Diorama. Whether the word reminds you of grade school art projects or detailed Christmas ornaments, the enchantment is similar. There’s just something about a world you design and keep in a shoebox, container, or nutshell—made just to your specs.
Unexpected things in an ornament can be sweet and endearing, and make a wonderful one-of-a-kind gift. Unless you totally finished your shopping already, in which case, just make some of these for your own tree.
what you need:
- Recyclables such as single-serve plastic applesauce cups, cleaned and dry
- Trim or ribbon to go around the opening (silver ric rac and picot trim used here)
- String, yarn or similar to hang the ornaments, 8” per ornament
- White, snow-like glitter
- Scissors to cut cardstock
- Scratch paper, 81/2 x 11 is good
- Glue gun, low heat
- White glue
- Glue stick
- Wooden stick or similar for spreading white glue
- 10” Thread for “gondola cable” (red and white baker’s twine used here)
- Sewing needle with eye big enough to draw thread through
Brainstorm ideas for your dioramas. Make many of one design, or dream up something unique for each ornament.
Here’s are two I came up with:
Left: Swiss mountain-scape with skiers, wee building, trees, gondola.
Right: Repurposed holiday card to give new life to all that beautiful mail that comes this time of year
Pick a design and start making! Let’s start with Swiss mountain-scape. Place your container on the cardstock, open end facing you. Trace around the back of the container.
Cut inside the line to make a circle that will fit inside the back of the diorama. (Trim to fit, if needed.) Now trace that circle for as many dioramas as you plan to make. Draw on them, then cut them out.
Draw and color in your scene. You might include skiers, trees, and buildings.
Squeeze drops of glue directly onto the mountain, being careful to touch only areas you wish to glitter. Use a wooden stick to spread the glue thin, if you wish.
Working over a sheet of scratch paper, shake glitter on the design until the glue is covered. Glue the inside of the ornament, then give it the glittery touch, too.
Dump the excess glitter onto the scratch paper; fold it the long way creating a trough, then slide the excess glitter back into the bottle.
Using a glue gun on the low setting if it has one, draw a circle of glue onto the wrong side of the circle background. Wait a few seconds so the glue cools enough so it doesn’t melt the plastic container, then press in place.
Next double the hanging string to form a loop, and guide it through the eye of your needle LOOP FIRST. Pierce the side of the ornament cup with the needle (shown with an “x” here), pushing it from the outside, in. The blue dot is where one end of the gondola cable string will go. (Skip drawing on the ornament—it’s just done here to help you visualize your next step.)
Pull the string halfway through, then carefully remove the needle.
Tie a knot inside the ornament (double, if needed). Carefully pull the hanging loop up, drawing the knot to the inside top of the ornament.
Gondola time! (A tiny gondola in a diorama? SQUEEEE!) Take a strip of paper that will be rolled up to make the gondola body.
Roll it into a loop, securing with a dab of glue stick inside. Thread the baker’s twine through the loop, then tie it in a knot. Now the gondola is secure on the cable.
Draw windows; color in your gondola. Color a bit inside the loop, if you like.
Now to attach your gondola cable to the inside of the ornament. Thread the right side of the twine through the eye of your needle, being sure your gondola is facing you. Now poke a hole through the ornament, working from inside towards outside, and pull the twine through until the gondola car is centered, more or less. Remove the needle carefully; do not yet knot this side.
Repeat on the other side with the left half of the twine. Remove needle.
Holding the twine ends, pull back and forth until the gondola car is centered. Knot the twine outside the ornament to secure in place (double-knot if needed). Trim twine.
Draw a 2” line of hot glue on the front lip of your ornament. Press trim in place. Wait until it is set and repeat, going around the whole front lip of the ornament until the ends meet. (Cut the end of the trim before gluing the last part down.)
Upcycled Christmas Card
Another design idea is inspired by shadowboxes where you take a greeting card and cut out elements from it to use in your design, both as background and foreground.
Here is a vintage Christmas Card (yes, it’s Richard Scarry!) that I will use. (Just kidding—how could I cut that beautiful thing? I’ll use a color copy thereof and save the original.) I can see the town in the background would make a sweet ornament background, and I will trim the carolers down to a few that will look best in my ornament foreground.
Place the cup over the area for the background. Trace a circle and cut out.
Place it in cup to confirm it fits. Trim if needed; set circle background aside.
Dot and spread glue on the background areas you wish to glitter. Working over your scratch paper, pour glitter over design. Spread glue around inside the cup, covering the sides. Pour glitter in to cover glue.
Shake off excess glitter from background onto the scratch paper; sake extra glitter out of cup.
Slide the excess glitter back into the bottle.
Hot glue circle into back of cup. Add hanging loop, as directed in step 9 for previous ornament.
Cut out the part of the card that will become the foreground of the ornament. Merge elements as needed-I added the mouse to the center of the group.
Make a line of hot glue on the lip of the ornament, where the foreground characters will be. Press in place.
Turn over and trim excess as needed.
Hot glue the trim in place, as instructed in step 14 above for the other ornament.
Have fun crafting these ornaments that are sure to be enjoyed for years to come!