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How To Make a Recycled Watercolor Jar Centerpiece


by Meg Keene, Editor-In-Chief

How To Make a Recycled Watercolor Jar Centerpiece | A Practical WeddingHow To Make a Recycled Watercolor Jar Centerpiece | A Practical Wedding

How To Make a Recycled Watercolor Jar Centerpiece | A Practical Wedding

How To Make a Recycled Watercolor Jar Centerpiece | A Practical Wedding

How To Make a Recycled Watercolor Jar Centerpiece | A Practical Wedding

How To Make a Recycled Watercolor Jar Centerpiece | A Practical Wedding

How To Make a Recycled Watercolor Jar Centerpiece | A Practical Wedding

How To Make a Recycled Watercolor Jar Centerpiece | A Practical Wedding

How To Make a Recycled Watercolor Jar Centerpiece | A Practical Wedding

How To Make a Recycled Watercolor Jar Centerpiece | A Practical Wedding

How To Make a Recycled Watercolor Jar Centerpiece | A Practical Wedding

How To Make a Recycled Watercolor Jar Centerpiece | A Practical Wedding

How To Make a Recycled Watercolor Jar Centerpiece | A Practical Wedding

How To Make a Recycled Watercolor Jar Centerpiece | A Practical Wedding

Ok you guys. This was actually a bonus How-To project. It wasn’t one we were really planning on (ok, it wasn’t one our leaders-of-crafts Elizabeth and Emily were planning), and it wasn’t part of one of our tablescapes. But it was an idea I’d been dying to try for forever, so one evening, after a lot of wine, I talked everyone into trying it out. I think you’ll agree, my wine-bribing was worth it.

The Conclusion: This project is so easy (other than the goddamn Goo Gone scrubbing), essentially free… and it looks so damn good it’s crazy. I mean, the pictures don’t even capture it. This project is great for affordable wedding centerpieces, but it’s also great if you’re looking to decorate a party area with long outdoor ledges or edges that need to be filled with pretty things. Also, we’re totally going to be using this idea for summer backyard parties at our new place.

So here is the scoop. Collect a bunch of jars, quite possibly in different shapes. This also works brilliantly with clear wine bottles, if you’re looking to create a long edging line. Once you have your collection, get out your Goo Gone and start scrubbing. And scrubbing and scrubbing. (Don’t save this for a few days before the wedding or party, because you’ll notice from my defeated posture in the photos that some manufacturers seem to put their labels on with cement, and I hate them.) Then, once your labels are off, begin the mad artsy scientist part of the project. Fill your jars with water, and then add food coloring to create colors you like. Experiment. Then add a few drops of milk to some of the jars to vary the look.

Display with the light of the sun during the day, or tea-lights at night. And pat yourself on the back for making something so pretty out of free materials.

Photos by: Emily Takes Photos, Crafting by Meg, Elizabeth of Lowe House Events, and APW Editor Kate, Graphic Design by Michelle Edgemont (all APW advertisers).

Meg Keene

Meg is the Founder and EIC of APW. Her first book, A Practical Wedding: Creative Solutions for Planning a Beautiful, Affordable, and Meaningful Celebration, was published in January 2012, and has been a top three bestseller on the wedding bookshelf ever since. Meg has her BFA in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and son. For more than you ever wanted to know about Meg, you can visit MegKeene.com.

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  • http://www.hibouphoto.com kandise

    This is definitely one for Mason Jar Junkie ;)

    • meg

      Oh, do NOT say that!!! I am the farthest thing EVAR from a Mason Jar Junkie, and I like this. Also, it looks pretty sleek and chic with wine bottles.

  • SMWb23

    Skip the Goo Gone and soak the glasses/bottles in a bucket of water with Oxi Clean for a few hours or more — the labels will fall off! No scrubbing!

    • http://workoflove.wordpress.com Shaelyn

      Agreed. I’ve had success with just leaving them in a sink of warm, soapy water for a few hours, and using the back of a butter knife to just lightly scrape off any particularly stubborn glue.

    • http://www.piecesofanna.com/ Anna

      I skipped the Oxy Clean and just soaked (wine and beer) bottles in hot water for a few hours. Some labels fell off, and some needed a bit of encouragement, but nothing more than a bit of scrubbing with a sponge.

      Anyway, this looks so easy, I might just have to try it! (Though not for the wedding. Because I am already almost done DIYing my was-supposed-to-be-easy-but-turned-out-to-be-super-complicated centerpieces.)

    • SpaceElephant

      We actually put them all in the bathtub overnight with warm water and some squirts of dishwashing liquid. Anything that didn’t just fall right off was easily scrubbed w Goo Gone and a metal scouring pad.

    • http://themoderngal.com The Modern Gal

      Blasting them with hot air from a hair dryer also helps loosen the glue.

    • Liz

      A cup of ammonia in a bucket of water – 20 minutes, easy-peasy!

    • Laurel

      That’s what the homebrewers do: works great.

    • Another Meg

      Also, little utility razors (usually for paint scraping) can help with stubborn bits.

      • Sarah

        I just took labels off 40 jars and wine bottles last weekend! Since I didn’t want to buy Goo-Gone, I just soaked in the sink and then used a paper towel dipped in vegetable oil to get off any leftover glue. Worked really well!

