Learning a new skill consistently ranks among the most popular New Year’s resolutions, right alongside eating healthier and spending less money. It’s a specific, attainable goal–and it’s one you can start before the clock strikes midnight. In anticipation of the holidays, we asked artists and DIY experts to tell us about their favorite New Year’s crafts. Follow their lead and use these easy-to-learn skills to set the tone for a creative 2020. 

Decorate with ice luminaries. 

“I live in Minnesota, so I love making ice luminaries, and I like including botanicals such as evergreens, berries, and bark,” artist and jewelry designer Susan Storck tells us. “To do this, you can fill multiple five-gallon buckets with water (add evergreens/botanicals to the water if you like). If you would like smaller luminaries, you can use balloons filled with water or smaller containers.

“From there, place the water bucket outside and check every few hours. Depending on the temperature, freezing will happen at different rates. Once the walls of the bucket have frozen (with standing water inside), dump out the water and turn the bucket upside down. Finally, place the ice (in the shape of a bucket) upside down onto a candle and repeat. You can use these to light the way and lead up to your holiday party.”

Whip up some pomander balls. 

“My boyfriend and I love to invite friends and family over for mulled wine and to make orange and clove pomander balls,” Swedish illustrator Nathalie Anna Gill explains. “We have different stations with activities such as crafting and baking, or you could just mingle.”

Pomanders are beautiful and easy to make, and they’ll give your home a festive fragrance. Many people prefer oranges, but any kind of citrus fruit will work; use a toothpick or nail to poke small holes into the peel, and then decorate it with cloves. You can use a rubber band or masking tape to help form straight lines and patterns. 

Once you’re done, hang it up using a string, twine, or holiday ribbon (you can use a craft needle to string it through the orange). If you want your pomanders to last longer, preserve them with orris root powder. 

Make a ‘happy jar.’ 

“Every New Year’s Eve, my husband and I go through the ‘happy jar’–a cookie jar that we keep on the mantle that we fill with notes throughout the year whenever something good happens,” Portland-based artist Yellena James tells us. “We write the date and describe what happened on a little piece of paper, fold it, and stick it in the jar. This gives us a chance to just sit and reflect for a moment on the highlights of the previous year and kind of recharge for the next one.”

Ornaments by Kate Martens
Ornaments by Kate Martens

Surprise friends with hand-made ornaments and decorations. 

“I love to take a day off from my regular schedule of making to create a big batch of ornaments,” Boston-based artist Kate Martens tells us. “I try not to overthink things and avoid getting overly precious. One year, I made really basic papier-mâché leaves that I painted. Last year, I made fancy pom-pom ornaments from wool and silk yarn. 

“This year, I’m making tiny pillow ornaments that I’ve decorated with wool felt scraps. They’re always different and never fussy, which means they can be given away casually. Sometimes, I’ll have one decorating a tin of cookies I bring to a holiday party, for example, or another slipped in a coworker’s box at work with a nice card. I love having a day or a weekend to focus on this simple tradition.” 

Hair clips by Rachel Mae Smith
Hair clips by Rachel Mae Smith

Add some sparkle with rhinestone hair clips. 

DIY guru Rachel Mae Smith came up with these colorful hair clips for her blog The Crafted Life on a cold, snowy day–and they’re perfect for brightening up the winter months. You can make them in about five minutes (plus dry time), and all you need is a pack of plain hair clips, E6000 craft glue, and the rhinestones of your choice. 

Image © Aimee Glucina
Image © Aimee Glucina

Create a photobook.

“One of my DIY traditions is that I make a book of the year’s best photos,” Auckland-based photographer Aimee Glucina tells us. “I make one for my parents and one for my husband’s parents with a specific focus on each side of the family. I either use Blurb Books with their Lightroom layout plugin or MILK Books using Fundy Designer for quick album layout. I save gifting this until the New Year so that I can include images of our Christmas together.”

Use old paper scraps to make a festive garland. 

“I teach collage and mixed media workshops throughout the year and always take several large bins of paper home with me,” Tennessee-based artist Hollie Chastain tells us. “I clean out and sort through them as I go and keep a scrap pile of smaller pieces to the side. 

“When we decorate for the holidays every year, I make a new paper garland and hang it with the growing bundle of them we have strung across the mantle. They’re every color and many types of paper–circles and squares, flat and folded, etc.–and so fun and easy to make. “The easiest method is to start with a pile of paper circles. They don’t need to all be the same size, but they do need to pair with one of the same size. Put two of the paper circles back-to-back and stitch them together right down the middle, leaving an inch or so of thread at the end before you start another. You can either use a sewing machine or needle and thread, and I have also used a glue stick as well by laying the thread down between the paper circles then gluing the paper together over the top.”

Image © Erica Prince
Image © Erica Prince

Decorate with local flora. 

 “I love to make holiday arrangements out of evergreens, berries, ornaments, and bits of trimmings left over from sewing projects,” multidisciplinary artist Erica Prince tells us. “I arrange them in my ceramics and sprinkle them around the house. Some are classic, others are a bit experimental. 

“When I lived in Brooklyn, I would scavenge for bits of blue spruce and red berries in the middle of cold grey winter. Now I live in South Florida, so my holiday arrangements will look very different this year! I’m thinking of spray painting dried palms in silver and gold.”

Daruma postcards by Irene Pérez
Daruma postcards by Irene Pérez

Make your own postcards. 

“Two years ago, I made some postcards based on the Japanese icon Daruma that is used to make New Year’s wishes,” Barcelona-based illustrator Irene Pérez remembers. “I made my own version of Japanese Daruma and stamped them with screen printing using some really vivid colors. I gave it to family and friends, and they loved it.”

Looking for more ways to express yourself in the new year? Skillshare has thousands of classes to help you make 2020 the most creative year yet.

Thumbnail/Cover image by Skillshare Top Teacher Sean Dalton for his class, Night Photography – Shooting Street Scenes After Sunset.

For more information about Feature Shoot, click here.