Thursday, May 23, 2013

Monet's Miniature Magnetic Giverny Garden

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My friend Joann is going to run with my daughter in a 5k race next week for our school's Girls on the Run program. I wanted to make a thank you gift. Joann is a really passionate gardener so I decided it would be perfect to make her a tiny magnetic garden that she could arrange and display. Then I thought about her own yard, which is inspired by traditional French gardens. It would be even more fun to model my little garden after Claude Monet's famous gardens at Giverny.
 The Claude Monet Foundation maintains the home and gardens where the artist painted some of his most famous Impressionist paintings. I highly recommend visiting their site and looking at their photographs. The text is in French but the slideshows of the gardens are amazing. Monet established a vast garden with ponds (where he painted his famous Water Lillies paintings), a bamboo grove, numerous arbors, a hedgerow maze, and masses of flowers. The inside of his gorgeous ancient pink home isn't too shabby either.

I bought some plain Shrinky Dink paper (often sold as "refill") and used an extra fine Sharpie and a large set of colored pencils to draw my garden.
Remember when you use Shrinky Dinks they are going to wind up 1/3 of the original size. Even when you know this is going to happen it is difficult to envision. The boat I drew wound up smaller than some of the flower beds. As this is an interpretation of the gardens at Giverny, not a precise recreation, I concentrated on having fun and did not worry too much about the sizes.

What I drew:
  • Several green bridges, one of them with a roof
  • Lily pads 
  • Water lilies to glue on top of lily pads
  • Various colorful trees
  • Weeping willows
  • Part of a hedge maze
  • Water grasses
  • Green rowing boat
  • Many beds of colorful flowers
  • An easel 
I tried to make at least 2 of every plant item. When it is time to shrink the items make sure to bake a few at a time. Some of them will curl up while they are shrinking then relax back down but you may need to reach in the oven and slap them down with a spatula  to get them really flat or try to catch them the second the get out of the oven when they are still warm and make sure they lay properly. They cool so fast you only have time for a few at a time. If a piece does wind up curled or bent you can reheat it and try again.

The pieces are ready to be baked.

After the pieces were baked and cooled I needed to attach the magnets. I had a magnetic business card laying around that worked perfectly. I painted it green then I cut out lots of tiny squares and rectangles. I used super glue to attach the magnet pieces to the Shrinky Dinks. Incidentally this is the first time I have ever had a really good experience using super glue. this is because I finally read the directions! If it says "one drop" then that is all you will need. If you use multiple drops of glue, like I normally do, then it takes a long time to dry and it is harder to get it to stay in position.

I found a small rectangular tray which was a perfect size and  painted it with different shades of green and blue to designate a water area, paths and green space for the flowers and trees. I am not a very good painter so tried to channel my inner Monet and dab on the paint in a dreamy way. It actually looks pretty good but it may have been even better looking if I used a sponge to apply the paint. Also I could have prepped the tin by sanding it before painting. You may want to do that.

I would like to end this post by saying that this is a really fun way to make a tiny garden in honor of Claude Monet but it could be adapted in a million other ways. As a gift for a vegetable gardener you could draw lots of vegetable plants for someone to arrange in rows. You could make Mr. Mcgregor's garden and include the characters from Peter Rabbit. (Actually I may have to do that myself!) You could do also do other famous gardens or famous places.

Corinne and I have made several other magnetic toys. You may want to check out our Portable Pride and Prejudice, TinTin Game and Figure Skater.

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  1. What a cute little idea! My kids would love something like this!

    1. Thanks so much!
      I had to keep my 5 years old from taking this, literally shooing his hands out of the picture as took them!

  2. These are so cute! Im going to pass this along to my cousins to make for her son. Thanks for sharing!

  3. These are so beautiful. I wish I had more Shrinky Dink paper now! Love Monet's work and what a fantastic link to his work you have created for play. Love it (and am sharing - hope that's okay)