Hello everyone, Olive here! Welcome to my first tutorial! Today, I’ll be walking you guys through my process in making last year’s anniversary gift for my parents. The past few years, I’ve been working on my multi-media art skills (a form of art that I’ve grown to like working with more and more) in the form of my parents’ anniversary gifts. I thought that I would share my process of how I get to the final product. Last year had a very hot summer, so for inspiration I was drawn to the idea of doing something pointedly romantic, yet summer-y: Rocks arranged into a heart on a sandy beach. Now though, clearly it’s been a very very long time since I made this project, but I figured that since it is in the middle of the winter, and it is freezing (here, it’s roughly -25, not including windchill), it’d be nice to get some artificial summer into this long winter. Soooo without further ado, enjoy your brief moment of summer! 😉
- Canvas (10 in x 12 in)
- Putty knife (for spreading and mixing sand)
- Popsicle stick(s) (for tracing the heart, initials and roughing the sand)
- A disposable bowl (or a washable bowl if you get to washing it quick after you’ve finished with the sand)
- A disposable paintbrush (this is only for if you are adding the sparkle glue at the very end of your project)
- White decorative sand (or, if you want to mix it up and have a more abstract canvas, use a different colour)
- Mod podge “Sparkle” (I used “Matte” first then “Sparkle”, but for cost-efficiency, just use “Sparkle”)
- 3 shades of tissue paper (I used used 3 shades of blue, but for a more abstract canvas, you can choose different colours)
- Polished rocks (OR glass rocks or beads)
- Craft glue (for gluing rocks, beads, or other things, for the heart and initials)
- White trim lace (no matter the colour of your sand or tissue paper, I would still recommend white trim)
I started out with a vertical canvas, a putty knife, a couple of Popsicle sticks, a tin ‘bowl’ (for mixing sand and glue), Mod Podge (Matte), and white decorative sand. I actually owned most of what was used in this project (which was quite a relief, to not have to buy much), but for your own project, these supplies can easily be found at a dollar store or Michael’s.
I had no idea how the sand potion was going to turn out (seeing as I had never done that before, nor had seen anyone else do it), but I winged it anyway, and it turned out to be the easiest part of the whole project!
First, dump the sand into one side of the tin (one bag of sand is more than enough to cover a whole canvas with a decent layer of sand), then on the other side of the tin, pour in some of the glue. I didn’t really measure it out, I just poured in a glob and went from there, so trust your instincts! Carefully add sand – not all of it – it won’t stick to anything but itself if there’s more sand than glue; and not too little sand – it’ll look like a glob of glue on canvas instead of a sandy beach.
Now, I made the mistake of not realizing that just the sand by itself is too plain for the final project, so for the sake of learning from my mistakes, I would recommend you use the Mod Podge “Sparkle”, which will add a little more complexity and shine to your sand layer.
The consistency should be enough to be able to still work around fairly smoothly in the tin. If by accident, you put too much sand into the mixture, then you can just add more glue to thin it up and vice-versa.
Once I had my sand-paste, I put it on the canvas. At first, I was scared that my plan would be a huge flop – the sand didn’t seem to want to ‘bond’ with the canvas. But after smoothing it out and mushing it into the canvas, it stuck just fine.
If, after working it into the canvas, it still doesn’t seem to be sticking to the canvas, put the sand back into the bowl and add a little more glue until it’s a thinner and sticker paste. If it isn’t sticking, 99% of the sand will easily go back in the bowl; if it is sticking as it should it’ll take twice the effort to get it all off, in which case – Leave it!
Keep mixing sand and glue until the whole canvas is completed, and you are satisfied with the sand layer of your canvas.
Now comes the heart~
The glue-sand mix really sticks to your hands, so I would recommend using a Popsicle stick to trace out the shape.
The heart is done, but you’ll have to keep tracing out the shape and letters you want as the canvas dries, as the fluidity of the glue makes it so it keeps trying to fill itself in. Don’t be afraid to really indent it in, to the point where the Popsicle stick touches the canvas itself. Like I said, the glue likes to fill itself in, so you don’t have to worry much about canvas poking through.
