Positive outcome from negative thinking

I am addicted to glass jars. I hang onto nearly every one that comes into my house. Pickles, jelly, salad dressing. It’s like a two-for-one deal! I get the contents and this fabulous, multi-purpose reusable container! The shelves in my laundry room are full of jars. A couple of months ago, I realized that the jar collection was getting out of hand and gave away a box free on craigslist. But there are still plenty to choose from (plus, we keep buying jelly). I needed a quick craft today and decided to do a little glass etching. I have tried my hand at this before and it’s really a pretty simple craft, especially considering the great results you can get! The two main things you need to do this are 1) something glass with smooth surfaces (a drinking glass, vase, mirror, whatever) and 2) etching compound. The etching compound is available at craft stores; I’ve only ever seen this brand:

Look! It’s even new and improved!

It comes in two sizes; this is the larger 10 oz bottle. I now have a lifetime supply of the stuff. When I went to Michael’s to buy it, I had no idea how much of it you actually need to complete a project. I was etching four drinking glasses for a Craftster swap and panicked, thinking that the tiny little bottle wouldn’t be enough. Good thing I had my 40% off coupon because this stuff cost about twenty bucks!! Let this be a lesson to you: Buy the tiny bottle.

Next, you need some kind of glassware. If you don’t have an abundant jar collection like I do or some drinking glasses that need an update, check out thrift stores or dollar stores, or finish off that last lonely pickle floating in its home of chartreuse brine.

There are two schools of thought for glass etching: One requires vinyl contact paper and an X-acto knife; the other requires some paper and fabric paint. It’s up to you, but I prefer the fabric paint method. Here are my supplies:

  • Glass container
  • Armour Etch
  • Rubber gloves (unless you enjoy caustic burns on your skin)
  • Fabric paint in a squeeze bottle
  • Paintbrush
  • Pencil
  • Masking tape
  • Paper (this is tissue paper, but I used printer paper the last time and it’s fine, too)
  • A picture!

I wasn’t in the mood to draw anything myself today, so I exercised my 2nd grade tracing skills and traced that butterfly like a champ! Really, you don’t have to be artistic at all to do this. You can also print a picture off the computer, just make sure it has good, bold lines. Once you have your picture, whether it be by tracing or printing, tape it to the inside of your container.

Oh yeah, you should have a container with an opening big enough to get your hand through if you go the fabric paint/tracing paper route.

Next step: More tracing! Can you handle it? This time, you’ll be outlining the picture with the fabric paint. This requires a little bit of “negative thinking.” In college, I always thought my art prof spent an inordinate amount of time on negative space, but it turns out to actually be helpful in my crafty life. Basically, whatever you want to be etched, needs to be left blank and whatever you want to remain clear, needs to be covered with the paint.

See how I went around the antennae?

Because it didn’t matter much to me how the pattern on the butterfly’s wings turned out, I just went ahead and traced straight over the top of the design rather than try to outline each of those little lines. Once you have your picture outlined, you need to give it a pretty healthy buffer of paint. This is to prevent the etching compound from accidentally etching anything else as you are rinsing it off. Yes, even under water, this stuff is potent!

One of the antennae got covered. Just use a toothpick to scratch out any mistakes.

Then, if you are ultra-paranoid like me (or, just stingy and want to save paint), use your masking tape to seal off around the edges of the paint. You can also remove your template picture from the inside now.

Set your jar aside for a couple of hours to let the paint dry. Watching it is optional.

Stretched your legs? Had some snacks? Got “Tara’s Theme” stuck in your head now? You’re welcome. Alright, back to work! After you lock up the kids. This is actually the easiest part of the whole process, but don’t forget your gloves!! Shake up your etching compound, ready your paintbrush, and slather your picture with the stuff. Forget coloring in the lines, just coat the whole thing, paint and all. After a little bit, the compound will start to foam. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes. The longer you leave it, the darker the etching will be.

I left the butterfly for about five minutes. What can I say? I was anxious to see how it turned out. Keeping your gloves on (for the love of all that is good, don’t take off the gloves!), take your jar over to the sink and rinse it under running water. I use my brush to help wipe off all the compound. Once it is well-rinsed, peel off the paint and tape. This is kind of fun: it comes off as a rubbery exoskeleton of your picture. Wipe down the jar with a little window cleaner and admire your handiwork!

Ta-dah! Custom-etched glass!

You may take off your gloves now. And you should probably let the kids out, too.

2 thoughts on “Positive outcome from negative thinking

  1. Love the etched glass. HmMMM and the canning jars could use some decoration, especially when they are re-designated as drinking glasses.

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