Tag Archives: Gift

How to Make an Assemblage Sculpture (= 3D Collage) for Your Valentine (Art Instruction / Craft Tutorial)


In honor of Valentine’s Day, I’ve made 2 assemblage sculptures (which are the 3-dimensional versions of collages), one honoring romantic spirits and the other creative kindred spirits. With photographic examples of the steps, along with some basic instruction, I’m sure you’ll be able to create your own. This project is the perfect Valentine gift because you can incorporate little bits of ephemera like ticket stubs and cards from your romance, or you can celebrate a creative spirit with little items that symbolize the recipient’s talents. It’s an inexpensive way to demonstrate affection in a memorable one-of-a-kind way… and they’re so much fun to make!


Let’s start with the basics… assemblage sculptures are really just 3D collages. Instead of merely cutting and gluing flat pieces of paper images to a larger sheet of paper, solid ephemera (like perfume bottles) are glued to a base (like a book box). As with any sculpture, they are viewed from 360ᵒ and so should be layered on all sides. In this way, they really are more challenging to make and more interesting to look at. Completed pieces are best viewed close up and in person like one would inspect the contents of a tiny dollhouse.


I’ve made two at the same time in order to demonstrate more fully just how to complete such a project. They have very different themes, but utilize the same color scheme and even some of the same items like crystal hearts. In one artwork these symbolize romantic affection while in the other representing the love of craft. Personally, I find that it’s best to begin by gathering all the important ephemera you’d like to use first.


Think of it like an exaggerated version of scrapbooking. Add things that depict cherished memories or even inside jokes. Another way to begin is make a list of things you want to portray, and then look for elements that would render those. And, let’s just say that you don’t have the right memento from that beach trip… well, just go buy a lovely shell and write a date on it in permanent marker. It really is that simple.


Observe the collected items to see which colors are repeated most. Allow this to dictate your color scheme. Any pieces that clash with that scheme can be altered to blend in seamlessly. Paint, stain, glitter, glue, ribbon, and tape can change a tchotchke to suit your palette. Here I’ve use a bingo marker to stain some pale wooden heart cutouts and potential base feet. (See more about the possibilities of bingo markers in my article: Fast & Easy DIY Hand-stamped Polka-dot Gift Wrap & Matching Gift Crafts.)


The next step is to go to your craft area, local craft store, or even online to search for coordinating bits of ribbon, washi tape, or even feathers to fill in the empty portions of your project. (A few of my affiliates offer great rotating discounts on art and craft supplies. Check them out in the sidebars and footer.) How much you use is a matter of personal artistic preference. I intentionally load some assemblages up to the hilt, while in others I designate empty voids as a design element in and of itself. (This is called “negative space” in “art-speak”.)


Choose an appropriate sized base object according to the size and amount of your collected ephemera, and by how you would like to display them. (Of course, I’ve also started with a really awesome base then collected items after. For a Valentine project though, the most important elements are the collected ones.) You can use a tiny chocolate box if you only have a few key items and are short on time. Or, you can use that chocolate box as a pedestal inside a bigger box (just remember to glue the little box together before adhering it to the base).


I used a vintage fabric covered book box for the “Sweet-Heart” assemblage. I love using old pieces off-book so to speak. I thought a drawer organizer box would be perfect for the “Creative-Heart” project. I just turned it on its side to make a kind of display case out of it. You can even use a plain paper-mache box, and decorate to suit your theme.


Lay out the items you’d like to use to see how it looks best arranged. Move things around until you find it visually appealing. Eventually it will just look right. You can lock this into your memory, or even take a photo to reference it while you glue things down. Use a permanent glue stick to adhere the paper pieces in layers to the base.


Here I’ve added washi, glitter, and foil tape to add visual interest to the plain centers of the “Creative-Heart” assemblage. Then I glued paper pieces to the backs like a papered wall.


Use a clear glue with more staying power for heftier pieces like glass bottles and metal pieces. (I placed some great glue varieties in the curated art supplies gallery box in the sidebar. Just click on them to read the specs.)


I glued small stained wooden shapes to the bases to serve as feet (those shown earlier). This is the most inexpensive way to both elevate and protect the artwork. You also use more ornate metal feet specifically made for assemblages or even small silicone stickers.


Rotate bases to glue all of the heavier objects onto that side, and then let them set to dry. Continue to rotate and glue various edges. Of course, try to position the bigger more important pieces before filling in with the tiny ones.


Think about adding meaningful words, phrases, questions, or quotes to impart further meaning to your elements. I added these using printed label tape, dymo tape, vinyl lettering, glittered chipboard letters, a Chinese character, and even fortune cookie papers. Apply these directly onto your pieces and to the base itself.


