BIRTHDAY pARTy: “Secret Wish” Fashion Photo Ornaments


BIRTHDAY pARTy: Activity 3

“Secret Wish” Fashion Photo Ornaments – Inspired by Steven Meisel

Theory & Practice : Supplies : Preparation : Action : Results : Printable Card

Theory & Practice

As I had stated on the invitation, we had planned on doing both “fashion photography” and something “seasonal” during the BIRTHDAY pARTy.  Since we already needed to take a photo for the Warhol craft, I had the photography portion covered. However, I wanted the “fashion” theme of the party, which we were bringing out with our Chanel-inspired jewelry, to be balanced with an additional fashion industry muse.  Thinking back on some of the fashion photography I had admired over the years, and looking for a little inspiration for how to shoot the party guests, I thought of Steven Meisel and his ground-breaking work in Vogue.  I had always found Meisel’s emphasiss on natural beauty and his support of diversity quite appealing, and so I stressed this on the Index Card of the craft that I sent home with the girls.

The “seasonal” aspect of our already-disseminated invitation, however, was still in question. Luckily, on my “ideas” window-shopping trip, I found boxes of clear glass Christmas ornaments at the local art supply store. At the price of (10 for $5), the art store beat out the dollar store in the ornament deparment. At the time, I assumed that we could just place a rolled up photo into the ornament, go around to each girl using tweezers to “unravel” the photo strip so that it could be seen from all sides, cap and tie the ornament with a lovely ribbon, maybe with some bells attached, and call it a day.  The addition of some glitter inside, I thought, would make the craft quite unique. To the left, you’ll see the prototype I created.  However, as I started to experiment with the activity, and even as the girls at the party tackled the challenge, my vision of what the finished result would be changed.  Just before the party, and inspired by Meisel’s social responsibility, I thought it would be fun for the girl’s to have a “secret wish” to write in the inside of their photo roll.  And, of course, as the party progressed, I found it a useless enterprise to go around with tweezers to try and make the photo inside each ornament unfurl. Keeping the photo rolled, we saw, look more like a “message in a bottle,” and this aspect complimented the “secret wish” part of the activity.  Finally, the girls added their own flourish to the project by spooning a great deal more glitter into their ornaments than I had planned.  This made a nicer bed for the little photo scroll than I would have imagined.   So, we inspired one another!



Clear Glass Ornaments
sold in packs of 10 at the local art store
Pinky-Width Sparkly Ribbon
1/4 2M spool per guest
Photo or Plain Paper
2 8 1/2 x 11 Sheets
Permanent Markers
1 per 3-4 guests
Safety Scissors
1 per 3-4 guests
Large Bottle Silver or Gold Glitter
from the art store, 1 per 3-4 guests
Small Plastic Funnel or Paper Cone
1 per 3-4 guests, sold in packs of 3 $store
Plastic Spoons
1 per 3-4 guests
Plastic Cups
Small Square of Sandpaper

Digital Camera
(Photo) Printer



Labels printed with guest names
Silver or Gold Jingle Bells
$store package of 36
Stretchy Jewelry String
left over from pARTy Activity 4
81/2×11 in print-out of a Meisel Photo

Optional Photo Booth for Activities 2 & 3
Masking or Painter’s Tape
Paper Plate
Black Permanent Marker
Length of Plain White Fabric or Mesh [Optional]

Optional Loot Basket for all Activities 
9x12in Plastic Basket for each guest
Avery Label printed with each guest’s name



Fill Your Cups: This activity was a bit more time consuming than the rest, but the fun we had making these at the pARTy made it well-worth the preparation.  First, I labeled a plastic cup with the name of each guest.  (If you don’t have avery labels, use the permanent marker).  Next, I divided each of my three 2M spools of ribbon into 4 equal lengths with a pair of scissors.   I tied each of these ribbons into a loop and curled the 2 inches of dangling edges I let run below the knot with a pair of scissors. I also attached 2 jingle bells to the knot with some jewelry string I had left-over from our Chanel-inspired activity (Optional). I then placed these jingle-bell-loops into each individual cup.

Next, I prepared the glass ornaments themselves. I had gotten a small sliver of glass in my finger while I was experimenting with the activity, so I made sure to sand the inside rim of each ornament after I removed each lid and dropped it into a ribbon-filled cup. Then, I placed the sanded-rimmed-ornaments themselves into each cup so that the girls could do all of their “crafting” with the ornament still sitting in the cup.   I placed these cups of supplies along with my funnels, permanent markers, spoons, and bottle of glitter into a plain plastic storage tub. I set this tub on the sideboard in the dining room alongside the three tubs filled with the supplies for our three other activities.

Last but not least, I prepared a “table” document in MSWord that would accomodate 6 strips of small black and white photographs per 81/2×11 in page.  And I typed in the year, 2011, in a small row directly beneath each picture on the strip. I typed and printed out the instructions for how my husband might easily shrink and copy each girl’s fashion photo from the previous Warhol craft into this table document and print them out.  I put 2 sheets of photo paper next to the printer, alongisde of the 4×6 sheets of plain paper I had prepared for the Warhol activity.

