Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Garden Gnomes and Gnome Homes!

The last time I made garden gnomes with my students was with 3rd graders during my final year teaching, before I retired in June 2012.  Now, with my DragonWing Arts program, I have way less students, so their projects can be bigger and more elaborate.  So each student built a papier-mache garden gnome, and also created a unique "gnome home" in a tree stump or mushroom.
I can't separate the projects into two separate posts, since they go together so well, so I'll try to explain how we made both, all in this one post!
The gnome armatures are simple.  We started with Gatorade bottles. Some kids chose 20 oz. bottles, but most wanted the smaller 16 oz.  On the bottoms, I hot glued a cardboard circle for a flat surface, and then two easter egg halves for shoes.  Inside the bottles we put a scoop of playground sand, to weight them down and keep them from tipping over.  We closed the caps and added cones of heavy paper for hats, taped and hot glued.  Arms were made with newspaper-covered wire.  The whole assembly was covered with overlapping layers of papier-mache, and when dry, finished with a layer of gesso for a bright white painting surface. 

Meanwhile, we began also building the gnome homes, using cardboard from cut up shipping cartons, bent along to corrugations to make them curve, and then hot glued and taped.  Tops were either made from paper bowls or more cardboard, for mushrooms or tree stumps, depending on what the student wanted.  Branches were added with cereal box cardboard as desired, and they were glued to a cardboard base.  The students wanted windows and doors, so they drew them where desired and I cut them with a utility knife.  The entire assemblies were covered with plaster bandage to make them solid.  Some students used the plaster bandage to make tree roots, and/or to add texture to their trunks.  As you can see, the sizes of the houses varied widely.

Next, the kids mushed together some polyester fiberfill and acrylic paint, to make green "moss" to use on their gnome homes.  We started out wearing rubber gloves, but that didn't last too long....  It was too much fun to have green hands!

We used Nasco Bulk-Krylic paints on both the gnomes and the gnome homes, and  then, we embellished.  The gnomes were given hair and/or beards as desired, wiggle eyes, and more.  A couple of gnomes became archers, and one (pictured below left) even had a quiver of arrows on his back, that, and his long blonde pony tail, unfortunately are not visible in the photo.  The quiver was made from felt that was cut and glued.  A disco ball was made for one "disco gnome", and other embellishments included belts, aprons,and as you can see on the right below, a backpack filled with colorful feathers!
This gnome below has a desk with an iMac and an iPhone on it, on his rooftop patio.  Plus he has really cute ears, I think!

The gnome homes were loaded with leaves, flowers, pine cones, bark, and so much more.  An old stash of sample ceramic tiles were used to make sidewalks and patios.  Some laminate samples were made into door signs.  Colored sheet foam and wire were used to make things like the swing shown below.  (She also has a rooftop garden on her gnome home.)  We were going to make flowers, but running out of time, I got fake flowers at the dollar store and we hot glued them all over the place!  The gnome is wearing a really cute apron, but  unfortunately you can't see it all in this pic. 
I love this sign I discovered on the rooftop garden.  It says "Express Yourself With Art!"

The gnome home below has a large piece of birch bark for a roof, with some tile on it for relaxing, and a bark chimney, too. And lots of tree roots, and moss and vines, and such. 

The gnome home below is for an archer gnome, and has a secret doorway hidden by the flower on the top, and a staircase and ladder to access the secret door.  And on the yellow square, the gnome is selling magic potions, or something of the sort. 

What can I say?  I just plain love this mushroom-top gnome home below, laden with flowers, glittery pine cones and a bark glider-swing, and moss.  So pretty!  The gnome previously pictured, with the basket of feathers on her back lives here!

The girl who made this gnome home / disco dance club below is a quiet shy third grader with a wonderfully sly sense of humor.  The GDC on her gnome's chest stands for Gnome Disco Club, which is a tall mushroom.  Her gnome is actually able to fit inside the mushroom.

This below is the tallest gnome home, for one of the archer g nomes.  Sorry the picture is so poor.  Totally the fault of the photographer (me). 

With the room filled with open containers of wiggle eyes, fiberfill, fabric scraps, pipe cleaners, pompoms, fake flowers, feathers, craft foam, felt, toothpicks, wire, and more, everyone started to get a wee bit goofy.  Here's what happened:

 I hope you enjoyed our colorful gnomes and gnome homes!  I know we all enjoyed making them! Here's a link to another old post of charming student garden gnomes.


  1. I absolutely LOVE these!!! I may have to make one with my grandsons! Plus I love your students- they are so creative, happy and animated!

    1. Thank you! These kids are a delight to work with!