Confession: I don’t really know how to accessorize or style a fireplace mantel or bookshelves in my home. It seems like it should be so simple, but I never know what to buy or how it will all fit together. Since I’ve acknowledged that fact, I’ve been trying to put more of an effort in to accessorizing corners of my home that lack character and warmth, without adding tchotchkes or unnecessary clutter.
It seems like every cool store I walk in to lately has these really neat metallic animals set up as accessories on shelves or on tables, but I never want to pay what they’re asking. I figured I could make something that would be just as whimsical, with a handmade feel and wouldn’t cost a lot either. Solution: paper mache farm animals and gold leaf!
Gold leafing intimidated me for the longest time; it seemed complicated, like the sheets were so delicate that any little snag or breeze would ruin the whole thing, but it’s really pretty easy. I know bloggers are all about the spray paint right now, and I too like to indulge in a little spray action every once in a while, but nothing comes close to the texture and sheen of actual metal leaf. And it makes these nearly weightless paper mache animals look heavy and sturdy. Spray paint, though easy, can’t always achieve the same look.
You can find these paper mache animals at just about any craft store. I found mine at Michael’s for $3.99 for the cow and $1.99 for the pig (and don’t forget your 40% coupon!). I already had copper leaf and gold leaf sheets from another project but they are relatively inexpensive too and you’ll have plenty left over if you buy the standard 18 sheet packs. Then all you need to pick up is some adhesive (I only like the spray, the paint on kind takes way too long to set for my patience level) and some sealer to protect it once you’re done.
The process is really simple and goes pretty quickly for small-ish objects like these. First, give your animal a good spray on both sides and leave standing on all fours to dry for 2-5 minutes (until it’s tacky, but not wet).
Then, get busy applying the metal leafing. The best way I’ve found to do this is to gently lift up one edge and usually the whole piece comes out pretty easily. You do need to be gentle, but it’s not as delicate as you may think. Lay the sheet over your animal and smooth over with your fingers. Continue adding your gold leaf sheets until all surfaces are covered.
TIP: Keep a paper towel and some Goo-Gone or olive oil near by to wipe off any adhesive that makes it’s way to your fingers. This will help keep the metal leaf cooperative and not become a sticky mess on your hands.
After all your surfaces are covered with the gold leaf, give it a quick dry brush to remove any tiny pieces that aren’t glued down. You may brush off some pieces or may realize there are tiny cracks that missed the leafing, but all you’ll need to do is press your finger in to some of the “crumbs” that fell off and press in to any places that are bare. Like this:For my cow, once I had her covered in copper, I decided to add a couple of gold leaf sheets for contrast and I liked the way it turned out. So don’t be afraid to play around.
So there you have it! I love this little guys so much I’m tempted to add to my little gold leaf barnyard. I think these would be a chic yet playful addition to a nursery (though I wouldn’t let curious little ones put their mouths on them…) or a whole collection of these would be fun in a dining room too. An inexpensive way to add some character and charm to any corner of your house.