The Ugly Ornament Project

I come from an unusual family.  As siblings I have a pharmacist, a lawyer/college professor, a public health nursing manager, one of the principals in a hydrogeologic consulting firm, and a graphic arts project manager.  They are all very smart and very competent.  They are also the best playmates I could ever hope to find.

As kids, we were encouraged to ask “What would happen if…?” Intellectual curiosity was particularly lauded, but creative curiosity got a good workout, too.  We also watched as our parents used what they had–and then used it again for something else when needed. (Sometimes, with questionable results–My mom once cut up a cast-off adult coat to make a coat for my 5-year -old  sister.  She looked like a small bear in it.)  We also learned early on to take advantage of bargains when given the chance.  And to see uses for things beyond the category in which they are typically pigeon-holed.

So when my pharmacist brother suggested that those of us who live in the Pacific Northwest (he and I plus another brother and his wife) gather to repaint some glass ornaments using nail polish, the idea did not seem all that outlandish to me.  (Especially since a few years ago, I invited these same family members to build a Christmas tree out of scrap lumber, PVC and garage junk with me.  But that’s a different story.)

The original paint on the ornaments had failed in assorted ways because he’d used them on an outdoor tree.  To make it onto another tree, they needed help.  And if that “help” made them too ugly to hang on another tree, he had a solid reason to throw them out.  He’d purchased 25 bottles of discontinued colors of nail polish on super-sale where he worked using his loyalty card points as the repair medium.  All we needed was a place to play–and that was my house.

We started the evening with a traditional family dinner (which must include pork…)  Then we got down to the fun. I was concerned about the second brother.  He’s more scientist and  less weird artist than the rest of us.  But he loved the idea.  I was also concerned he might get frustrated because he’s had limited fine motor skills since a mishap in Marine boot camp 50 years ago.  (He ended up doing more intricate stuff than I did!)  My sister-in-law, who was traumatized drawing a daffodil in 5th grade, was also a concern.  She discovered the stick-on jewels  and went crazy with those.  What we knew about ourselves as adults was irrelevant once we got down to playing.

We tried assorted ways of applying the color–brush, dowel, rolling the globe in it.  (An unused stick of hot glue turned out to be the best way to make polka dots.)  We used glitter and stick-on jewels and puffy fabric paint.  Every single creation was different. Each of us had a different style, and we used the materials differently. The vast majority had old paint on part of the surface that needed to be incorporated in the new “design.”

We got so into it that we lost track of time.  When we finally admitted we needed to stop, we had well over 20 hanging up to dry–and it was really late.

But we still had 20 more ornaments.  And all that nail polish. So……..We agreed that it should go to the other siblings.  I boxed it all up the next day and mailed it to our three sisters in Wisconsin.  The Ugly Ornament Project lives on!!

Hanging them all to dry

Hanging them all to dry

Why do I write about this?  Because it was wonderful wacky fun that took us back to the complete focus on play that we all knew as kids.  There was no cellphone checking.  There wasn’t even much conversation about anything but what we were working on.  It was good honest play.  The whole country needs more of that right now.

There was only one thing that didn’t work out quite as we planned.  They aren’t ugly.