Making Holiday Ornaments From Aluminum Cookie Sheets

I like to make my own gifts for the holidays.   This year I made elephant ornaments out of old pie plates and inexpensive aluminum cookie sheets.

Any flat-bottomed piece of aluminum will do, but these cookie sheets from the Dollar Store worked out great.   I got lucky this time and paid only .50 per pan.  The ornaments ended up literally costing only a few pennies per piece.

Gather your tools.   You’ll need to cut, hammer, poke, smooth and punch, so improvise accordingly.

Elephant Fabric Stamp Source Pattern

Next, secure a pattern.  I used an elephant fabric stamp from the internet for inspiration but anything would do.  Make sure the outline is relatively simple and you’ll be spared some headaches.   I used an old manila folder to make my pattern.

Elephant Pattern Drawn on Aluminum Cookie Sheet

Trace the pattern onto the cookie sheet (cut away the sides of the sheet for easier working).  I used an enamel painter’s pen which worked better than a regular sharpie.  Cut each piece out by hand.  This is where a simplified outline comes in handy.

Prepare the work surface with something spongy (like a towel) overlain with something disposable and flat (like a manila folder).  This protects your furniture and gives you something to push against when adding details to your pattern.

Place your blank on the work surface and use a blunted awl, a crochet hook or even an old nail to press details into your piece.   The cookie sheet is fragile and easy to poke through but you’ll quickly figure out how much pressure is required.   Inscribing a line around the outer edge strengthens and stabilizes the ornament.  It might be counter intuitive, but the more details you add, the stronger your piece will become.  

Once you’ve added the details, gently press the ornament flat.  I used a printer’s roller but, again, anything which gets the job done is fine.  

Aluminum Pie Plate Holiday Ornament

To finish, punch a hole in the top and add a ribbon hanger.  Voila!  A sweet little holiday ornament which is so light and flat, it can be sent through the mail!

I chose to make elephants because they are beloved by everyone and widely accepted whether recipients follow a spiritual tradition or not.    In the past, I’ve used this same aluminum pie plate technique to add pizzazz  to paintings (a halo for a folk art Virgin Mary comes to mind) and to tart up wooden frames.    To artists, the whole world is an arts supply store, available to all.


Joanna and the Whale

I try to work on two things at the same time:  one large, ambitious work and one smaller,  more immediately satisfying piece.  This strategy keeps the juices flowing and lends courage during prolonged periods of what often seems like pointless labor.   I like to keep the inventory balanced between big, theatrical statements and quieter,  more sellable things.  It seems unwise to over invest time and materials in things which are hard to show, so I often save the edgier, more challenging subjects for these smaller, more modest efforts.   “Joanna and the Whale” is an example. 

“Joanna and the Whale” by Lynda McClanahan

The idea for the title came first.  The resulting image is a mash-up of an anime cartoon and a tourist photo of an amusement park ride. 

Anime Source Photo

Amusement Park Tourist Source Photo
“Devi of Waikiki” in Process by Lynda McClanahan

“Joanna” has been a welcome diversion from “The Devi of Waikiki” which is crawling toward completion.  There’s always a point in a project when the work leaves your hand and goes its own way and “Devi” has finally graduated.  Sometimes things get better when this milestone is reached and sometimes they don’t.  But it’s always a welcome relief when a piece is finally making you, and not the other way around.    Pairing this attractive painting with “Joanna” pleases me no end.  Like a well-seasoned meal, I aim to balance the bitter with the sweet.