adventures in modern, urban domesticity

It’s Snowing Inside: on the pros and cons of DIY snowglobes

Snow Globes

One of my rituals at the beginning of January is to purge our apartment of all of the extraneous stuff it’s collected since the beginning of the school year. To comb through the rooms, pulling out old newsletters, party favors, finished coloring books, and outgrown clothes. It’s an essential task when you live in a small space and one that I sort of enjoy doing alone. I was all ready to start on January 2nd, savoring the two days I would have to myself while the kids went back to school and I could dismantle their rooms uninterrupted. But, of course it didn’t happen that way. One got an ear infection and stayed home and then there was that snow day on Friday, keeping us all inside. But I forged ahead anyway, emptying shelves and closets in their room, finding all sorts of things I had honestly never seen before while they undid my work moving things around playing with all the “new” toys I had unearthed. By Friday morning, the apartment was in shambles and I had watched more episodes of Ninjago than I care to admit (I now know what Spinjitsu is, and it’s not a sport that combines spinning and jiu-jitsu, as I previously thought). It was clear that we needed a project.

Looking around online in December, I had been dazzled by the various DIY holiday snow globes, especially those by Russell Brown.  As the not-so-distant cousin to terrariums, it was only natural that I would eventually be tempted to try my hand at these frosty delights.    I had high hopes of making some to give away over the holidays that never materialized, but I still had the lingering desire to at least try one.  As I was cleaning, I realized that much of  the random stuff I was finding seemed perfect for a snow globe:  coincidence?  We had glitter, tiny plastic animals, old jars, buttons, wine corks, and a trusty glue gun. Hell, I even had some vegetable glycerin on hand left over from a failed homemade toothpaste experiment.  How hard could it be? I called the kids into the kitchen where I had dumped everything onto the table and told them we had the perfect project for a snow day.

SNOGLOBESUPPLIES2

So here’s the thing. It’s not that hard to make a snow globe, but it might be kind of hard to make a really good snow globe.  However, we didn’t know that when we started, so we went to work fashioning tiny scenes on the inside caps of  empty peanut butter jars.  Because this project works best with a hot glue gun, it needs to be supervised, so I gave up trying to clean our apartment and decided just to make things out of the objets trouvés I had picked up off the floor.  My first attempt was a bucolic winter scene, devised from a small plastic moose (or was it an elk?), some branches I scored from my neighbors Christmas tree to give it a wintry feel, and some of the copious amounts of glitter we always seem to have on hand.   I glued pieces of cork to the top of the bottle cap and was hoping I could just stick my figures into it, but they wouldn’t stay put so I ended up gluing the figures to the cork creating a bit of a gluey mess. I didn’t have anything on hand resembling snow on the ground to cover up the glue, so it had to be a “first-snow” kind of globe.  Once the tableau had dried, I filled my jar with water mixed with about a tablespoon of glycerin – which is supposed to make the “snow” fall more gently – and poured in a bunch of glitter which immediately clumped up. Tip #1:  you need to stir in the glitter, not just pour.  I inverted the moose into the water and screwed on the cap tightly. There was so much glitter on in the water it immediately covered the moose, making him look like he was on his way to the disco. Shaking up the jar, the effect was less soft snow fall and more “glitter blizzard”. Plus, there was a space at the top of the jar where there was no water, which looked kind of strange. So I added more water- maybe too much? And the jar started to leak a bit. I poured a little out and it seemed just right.

Snow globe grid

It wasn’t exactly something I would give as a gift, but it was a start.  My daughter loved shaking it up, but I was a little worried it would either leak everywhere or pop open, spreading glitter-laced glycerin water all over our apartment creating a permanent record of this moment in time.   I set it on the windowsill.  It looked pretty much like a snow globe made out of stuff found on the floor while cleaning. Come to think of it, that’s what our terrariums look like too.

My daughter wasn’t at all into the wintry scene kind of snow globe – she had her own vision and it, of course, involved Lego ninjas.  After working with a variety of possibilities, she decided she wanted to sacrifice two of her favorite ninjas, Cole and Kai, to the snow globe cause. This, even after I explained that once I glued them in place she wouldn’t be getting them back.  She nodded solemnly and went for a real minimalist look.  Just the characters, no greenery, no nothing.  Except lots and lots of glitter.  She also chose a really tall jar.  This was really all about the glitter.  It took about 3 seconds to glue the ninjas to the top of the jar and another 3 to pour the glitter into the water so the payoff was immediate.

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We spent a little while shaking up our globes and marveling at the glittery snow.  Then she asked for her ninjas back. I told her they would have to live in their watery world forever and she shrugged and wandered off to undo more of my cleaning.  Oddly enough, the next day the glue came apart and the ninjas floated up to the top of the jar.  I poured out the water, cleaned off the legos and pressed them back into service with their fellow spinjitsu masters.

I decided to empty the water out of my moose globe, too, worried that it would slow leak over time.  In fact, it looked just as good with no water in the jar (which is not saying much, actually) so I left it dry, all the while thinking about how I could improve on this project.  Here are my thoughts:

  • Figure out a way to set the figures in the bottom of the jar.  If it’s not inverted you won’t have the leaking problem. Here is a tutorial on a non-inverted snow globe.
  • Although my favorite thing about this project is that it upcycles the random stuff everyone has lying around (everyone with a lego collection, anyway), it just might be worth investing in some fake snow if you want to get fancy.
  • You need to use a strong glue and leave ample time for it to dry before submerging your figures in the water. White modeling clay would be a good way to evoke a snowy ground and would hold your tableau in place.
  • Honestly, I think exploring waterless snow globes is a nice idea, but then you really are just putting some stuff in a jar.  Why is that so appealing? I have no idea, but there it is.

I know it’s way past the holiday season, but who says snow globes have to be all about Christmas? Besides, it’s still winter and my guess is we have another snow day or two ahead of us before spring, so set aside your tiny figurines, your orphaned game pieces, your empty jars, some glue and some glitter and you will be ready to make it snow on the inside.  For some extra inspiration and more thorough directions, check out this Apartment Therapy Roundup of DIY Snow Globes.  You’re Welcome.

 

 

 

 

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2 Comments on “It’s Snowing Inside: on the pros and cons of DIY snowglobes

  1. thefolia
    January 20, 2014

    We made a Buddha snow globe once…it was in a tiny jelly jar and I didn’t invert it–hours of entertainment, but I disassembled it after a year or so. Good luck in the purging. I do mine on a weekend before the holidays so that we make room for more! Happy Nesting.

  2. Helen Topcik
    January 21, 2014

    You do much better things than I do on snow days. The best I could do was clean out my silverware drawer.

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This entry was posted on January 20, 2014 by in ART-CRAFT-DESIGN, KIDS + FAMILY and tagged , , .

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