Optional Photo Booth: Since we  were using head-shots or photos of the guests in two of our four pARTy activites, I also set up a “photo booth” area in the house in an area just near the entryway to the house. This “booth” simply consisted of a piece of old white mesh fabric taped against the wall (a plain wall would do just as well), with an x marked on the floor in masking tape.  I used one of the plates leftover from our jewelry craft to “label” the area the “Photo Booth,” and I taped this sign high over the fabric sheet I’d secured to the wall.

Optional Loot Basket:  The week before the party, I picked up a 9x12in basket for each guest at the dollar store and placed an avery label with their name on one of the handles.  I had these stacked in a pile at the outset of the party. These came in handy as a place for the guests to deposit their finished crafts after we’d finished each one.  Towards the end of the party, I snuck in the pre-wrapped Take Home Craft, and I placed their plastic-wrapped Mini Action Painting in this bucket, too.  This way, each girl went home with a basket full of goodies.   _____________________________________


Photo: As the guests came in to the party, I had each of them stop at the “photo booth” so that I could take a close-up Meisel-style photograph of their face with my camera phone. I called this their “fashion photo.” I allowed the girls to approve the picture and to have a retake if they liked – but everyone was pleased with the first take, for which I was truly grateful.  The guests who were finished with their photo shoots congregated around the kids’ old blackboard easels which we had set up in the living room, aka the “Bored Room.”

Print:  As the girls were completing the first activity, my husband used the template I had made to shrink the photos of the girls and to print them in horizontal strips of 6, 6 guests per page, on 81/2 x 11 in photo paper. Plain paper would work just as well. My husband used scissors to slice these into individual strips before he brought the photos back upstairs to the dining room.


 I handed out cups of ornament-making supplies and photographs to the girls as I told them about Steven Meisel’s photography, pointing to a picture I had printed of his work with Tyra Banks.  Then, my husband handed out the 81/2 in x 1 5/6in  photostrips he had printed of each guest.  I had half of the the girls use safety scissors to trim one of the six photos off of their roll (they could save the discarded photo in their loot baskets) while the other group used permanent markers to write a “secret holiday wish” on the back of their photo strip.  Then, they switched roles.

Second, I had the girls roll up their photo-strips into tight cylinders, with their photographs facing out.  Carefully, and with their ornaments still in their cups, I had them drop the photographs down into the ornaments.

Next, I had the girls take turns placing the funnels into their ornaments and spooning (or, in their terms, HEAPING) glitter into the ornament.  As they finished, I had them remove the ornaments from the cups momentarily to retrieve the ornament caps and the jingle bell ribbon loops.

The girls then helped each other re-attach the ornament lids (with lots of parental guidance and help).  And I demonstrated how they could thread the folded end of their loop over and through the hook in the ornament lid, threading it right back through loop itself and pulling tight:


The girls put their ornaments back into their cups and placed them in their Loot Baskets before moving on to the final activity.    _____________________________________


The ornaments are fabulous! Here’s my daughter’s dangling from a sprig of silver silver-dollars on the mantle.


Printable Card

Here’s the revised text of the Secret Wish Fashion Photo Ornament Index Card I provided to the guests.


Supplies: Clear Glass Ornaments, Photo Paper, Ribbon, Jingle Bells, Permanent Marker, Glitter, Funnel, Spoon, Scissors, Cup, Computer/Printer

We have printed out a strip of the fashion photo portraits we took at the beginning of the party (each strip = 8 ½ x 1½in).

1) Trim the white edges off of your photo strip.

2) Take turns writing a one word “wish” on the back centre of the photo strip with the marker.

3) Gently roll your photo strip (your face facing out) into a tight cylinder.    

4) The cap of your glass ornament has been removed.  Leaving your ornament in the plastic cup, insert your photo cylinder into the glass ornament and allow it to unroll itself a little.

5) Take turns putting the funnel in your ornament and spooning a good helping of glitter or “secret wish dust” into your ornament.

6) Take the ornament out of the cup just long enough to retrieve the cap and the ribbon below.

7) Put the ornament back in the cup and ASK FOR HELP placing the cap on the ornament.

8 ) Grab the bow-tied ribbon-loop with jingle bells and place the bow and bells flush with the metal hook on the ornament.

9) ASK FOR HELP wrapping the ribbon loop over top and back through the metal hook, threading it through the loop just where it begins to split in two from the knotted bell and bow.



Steven Meisel is a photographer for fashion magazines such as Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, and for famous celebrities like Madonna and Mariah Carey. He began his career as an illustrator (drawing pictures) for magazines. In his spare time, he took head-shots of unknown models. (Headshots are close up photographs  like the one of Tyra Banks, here.) When those models brought their pictures to fashion magazines and agencies, Meisel’s work as a photographer became noticed.  He became successful because he encouraged women to celebrate their natural beauty! For example, he helped super-model Karen Elson get her start by suggesting that she stop “plucking” her eyebrows, and he took photographs of her without make-up or elaborate hair-styling. And, in 2008, Meisel fulfilled one of his dreams, inspiring Vogue magazine editors to produce an issue featuring only African-American women. He had always wanted people of all races, shapes and sizes on the pages of fashion magazines… Meisel’s black & white photos, celebrate natural beauty, revealing a subject’s secret wishes and inner fire!!


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