Cannibal holiday

If it’s the thought that counts, a little bit of do-it-yourself scavenging can go a long way

Do-it-yourself with a little help from the local hardware store. (No, Santa’s not building his own water bong.)

Do-it-yourself with a little help from the local hardware store. (No, Santa’s not building his own water bong.)

Photo By Shoka

Back in the days before the phrase had yet been coined, “do it yourself” was simply called “being poor.” When the holidays rolled around, you didn’t despair, you made do with what you had. Later, of course, “DIY” became an underground movement, and later still somewhat of a fad. Now, hard times are back, right as the holiday season’s arriving, and for many of us doing it yourself isn’t just an option, it’s a necessity.

As it was in days past, there’s no need to worry. With a minimal budget and various common objects found around the home and garden, or at antique and thrift stores, or just lying around in the street, you can make high-end gifts on the cheap that are sure to impress your family and friends without landing you in the poorhouse come January. All it takes is a little imagination, the artistic skills of your average seventh grader and a cannibal’s instincts.

With that in mind, the credo of the holiday cannibal encompasses three main goals. First, the gift must be one-of-a-kind, or at least produced in limited editions. No mass production permitted. Two, at least one element of the gift must be scavenged; that is, it must reuse an ordinary found object to create a new, original work of art. Thirdly, expenses should be kept to a minimum.

An ordinary glass jar found in the kitchen is as good a place to start as any. You’ll want one where the edges of the lid screw down flush with the edges of the jar—old spice jars, the shorter, squatter style, work great. You can easily transform this otherwise unremarkable object into a nifty decorative container with a little bit of Chinese brocade and some fringe—available at fabric stores such as Hi-Fashion Fabrics on Franklin Boulevard. You’ll also need a pair of scissors, fabric glue and chalk.

First, place lid upside-down on the back of the fabric and trace a circle around it with the chalk. Next, measure the height of the jar’s lid, and use this measurement to circumscribe a second, larger circle around the first. Cut the fabric out, using the larger circle as your guide. Cut eight small darts—triangular notches—around the edge of the circle, taking care not to cut past the inside circle.

Apply a thin layer of glue to the top of the lid. Once again, turn the lid upside-down, lining it up with the outline of the small circle. Carefully press it into the fabric, then smooth out the fabric with your fingers. Apply a thin layer of glue around the edge of the lid and fold the darts down. Give it a little while to dry and trim off the excess fabric. All that’s left to do is cut the fringe to size and glue it round the edge of the lid, and voila! Just add homemade hot-buttered-rum mix, scented body scrub, wildflower-seed mix or whatever concoction your giftee might desire.

Can’t handle a pair of scissors? Here’s an even easier project using found glass as a starter. First, keep on the look out for unusually shaped wine and liquor bottles. You can even buy a full bottle and drink it down, because this gift’s so easy to make, you can do it on a bender. While you’re at the liquor store, ask if they have wine bottle wick holders. It’s a brass, glass or ceramic stopper with a lamp wick threaded through it. Drink the bottle down when you get home, then clean and dry it thoroughly. Fill it with pure liquid paraffin lamp oil—which can be purchased at any Ace Hardware store—place the brass wick in the bottle, and light up your gifted one’s life.

Those with access to a digital camera, a computer and a photo-quality printer can easily create the perfect custom wall art for family members, especially parents, who are suckers for portraits of their children and grandchildren. Take your own photos, pick up a picture frame at an antique store or a yard sale or one of our fine locally owned framing shops, and count yourself back in the will. In addition to photographs, you can print just about any image that can be snagged off the Internet, as long as you don’t make any money off of it. Remember, you’re not making money, your saving money.

If you really want to bank some cash, start growing your own—gourds, that is. Leave it to dry, scrub the film of dried mold off the outside, cut the top of the gourd off to make a lid with an X-acto knife or a Dremel tool, scrape out the insides, and let your imagination take over. Use leather dye, liquid shoe polish or acrylic paint for color, and virtually any other medium—heavy chord, scraps of leather, twigs—to create unique, one-of-a-kind artworks for virtually pennies, even if you have to go to some place like Greg Leiser Gourd Farms in Knights Landing or Wise Acre Farm in Arbuckle to buy the gourds.

These are just a few examples of the many inexpensive, one-of a kind quality gifts that can be made simply and cheaply using common everyday objects. Follow the holiday-cannibal credo and there’s no reason why this season can’t be the best one yet. After all, it’s the thought that counts, and you can’t really get more thoughtful that doing it yourself.