I also made ivory shapes using Plaid Mod Molds. (These have been added to the curated gallery too.) I love being able to quickly make whatever element I feel needs to be included. I included metal jewelry charms, painted paper clips, mini-CDs, Spanish bingo cards, old keys, rulers, scissors, paper rosettes, ornaments, cupcake picks, playing cards, spools, thimbles, magnets, paintbrushes, crystals, glass vials and jars, etc.


Here is a pair of giant winged earrings that I’ve modified for the project. I even cut out music notes from the shiny display card. You never really know where something’s come from in one of my pieces. I generally use a lot of vintage elements and scraps that I modify. I’m lucky enough to have a grandma that collected a lot of random stuff that I can now use, but you can find a lot of knickknacks both online and in antique shops. Let your creativity run wild and use anything that can be altered and glued down!



Just keep layering your pieces into the base like you would to complete a puzzle. It’s done when you think adding anything else will mess it up… the Goldilocks moment of when it’s just right. Of course, there will always be critics, but you didn’t make it for them. If your recipient appreciates the care that went into it, and if you enjoyed making it…. well, isn’t that just the point of making a homemade gift?



Have fun & tell stupid Cupid you’ve got it covered!

Faithfully Yours,




Fast & Easy DIY Hand-stamped Polka-dot Gift Wrap & Matching Gift Crafts

With all of the miles of commercially produced wrapping paper that stores seem to stock at every corner… why make your own? Well, it can be made super-fast and super-easy without looking like it! With my simple repurposing trick, you can make handcrafted gift wrap inexpensively in a matter of minutes. It’s really easy to stamp any type of package, paper, tag, card or box… even one that gets addressed and sent in the mail! It looks even more adorable on matching notebooks, craft letters, or any other gift that would accept inking. With stamping, you can match the colors to your décor for a catalog worthy Christmas, and delight loved ones with one-of-a-kind gifts at the same time. And, I don’t know about you, but I really love it when someone has cared enough to make something just for me.


My simple trick to easy and fast polka-dot making (ahem, drumroll please)… bingo markers! The idea was sparked about 15 years ago when someone gave me a few of these because she thought I might want the ink in them. Let me tell you, I made so many spotted cards with them! Everyone was always surprised when I told them what I had used.


You can find them in so many colors. I’ve used pink, green, blue, red, and purple as examples here. They even come in shapes like shamrocks or hearts, but I’m sticking with polka-dots for now because they are just so classic and chic!


You can use any kind of paper for the gift wrap or bags. Glossy paper will leave more of a watercolor look, while matte paper will dry to a solid flat color. Both have their merits. Just know that glossy surfaces take much longer to dry. It’s great to buy neutral colored bags in white or kraft paper color, and then stamp them into personalized colors as needed.


You can match your décors theme, go with traditional colors, or even pick a different color combo for each family member. Pink is my grandmother’s favorite color, so that’s just what she gets!


Blue and pink polka-dots are perfect for gender-neutral baby showers.


The paper I’m showing here is the best I’ve found for wrapping. It’s thick enough to hide the contents well. It won’t tear like the commercial variety in transit or mailing. It dries quickly and evenly so you can make a ton of it and just roll it back up. The tag in the picture has dry ink on pink paper, and it’s sitting atop tan with freshly applied ink.


The roll is really inexpensive for quite a lot, so it fits everyone’s budget. It’s so versatile because you can do anything with it (spray paint it, paint a scene on it, write messages on it, have kiddos draw on it, make gift tags or cards out of it, etc…) What is this amazing product? (Another drumroll please)… rosin paper from a hardware store! It’s actually used in homes during construction. I learned about it from my interior designer mother of course. It’s available in pink, green, white and tan like kraft paper in rolls that will last for years. I even use this stuff for covering the backs of framed artwork. (I’ll do a DIY tutorial for this in the future. It’s really easy and will save you so much money.)


I try to stamp one color in a grid-like pattern, and then follow up in between those with a contrasting color. I have to admit though… sometimes it’s fun to just get stamp-happy all over the place! Do expect this when kiddos are involved. It’s fun to see the creations they come up with.


When making hand-stamped giftwrap for my Etsy store, I make long sections for wrapping purchased goods, and also package making kits complete with tag and twine.


I make my individual sheets much larger (36 x 30 inches) than others typically offer (20 x 30 inches) so as to fit larger packages. Each kit will definitely cover several small boxes.


If you want to make individual wrapping paper sheets for yourself, just use a T-square ruler to measure and mark straight distances before cutting.


Another idea, how fun would it be to have a holiday stamping and wrapping craft party with the gal-pals!