Also, depending on the rocks you choose to put on top of the tracing, you may have to make the lines thick enough to comfortably hold the rocks you want. It might make gluing the rocks in really frustrating (and the final product look a bit off) if the lines are too thin.
I tried to rough up the sand in general so it looked more realistic, but it kept filling itself in. Despite that, I still think it’s worth it to rough it up once or twice, so the sand is less flat overall.
While you can choose to put the rocks in while the paste is still drying, you might want time to decide which rocks look better where, instead of having to rush a decision. (Then again you could just decide which rocks you want before you start.)
The sand actually dries to the touch quite quickly (about 1-2 hours sitting outside), but it won’t be fully dried for a good 24 hours.
After the sand dried, I felt the heart needed something. At the time, I wasn’t planning on putting rocks on top of the shape, but once I drew it, I felt like the heart needed a bit more to stand out, especially from a distance. Grandpa suggested putting rocks or beads in the grooves – which turned out to be a really good idea! If you want, you can put beads, glass rocks, polished rocks, or something else in the grooves, but for my own, I simply put in polished rocks.
This first photo is the rock pattern I started with. I scrapped the really light rocks though because it made it hard to make out the full shape from any kind of distance.
The picture (below) is the rock pattern I ended up settling on. Of course, you won’t have the same rocks as me, so feel free to mess around with the pattern that works for you!
I still had a rock-tumbler kit (a machine that polishes rocks for you) from quite a few years ago, and some polished rocks. They worked absolutely perfectly with the project! I even had some incredibly tiny rocks that fit perfectly into the grooves of the initials.
The next hurtle was the waves at the bottom. As you’ll soon see, I messed with the arrangement of the waves for a very long time. I used various shades of blue tissue-paper to create a light layer to offset the heaviness of the rocks and the thick sand. You may choose to follow the pattern I did, or create one of your own; either way, it is completely up to your aesthetics!
I finally decided on the above layering for the tissue-paper waves. The next step was figuring out how to make it ‘pop’. I decided (with the most helpful advice of my grandpa) on crumpling up the tissue-paper to create texture.
I tried to take pictures of each layer I did…. but I got too wrapped up in the process and forgot, so I’ll do my best to explain the layering.
The first layer is the one above. It is the lightest of the blue tissue-paper, and I cut it in a long wave form. The second layer was the medium blue half-wave. It was the only layer that wasn’t crumpled up to give even more dynamics. Not sure how well that worked, because the glue forced it into a crumpled state, but I think it worked out! (The below image is me gluing the second layer, so you can get a general idea of what I did for that layer.)
The third layer was the dark blue layer. I cut the paper in a longer wave pattern like the first layer, but with the highest point on the left side. Finally, I went back to the light blue paper and cut two pieces. One half-wave (a sort of quarter-circle), and a smaller version of that that covered the lower right corner of the canvas. Waves half done!
Before I glued on the waves, I realized I need to figure out if I was doing anything on the base before adding anything to the bottom. Again, Grandpa was very helpful in figuring out what I needed. I took a quick trip to Michael’s and found Mod Podge “Sparkle”. Like I said earlier, it would be much more beneficial if you add the Mod Podge to the sand mixture at the beginning, but I didn’t figure out that until much later… oh well, it worked just fine!
This is what the sand looks like with the sparkle added to it:
The last step I did was embellish the waves. I decided I wanted white lace to trim the wave edges (inspired by one of my poems that says “Waves with their white lace”), so during my trip to Michael’s, I stopped by the trim section, and picked out a beautiful white lace that bears a resemblance to white scallop shells. When I was deciding whether or not to add them to the waves, we (Grandpa and I) discovered that if we cut off the thick line at the bottom of the lace, it really made the trim look sooo much better on the waves.
This picture shows the difference between the original trim and the ‘edited’ version:
You can see the difference it made to cut off that excess at the bottom of the lace~ It just took the whole piece “to the next level.” I’m extremely happy about it!
And that’s it! Thank you all for reading this tutorial. If you do this craft, please let me know, I would love to see your interpretations of my project!
Happy crafting! <3