I started making presents for my family as a kid.  My mom wanted my sister and I to give back to all of our cousins, aunts, and grandparents, so she started the tradition.  Once I got to college, I kept making presents for everyone, basically because I was poor.  At this point, it has become a tradition and a challenge for me to make something different every year.

I try to make something that is either functional or consumable.  This year, I came up with a great craft idea: making magnets using those glass pebbles they put in vases to hold flower arrangements.  I had seen homemade ones with family photos in them in a cubicle at the county planning office in Ogden.  The glass magnifies the photo glued to the backside, and it seemed like a simple and useful gift.

I have a variety of magazines, including several old National Geographics, that I thought I would use for the pictures.  I also saved my AAA magazines and any catalog that came into the house in December, just in case (which turned out to be a good thing).  The biggest problem I had was finding clear glass pebbles, and I thought that was going to be the easy part.  I could only find them in the small size, and even then, when I went to work with them, I discovered that most of them had iridescent paint on the backs, that got in the way of viewing the picture.   I decided on a set of 5 magnets for each person, and needed a total of 11 sets. I sorted through the pebbes I had bought and managed to find just enough that were either clear or had very little paint.

So I had tiny glass pebbles, about the size of my thumbnail, and now I needed tiny pictures.  The National Geographics weren’t of much use, but there were enough small images in the catalogs and the AAA magazines that I managed to find enough pictures that fit. I used a single pebble as a template, to see if the image was likely to fit, and then snipped out small squares from the catalogues to give me some wiggle-room.  I wanted to make each set themed, and had a few themes in mind, so as I went I looked for some kinds of images in particular.  I also realized that simple patterns made nice images too, and collected several of them.  Once I had a wide selection of squares snipped, I went through them all and chose the individual sets that I wanted.  I decided on additional themes at this point, and in some cases I had to go back through the magazines to try and find enough images or patterns of that type to complete the set.

some of the sets

Because there was variation in the exact size and shape of the pebbles, once I had my sets of images chosen, I would grab a pebble, trace the outline onto the paper, and then cut each one out individually.  That also helped me frame the image as well as possible, since several of the pebbles were more oval-shaped and some images fit better either vertically or horizontally.  Once each piece was cut from the paper, I used a little paintbrush to spread Modge Podge on the flat back of the pebble.  I pressed the paper to the Modge Podge, with the image I wanted visible facing down, then immediately brushed a second layer of glue onto the back on the paper.  This helped seal the paper from both sides, and also saturated the paper, keeping it from curling back from the pebble.  Once the glue was on, I would press the paper onto the pebble, making sure all of the edges were smoothed down.  It meant that my fingers got sticky and messy from the glue, but did a good job of getting the paper flat.  I just had to be sure to put on enough glue to begin with, and to work quickly, otherwise the glue would get tacky and start to pull the back of the paper off and onto my hands.

I let all of the pebbles dry thoroughly, paper-side up.  Then I took small round magnets and attached them to the backs of the pebbles, on top of the paper, with glue dots.  It turned out the dots were exactly the same size as the magnets, and I hoped they would be strong enough to hold the pebbles on securely.  When I was done, it was easy to scrape any dried glue off the front of the glass pebbles with a fingernail.  Then I wrapped each set in tissue paper and tied it with some raffia.

I didn’t get pictures of every set, but here are a few examples.


I popped most of the wrapped packages into a box with the rest of my presents going to RI.  Unfortunately, I didn’t think to put much packing material in the box.  As it turned out, during shipping the magnets all tore out of their tissue paper wrappings and stuck to one another, and some of the magnets did come loose from their pebbles.  My mom had to re-group and re-wrap all of the magnets.  I described the sets for her in an email, so I hope that people were actually given the sets I had designed, but if a few magnets were off, it’s not that big of a deal.  From what I heard, everyone enjoyed figuring out what was on their set and showing their magnets to each other, so the gifts were a success!

I wanted to make some for myself, but as I said, there weren’t enough clear pebbles to have any left over.  So I guess I’ll just have to do this another time if I want a set of my own!