Thursday, 22 December 2011

Elephant No. 81: Glitter




I'm in the midst of wrapping Christmas gifts, and there's glitter everywhere, so I figured today might be the best day to make an elephant with glitter.

As far back as 40,000 B.C. glitter in the form of mica flakes was being used in cave paintings, for its ability to sparkle and catch the light. In the ancient civilizations of Egypt, China, Greece and Rome, mica flakes were also used in makeup and clothing. 

Modern glitter was invented in 1934 by Henry Ruschman of Bernardsville, New Jersey. A machinist by trade, Ruschman figured out how to grind up plastics to make large quantities of glitter. The company he founded—Meadowbrook Inventions—is still a major supplier of glitter today.

Commercial glitter is made of tiny pieces of copolymer plastic, aluminum foil, titanium dioxide, iron oxide, bismuth oxychloride or other materials, painted in iridescent, neon and, of course, metallic colours. 

Glitter is used primarily as an artistic medium, decorating everything from children's craft projects to home d├ęcor. It has also found its way into cosmetics such as eyeshadow and lipstick, and even into the Gold Flakes Supreme brand of vodka, which debuted in 2007.

I've never made a glitter picture before, but I think you're supposed to lay down some glue, sprinkle glitter on it, shake the glitter off, and let dry. At least, that's how I plan to proceed.

I have more glitter than I know what to do with. I don't know what possesses me to buy glitter, since I never use it for anything. It must be the magpie in me. Luckily, I have a very nice selection of glitter from superfine to coarse, in every colour of the rainbow—as well as many non-rainbow colours. I have powdered glitter, glitter glue, glitter paint and something called tinsel glitter. I figured I should be able to make a decent glitter elephant with all this at my disposal.




I bought a new bottle of white glue today, with a very fine point. I don't like blobby glue, so the fine point will stand me in good stead.




I thought at first that I would simply draw an outline with the glue, and build up the drawing in stages. Then I realized I could use the tip of the bottle of glue as a sort of paintbrush, spreading the glue around to make something slightly more nuanced than a simple outline.




Once the glue was laid down, I sprinkled it with two kinds of silver glitter: one fine and one superfine.



After leaving it to set for a minute or two, I shook off the excess. I tried to shake it into a bag, but that's pretty much a pointless exercise because: one, it goes everywhere anyway; and two, the glitter sticks to the sides of the plastic bag, meaning that you'd never get it out of there to reuse anyway. I shook it into the garbage instead, and have resigned myself to having sparkles throughout the entire house until well after Christmas is over.

Next, I added some darker grey to create shadows, an eye, and some pink around the mouth, trunk and ears. I discovered that whatever colour of glitter you toss onto the picture will "bleed" into other areas. This, I'm assuming, is due to two things: glue that's not entirely dry; and the propensity of glitter to stick to other glitter.




I added a crown next.




I liked the whole thing well enough now, but since it's almost Christmas, I decided to add a holly wreath around the elephant's neck.




I was pleasantly surprised at how this turned out. It's quite festive in real life, if ever so slightly tacky. 

Now if I could just find a way to effectively vacuum up all the glitter—because honestly, if it were white phosphorus instead of glitter, my house would be a fiery maelstrom right about now.





Elephant Lore of the Day
Historians have had some strange ideas about elephants. As late as the seventh century A.D., Isidore of Seville confirmed what most people thought about elephants:
"Elephants have a strong memory and intelligence, travel in herds, are afraid of mice, greet the sun with movements of their bodies, and live three hundred years. They give give birth, after a gestation period of two years, to a single child at a time. They give birth in secret and send their young to water or islands to protect them from their enemy the dragon, which kills elephants by binding them. Elephants once lived in Africa and India, but now only live in India."

To Support Elephant Welfare
World Wildlife Fund  
World Society for the Protection of Animals
Elephant sanctuaries
(this Wikipedia list allows you to click through to information on a number of sanctuaries around the world)





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