How to Decorate Old Serving Trays With Gesso for Christmas

For centuries gesso has been used as a base for gilding surfaces. You see gesso on everything from antique picture frames to ancient frescoes in Roman Baths. Gesso is made from a mix of glue, plaster, gypsum or chalk. The most authentic type of gesso is made from chalk. Originally the purpose of gesso was to prevent surfaces from absorbing paint.

Gesso is simply a white coating that can be used to paint anything. If you paint an antique tray with gesso it can help “winterize” it for the holiday season. It also looks very much like a tray in fifteenth century Italy when done. For a touch of extra holiday glamour you can also spray the tray with glitter.

The trick to having this work well is to pick your trays carefully. Ones that have handles work nicely and so do ones with details like filigree and ridging look amazing. The plainer the tray is the less likely it is too look nice because Gesso has the effect of making anything that it coats look “iced.”

When picking out a tray you also might want to consider its intended use. If it is for toiletries select something narrow. If it is for serving get something larger that is round or square.

It does not matter whether they are made out of metal, wood or painted, you will need to sand them well before you apply the gesso. You can use the gesso to create patterns such as swirls, swipes and zig zags on the tray. The more coats you apply the better the tray is going to look. It is always better to apply more gesso than you need than less as lots is what is needed to get that frothy snowy effect. If you think it looks too much like an iced cake you can always take some sandpaper and remove some of the gesso. The finer the sandpaper the better –so you do not have to redo the job!

Each time you apply a layer of gesso you should also wait at least an hour for it to dry. Applying wet gesso on a wet previous layer can create unattractive results.

Once you are happy with the design you can then apply glitter by hand or use a spray. Yet another beautiful effect is to treat the gessoed tray with a liquid ice product. This gives the tray a very shiny, multi-rainbowed effect.

Decorating With Found Sea Glass

Sea glass is lumps of broken glass that have been naturally tumbled smooth by the movement of water and waves. They are found in and on the reaches of oceans, bays, rivers and large lakes.

Very occasionally you will find a clear piece of sea glass but usually appear to be frosted with a clear white film. This “frosted” effect seems to go away when the stone is under water. They can be smooth or a bit stubbled on the surface.

The color of the glass depends on where it came from in the first place. The broken glass can come from jars, bottles, plates, ceramics, windows, windshield glass or pieces of pottery.

The most commonly found colors are green, brown and clear just simply because that is the color of beer, wine and soft drink bottles. These are types of bottles that seem to be thrown into bodies of waters the most. It does take a decade or two for some types of glass to actually wash up onto shore.

Jade and amber sea glass can come from medicine, whiskey and spirit bottles. The amber color comes from broken liquor bottles. Lime green comes from soda pop bottles sold during the sixties.

Forest green and ice blue sea glass comes from medicine bottles; ink bottles and fruit jar glass. These are the harder colors to find in chunks of sea glass.

Soft green sea glass is considered to be quite valuable and is from Coca-Cola, Dr. Pepper and RC Cola bottles. Purple sea glass is much coveted as is white (which comes from very old milk bottles) and cornflower blue (from art work, vases and early Milk of Magnesia bottles.) Aqua glass, from old jam jars, is also very rare and it is estimated that one piece is found per 1000 glass pebbles.

Other exotic colors of sea glass include gray and pink (from Depression era plates), black or olive glass (from 18th century lamps). Red sea glass comes from car tail lights, art glass and lamp glass.

Orange sea glass is almost never a casual discovery. An orange piece of sea glass only occurs once every 10,000 pieces. It is usually from a decorative piece of art or glass from the thirties to the seventies.

The best place to find sea glass is to comb shorelines for them. This is a definite hobby for some people. They are often made into ceramics, jeweler or into stained glass pieces.
The best places to find them in the world are the beaches of the Northeast Untied States. They can also be found in California, England, Mexico, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Nova Scotia and Italy.