My mother was foraging through the woods one day, and came across three dried mushrooms. I'm not kidding, and this isn't the beginning of a fable. She happens to live in VT, and mailed the mushrooms to me with a note saying that she would love it if I would use them to make a Christmas present for her this year
Well, according to the Wall Street Journal article I just read dated 12/3/12 titled "The Science Behind Gifting", "people are more appreciative when they receive a gift they have explicitly requested" - referencing a study published last year in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.....that was easy. Now I've got scientific proof that this is a good idea!
Just in case you have a friend or relative who also has requested a mushroom gift, or if you now want to make one for yourself, here's how I made this one!
Step 1: Supplies:
Dried Mushroom(s)-- try Etsy.com, with a search for "Artist Conk Mushrooms"
Wood plaque (easy to find at craft stores)
Acrylic artist paints
Matte Mod Podge
Waterslide transfer paper (available at craft websites and Amazon)
Step 2: Process: Prepare the Mushrooms
1. Select your photos.
I had three mushrooms, therefore chose 3 photos spanning 3 generations of family members: my mother's parents, my mother with my brothers, sister and I as children, and one of her grandchildren.
2. Scan the mushroom images in on a flatbed scanner, or trace the area you wish to embellish with the photos so you'll have a pattern reference to help you size your photos to the display area on the mushroom.
3. Scan the photos into your computer files if necessary, and use a photo program to manipulate the size of the photo to fit your pattern. In my case I used Photoshop Elements to re-size the images, and convert them to black and white rather than colored images.
4. I printed the images onto regular paper first to test the size and shape of my photos on the mushrooms, then printed the images on the waterslide transfer paper.
* If you prefer, you can also print the photos out onto regular paper, cut them out, and decoupage them to the mushrooms instead of using waterslide transfer paper.
5. Paste the area of the mushroom that you're going to apply your images to with Matte Mod Podge (people also often use white craft glue as a substitute for Mod Podge).
6. Cut the images to the size and shape that fits your mushrooms, soak the images briefly in water according to the instructions on your waterslide transfer paper, and slide the images off their backing papers onto the prepared mushrooms while the Mod Podge (or white craft glue) is still wet.
7. Apply a layer of Mod Podge (or white craft glue) over the surface of your image to seal the image.
Step 3: Prepare & Assemble the Plaque:
7. To create a pretty back-drop for the mushrooms, I hand-painted the wood plaque with a view of the mountains in southern Vermont that are shown in the background of our family photo, where my mother grew up.
I painted a base layer first using Liquitex Acrylic "Parchment" color, painted thinly over the surface of the plaque, then layers of Liquitex Soft Body paints in burnt umber, prussian blue, burnt sienna, and ivory to create a mountain scene that resembled the southern Vermont mountain range.
* You could also print your backdrop on paper, and decoupage it to the wood plaque if you prefer
8. Paint the edges and back of the wood plaque with a thin layer of burnt umber paint to the look of a dark wood stain by dabbing your paintbrush into the burnt umber paint, then into a small cup of water to thin the paint before applying it to the wood.
9. I applied two layers of antiquing varnish to all sides of the plaque to give it a nice-looking finish. You could use any kind of acrylic varnish to give your plaque surface the look you want.
10. Screw the hanging hardware to the back of your wood plaque
11. Tie the ribbon to the hanging hardware
12. Turn your plaque right-side-up, and mark the position for your mushrooms with a pencil. Use a screwdriver to pre-drill small holes where your mushrooms with be secured, then insert your screws through the holes in the plaque from back to front, so the sharp ends protrude through the surface of your plaque.
13. Apply glue to the pointed ends of the screws that are sticking out of the front of your plaque, and twist your mushrooms down onto the screws, taking care not to allow the pointed ends of the screws to poke through the image surface of your mushrooms.