The coffee mug pictured above was created nearly 20 years ago by my children (and me) for their father (my husband). I took these photos just the other day. I’d say their precious gift has survived rather well, though it’s been used as a pencil holder rather than a drinking mug. The main drawback of the paints I picture below is that they tend to fade with wear and washing. As decoration, they obviously fare rather well.
To make this gift really special, I had each of our children create a drawing on paper for me to recreate on the mug. The kids were then 8, 5, and 11 years old (in order, left to right, according to the art above).
I didn’t want them working directly on the mug for reasons of both health and esthetics. I felt fairly strongly that we could transfer their art, because I’m really good at copying. If you don’t choose to take this same route, there are places online that will reproduce your photo on a mug (or other products). In fact, one year we gave dad a mug with a photo of the four of us in our Halloween regalia. I’m sure you could also scan a drawing and send that in for your mug.
What continues to make this such a wonderful gift is that it truly is a snapshot of time. I can clearly grasp the period each child was in when they drew their pictures — Catyana was all vibrant colors and graphic movement, Khymba was into puzzles and shapes, Kellin was creating islands and planets with complex storylines. I am also drawn back to the years when I was painting on glass and ceramics, because it fit in with my otherwise full-time homeschooling and parenting schedule.
All you need to complete this project is a plain glass or ceramic container, some Pebeo Porcelaine paints (or another similar craft brand), brushes, water, and a regular oven. You’ll also need paper and pens if your children aren’t old enough to paint the gift themselves.
This could be a great project to do with church, a homeschool group, scouts, or some other gathering. The cost would also be spread out more broadly that way.
Have the children help you clean the containers if you like. This makes them more a part of the process. Paint the mug/s. Once the containers are painted, they set for a day or so. Then you simply follow the instructions on the bottle and bake in the oven for 40 minutes. I always let mine cool in the oven with the door open — that way, there isn’t as great a danger of breaking the container or smearing the paint.
Note: it’s best if you paint below the lip line — or where someone would touch with their mouth when using.
An added layer to this gift would be framing the original artwork so dad (or whomever — this would be a terrific gift for so many other occasions) can hang it somewhere else, or one parent could keep the artwork and the other the mug. Grandparents could also receive the artwork instead.
We have painted neckties, though those were only worn once or twice. In my experience, the more utilitarian the gift the better. Our overly “creative” ties didn’t quite go with the more sedate atmosphere of my husband’s place of business.
I’ve made a number of gifts and commissioned pieces using this medium. Below is just one of the many iterations I created. This particular project was a gift from the commissioner to her beau at the time. He liked birds (parrots in particular) and wine (along with other drinks).
I painted a wooden matryoshka bottle container and repeated the birds that were on the bottle holder on the glasses. I also put the names of the birds on the glasses so those less knowledgeable could see what they were.
I created a series of irises on drinking glasses for a wedding gift, farm animals for various friends and relatives, and a couple of collage glasses for my in-laws that depicted the farm they lived on.
I also painted our Santa set — plate for cookies and glass for milk. My children and I have painted mosaic-style shapes and other abstracts on glasses and mugs. We still use many of these.
The important thing, in my mind, is to have fun creating a useful, eye-catching gift that dad will treasure for years to come. If dad doesn’t drink coffee, color a beer stein or water glass. (When painting on glass, paint a background of white first so the colors pop once they’re applied.)
I hope this post gives you ideas to play with for an upcoming holiday or special occasion. It rarely hurts to bring more beauty and smiles to the world.
Photos by Blythe Pelham
Blythe Pelham is an artist that aims to enable others to find their grounding through energy work. She is in the midst of writing a cookbook and will occasionally share bits in her blogging here. She writes, gardens and cooks in Ohio. Find her online at Humings and Being Blythe, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.