        This is so pretty. Now I’m re-thinking my centerpieces for the wedding in 3 weeks!

    • Ana Maria

      WD 40 also works really well!

      • http://www.3upadventures.com Beth

        Aaand that prompts me to seek out all sorts of chemicals in Forrest’s shop. Brake cleaner anyone? (Seriously, put on gloves but that shit takes off EVERYTHING.)

    • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

      Rubbing alcohol is also great for getting off residue. I tend to soak in hot soapy water first, and rubbing alcohol off whatever remains.

      Why yes, I oddly DO take off a lot of labels. Strange hobbies, I guess…

  • http://theroadto92912.blogspot.com Molly

    Oooh pretty! I like it with the candle in the middle!

  • Sarah

    I’m missing something. How do you put the candles in when there’s the liquid in the jar? Or does the color somehow magically stay after the liquid is poured out?

    • meg

      Um. Cough. You put the candles behind the jars, not in the water. The latter is not going to work well ;)

      • Sarah

        That makes so much more sense. I also came up with floating candles for wide-mouth jars.

    • Brefiks

      I had the same thought when I saw that picture : )

    • Lynn

      Or you could get LED submersible lights (I think we paid like $9/dozen for them), which is what we did for our reception. Some of our centerpieces were varying sized vases with blue water in them. Then we dropped a blue LED submersible light in them. Very pretty, although I don’t know if anyone has a picture of it. :(

  • Emily

    So pretty! “Watercolors” was my fake wedding theme, my cop-out way of picking colors. I spray painted cheap vases to look like ombre, just do more layers around the base and a ligher/further touch towards the top. I also saw a trick on tv of adding food coloring to mod podge, swirling that inside the jar, and letting it dry. So many options!

    • Emily

      oOh, I may need to try the food-coloring mod-podge trick! I’m intent upon coming up with something using glass jars for my wedding decor, I’d been hoarding them since before I was engaged and now this is their purpose in life!

  • Kinzie Kangaroo

    Or, if you work at a daycare in a baby room, you can just dig through the recycling everyday and snag all of the glass babyfood jars. So cute and small and easily transportable!

    • http://www.twitter.com/babyinabar Shotgun Shirley

      Ahhhh!! Totally gonna have a party now, JUST TO USE the baby food jars in this fantastic manner.

  • http://www.koruwedding.com Koru Kate {Koru Wedding}

    Beautiful! Definitely filing this away for summer backyard parties :-)

  • Amanda

    I made two of these (with lids) that sit on my toilet tank for decoration :) Every few months I clean them out and replace with a fresh combo of colours. (Note: the food colouring does mould/allow growth over time, probably due to the sugar content?) Wish I had thought of doing something like this for our wedding!

  • http://www.safarimama.blog.com Manya

    Am I crazy to be missing my wedding really bad right now? I loved all of the projects–it was an explosion of meaningful creativity and resourcefulness–with a budget to boot!

    …and I miss it. Sigh.

  • Melissa H

    I don’t want anyone to blow up, but I use lemon scented lighter fluid to wipe off label goo. Just a bit on a paper towel will easily and fully clean several labels off, then rinse jar off in soapy water. Lighter fluid can also be used to remove grease stains on clothes!

  • Rachel

    If I saw these at a wedding, I’d probably think “ooh, fruit juice!” and try to drink ‘em. Cute, though!

    • Anon

      Are you saying that you would actually pick up a random jar/vase off a table and drink the liquid in it? That just seems pretty unlikely to me.

      • http://meditatingontherain.wordpress.com Aine

        They could be “alternative” punch bowls; I see this as a distinct hazard as well.

        • suzanna

          Rachel, ha! I hear you. Especially with kids around, that is a distinct possibility. Or me, after drinking a bit.

          I bet you could make the lids all perdy pretty easily, though. Then the “grab and drink” instinct would at least be stalled. ;)

  • http://www.addiopolis.org Addy

    I love it! I’ve been pondering centerpieces.. This might be it. We’ve been saving tequila and whiskey bottles for awhile (does that sound bad?) and my darling suggested using with candles, which I don’t think will go inside so well, but the colored water is great. Candles next to or in amongst is a bonus.

    Also, if you shop at a co-op foods kinda place (like the one where i work :) where they sell lots of liquids in bulk (honey, olive oil, etc.) they may have a collection of jars, brought in by customers, for customers, in all shapes and sizes, for free.

  • ThisLittleRedCat

    I couldn’t find the right jars when putting together jar-based centerpieces, I bought them from a wholesaler online. They were dirt cheap.

  • http://www.savingsomemoney.com Maxime

    This is exactly what we are preparing for!! We’ve been accumulating pickle jars for a couple of months ;)

  • Stefanie

    So pretty… I wish there was a way to keep the colour onto the bottles/jars without the water! Then you could put some lights in them :-)

  • erin

    LEMON or LAVENDER essential oils take labels off – they are natural and smell awesome. Can be found in heath food stores or online. You only need a few drops. With the rest of the bottle you can dab on the tablecloths to scent them. Both are antibacterial as well. :-)