Is there anything more satisfying than giving a gift that’s tailored to the recipient? Well, when you make your gifts yourself, tailoring is pretty much guaranteed. When you craft, you have all the power. So you can incorporate elements into your items that reflect the values and characteristics of the person those items are intended for. Poptart and I love to make hand-crafted gifts for all occasions, but we especially like to make them to express appreciation.
Consider all the organizations, groups, causes, or individuals you support in spirit or monetarily. They all probably value monetary donations because these help them continue their work. However, a gift that boosts the morale of employees or staff members is often a welcome surprise, especially for organizations that are engaged in heated or difficult battles. Work for such things as social change can be wearing on anyone, and it’s nice to be reminded that people value one’s work, one’s sacrifices, and one’s goals. A box of hand-crafted gifts can be the perfect thing to brighten someone’s day and strengthen his or her resolve.
Poptart and I chose to make a hand-made thank-you for the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society to show our gratitude for their work to end illegal whaling, the slaughter of dolphins in Taiji, and the assault on marine life around the world. This awesome collection of conservationists often faces personal peril to ensure the survival of whales and other creatures. Though Poptart and I can’t hit the seas ourselves to join their cause, we wanted to send them a little something to show we are there with them in spirit.
We chose to make keychains to express our gratitude so that the crew and staff will have something they can take everywhere that will remind them that people care about their work. We made as many keychains as our budget would allow, which didn’t provide one for every member of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, but we hope what we did make will be appreciated by those who receive them.
Keychains have a lot of different elements, depending on what you choose to make. We purchased stone whale charms in bulk on Ebay. The charms turned out to be quite fragile. Several arrived broken, and a few broke during the crafting process, but we love the look of the charm. We also purchased corks from Scrap in San Francisco for the body of the keychain. We like the look the cork provides and its tie to acts of celebration, and we figured it would allow the keychain to float if dropped in water. We also got 3 inch eye pins to serve as the core of the keychain, key rings of various shapes for the top of the keychain, and blue and pearl beads for the bottom of the keychain. We also used blue paint, and we needed needle-nose pliers to shape the eye pins.
These keychains turned out to be much more difficult to make than we anticipated. We originally wanted to paint or stamp the logo of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society on the cork and dangle the whale charm underneath the cork. This turned out to be impossible. We couldn’t find any skull stencils, and our attempts to cut our own stencils failed miserably. The stencil produced a fuzzy image that was not recognizable. We tried to cut the cork into sections to provide a flat surface, but this also failed. The corks were too crumbly, and we lacked the tools to produce a smooth cut. I tried to paint the logo on the cork, but this proved too time-consuming for the amount of corks we had. Plus, I couldn’t get a sharp enough line with any paint pens or brushes to make any logo or words recognizable.
One valuable skill you have to possess to remain a sane crafter is flexibility. So after many frustrating attempts to produce our original vision of the keychain, we conceded defeat and switched tactics. We decided to leave the cork itself whole and paint it blue so it serves as an ocean. We then placed the whale charm on top of the cork instead of underneath it so it looks like the whale is swimming on the ocean. We finished the keychain by dangling blue and pearl beads underneath.
These keychains take a lot of time and patience, and the supplies were not cheap. The finished product is more fragile than we prefer, especially considering the environments the keychain will be in, but we like the result. If you would like to make these keychains, or ones similar to them, here are the steps we went through after gathering our supplies:
1. Use a darning needle with a strong cord tied on the end to punch a hole through the cork, lengthwise. Then thread the eye pin through the hole you created.
2. Paint the corks with acrylic paint. Push them into a piece of cardboard or a box to dry. Then apply an outdoor sealant to each cork to waterproof it. We used Mod Podge. Stick the corks back into the cardboard to dry.
3. Turn the cork so that the eyelet of the eye pin is facing down. This will be the bottom of the keychain. Thread the whale charm through the straight end of the eye pin so that the whale charm rests on the cork. This will be the top of the keychain. Use needle-nose pliers to curve the straight end of the eye pin into a loop. Before you close the loop, slide in a key ring, and then close the loop with the needle-nose pliers.
4. Use twine to string your selection of beads on the bottom of the keychain, using the eyelet of the eye pin. We tied the twine so that two strings dangled. We then threaded on beads and tied the two threads together to form a circle. However, you can let the beads dangle or choose any look you want.
And there you have your whale keychain!
We wrapped each keychain in bubble wrap to protect them in transit. And now we just have to mail them! You can usually get the mail address for donation items from the organization’s website or by contacting the organization. When possible, email or call the organization to see if your gifts will be welcome.
We tailored our keychains to the organization we wished to thank.
Think of organizations, groups, and individuals you admire. What craft could you make to show your gratitude for their existence and work? Now, gather your supplies and get crafting!
And a sincere thank-you to the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and everyone who works tirelessly to craft a better tomorrow for all who share our planet.