Here are traditional red and green packages for Christmas with added ornament decorations. You can see for yourself the differences between glossy, matte, box, bag, and wrapping paper.


I also used a stamp on them that says, “handmade for you, because you’re worth it,” as it really exemplifies what I’m trying to do… show that I care!


This is an idea for a friend celebrating Hanukkah. I realized I had no appropriate bag decoration for it, so I took a couple of minutes to make one. To make your own, run the matching bingo marker over 6 popsicle sticks to stain them. After they’re dry, hot glue 3 into a triangle. Repeat this with the last three, then glue one triangle on top of the other. Tie on with coordinating twine, yarn, or ribbon.


This would be a great type of Christmas craft for the little ones making ornaments for the family. The bingo markers don’t make a big mess and the ink washes off of skin. Adding a year and a name in permanent marker would make it even more precious.


Here are some birthday gift packages with tiny frames as bag décor.


I went ahead and stamped them ahead of time because I already had everything out, and I’m planning an upcoming green and pink polka-dot theme birthday party. It fit just too perfectly!


Also, I’ve made some critter themed wrap in blue and green. It seems like there is always a little one being born or having a birthday, so I make a point of finding theme items throughout the year for gift baskets. I can always find cute things in ducks, frogs, and ladybugs.


Here are some attempts at making shapes with the bingo markers. I’m sure it probably would have been smarter to practice before doing this on the bag and boxes. Oh well, at least you can get the idea.


The Mickey / Minnie Mouse bag appears to have black ink on it because green ink appears black on the red paper. I also stamped polka dots onto a length of red paper ribbon to demonstrate the endless possibilities of decorating with ink. The green Hungry Caterpillar box just as easily could have featured a blue Alice in Wonderland Caterpillar.


The hearts on the box aren’t great because it isn’t easy to make a V-point with a round stamp. Although I did get better at it by the time I made the leaves for the flowers. Just use a Sharpie to draw in details like arrows or a wavy lined stem. The peppermint candies were made by a foam stamp inked with the bingo marker. I thought it might work, and was delighted to find that it did! I will soon be posting a Winter Candyland Party that this type of stamp is perfect for, but here it’s used for a “sweetheart” gift box.


It’s really great to just stamp the outside of gift boxes, and not worry about wrapping at all! Here I’ve use some Christmas yarn… purchased with a coupon so that it was a fraction of the price of baker’s twine. I have enough quantity to be generous with it without worrying about running out… and it’s just really cute.


The Rudolph decoration was manufactured, but it would be really easy to draw a silly character on poster board in Sharpie markers and glue on a red pom-pom nose. That could be a fun way to get the kids involved as well. Another festive idea is to stamp the outside of a mailing parcel then write the recipient’s address in black Sharpie.


Don’t forget to make tags for your “presies”. I just used several large punches to cut them out of the same paper.


I then stamped them in assembly line fashion… proof positive that quick can be cute!


I used the handmade stamp and candy stamp on some. The star tag was stamped with a foam star and acrylic craft paint. This way you can see the difference between how ink and paint look. Use a Sharpie marker to write messages on any of these as pens just don’t show up well.


As for the gifts themselves, why not make super-quick stocking stuffers with matching polka-dots?


I took boring kraft paper notebooks, and raised the cuteness factor exponentially with a little ink stamping and twine wrapping.


I also added some washi tape to one whose top was peeling slightly. I personalized that one with my name in Sharpie.


There is one thing which will save you some length on twine brands that have a tendency to unravel easily… tie two knots before cutting in between them. I found that the yarn that looks like twine actually unravels less.


Here is a collection of my various colors of notebooks that will be made available at Le fidèLe Designs Etsy store.


Another stamping idea that’s super-easy and fast is making message holiday décor. I bought the only “J” left in 3 stores, so JOY must be popular for the holidays. Really, any letters using different colors can be made year-round. A name would make a terrific personalized gift for a little one’s nursery.


I simply stamped haphazardly with the red and green, because it was more fun that way!


I went ahead and inked the back as well, for versatility. In this way I can set them anywhere, even freestanding in the bar area.


Lastly, I found some holiday charms and bells to tie on with Christmas yarn. It was easy and done in a few minutes.


The best part of all of these projects is that I found people really want to reuse some of the stamped wrap. (I even had one request that I not to write on the tag next time, so that she could send it forward… not the gift, just the bag and tag!) By hand-making your own wrapping, you are not only demonstrating that you really cared enough to go that extra mile, but it’s also beneficial to the environment when others want to continue passing it along. Reusing is even better than recycling! It’s yet another way to give when we are good stewards for His majestic creation.


Faithfully Yours,