


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printing on t-shirts

two of N’s boy friends from preschool celebrated their fifth birthday this month. when i asked N what she wanted to get for them, she said, “i want to make them both a shirt.” um, okay – let’s do that!

i got a good deal on solid, plain tees at old navy ($5 each when you buy more than one – we bought three. one for each boy and, of course, one for N. ah, preschoolers. sigh.) the boys’ shirts had a pocket on the front, which meant we’d be printing the design on the back. N reeeeally wanted to put their name on the front, but we compromised on each kid’s initial on the pocket. she hunted for letters in our cardboard letter stash.

when i asked N what each boy might want on his shirt, she replied that they are both really into firetrucks. so, i cut some cardboard into what i thought kinda sorta resembled a firetruck shape…? humor me.

then N painted the firetruck cut-out with a thick coat of red fabric paint, using a paintbrush and not a roller. we weren’t very pro with this job, but it was fun and it worked in the end.

we pressed it onto the backs of the shirts. because we did this on a whim, and used what we had in a pinch, we didn’t really think through the materials too well ahead of time. i used a corrugated shipping box to cut the firetruck out, so it came out kind of striped. eh.

i had to fill in the spaces with a paintbrush.

to make the ladder, N painted a wooden craft stick with blue paint and we pressed it on twice, with a shorter stick for rungs. this is pretty much the thing that helped it resemble a firetruck.

now it was time to make N’s shirt. she decided she wanted a “rainbow horse shirt!” thankfully, we had a package of these great horse shaped cardboard cut-outs. she painted one into a stripey rainbow, kinda like the birthday sign she made for her 4th.

because the horse was not on corrugated cardboard, and because i put a large, flat, hardcover book under the shirt when we pressed it, it turned out pretty well!

we let these dry for 4 hours, then waited 72 hours to turn them inside out and wash them (per the fabric paint instructions.) voila – custom birthday gifts for the guys, and a sweet tee for my little lady!



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