Lucky Me Beads’ Whitney Phippen reinvents the silhouette as a keepsake pendant as seen here in Fort Collins

To Mom, with love

Family photos and mementos are the raw stuff of some great Mother’s Day gifts. Here are three ideas — including fresh takes on the silhouette and the family tree — for creating a new family treasure in just an afternoon.

Family photos and mementos are the raw stuff of some great Mother’s Day gifts.

Here are three ideas — including fresh takes on the silhouette and the family tree — for creating a new family treasure in just an afternoon.

Silhouette pendants

From Whitney Phippen, of Fort Collins, Colo., comes the traditional silhouette — a black profile positioned on a white background — reinvented as a keepsake pendant. Phippen has made silhouettes of countless children, but also of adults, dogs, cats – even a pet chicken. “It was adorable,” she recalls.

This mother of two young boys has made hundreds of pendants since opening her Etsy online shop, Lucky Me Beads, five years ago.

She likes working with children’s profiles.

“I love how their hair is so random and can have all these little spikes and curls,” Phippen says.

Phippen’s pendant-making process is slow and methodical — she works by hand — but she suggests that others can craft something similar with a few shortcuts.

A photo can be turned into a silhouette using Photoshop, or it can be done the old-fashioned way: Cut the profile out of a photo.

Phippen goes this route, cutting from a large photo to capture more detail and then scanning it into her computer, where she manipulates the image and shrinks it to pendant size.

She uses vintage hardware for her pieces, but says most pendant supplies can be found at any crafts store. If you’re going to cover the piece in a resin, as Phippen does, she recommends using ICE Resin, which is non-toxic and won’t discolour over time. She buys it online.

Family trees

Vana Chupp, of Mount Prospect, Ill., also works in silhouette for her online store, Le Papier Studio, and an Etsy shop of the same name.

An architect by trade, Chupp began making silhouettes to document her first-born son’s growth. He’s 7 now, and Chupp also has a newborn — a new face to mark in profile.

Chupp works in several mediums – card stock, fabrics, jewelry and dishware.

A family tree of silhouettes can fit three or four generations. The tree can be cut out of paper or fabric, or there’s a template on her website. Chupp likes to use the likenesses of real family members, but silhouette templates also can be used.

She suggests hanging the genealogical tree among family photos as a “go-to point” for explaining ancestors and family relationships to children.

Other Chupp projects are in her book Silhouette Art (Chronicle books, 2010).

Family ­— story triptych

Sondra Hines came up with this idea several years ago for an elementary school art program at the Holter Museum of Art, in Helena, Mont., where she is curator of education.

A triptych consists of three panels, two of which often fold onto the third. Younger children need adult guidance to make one, but teenagers can do it on their own.

Hines suggests embellishing the triptych with meaningful items: gluing on old ribbons or buttons, a parent’s favourite poem, a fabric reminiscent of grandmother — even concert tickets.“Basically, you just want to put things in it that hold memory, so when you look back you can go, ‘Ohhh, I remember . . . ,”’ says Hines.

Here are directions for making the Holter Museum of Art’s Family Story Triptych:


Three pieces of Davey Board (also called Binder’s Board)

Natural muslin, or any cotton or linen fabric

Family photos or other two-dimensional mementoes

Scrapbook or other heavy, patterned paper

Embellishments (ribbons, buttons, glitter, sequins, lace, etc.)

Glue, such as Elmer’s or Tacky Glue


1. For each triptych, cut the Davey Board into three pieces. Start by cutting two pieces 9 1/2-by-7 1/2 inches and then cut one of them in half vertically to make two smaller pieces, 43/4-by-71/2 inches each. The larger piece will form the back of the triptych. The two smaller pieces will create the two front sides that open and close.

2. Cut fabric one inch larger than the board on all sides. For the featured measurements, that’s one piece of fabric measuring 21-by-17 inches.

3. Centre the three boards over the fabric, with the largest board in the centre and leaving 1/4 inch of space between each board, and fold the fabric over. Cut the corners on the diagonal – but not too close to the boards – to get pointed corners. Glue the fabric to the boards.

4. Now, you should have a working triptych that opens and closes. Cover the inside cardboard with scrapbook paper and embellish it with photographs, artwork and little mementos. Remember to keep items on the inside two-dimensional so you can close your triptych, if desired.


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