Halloween '09 - Apothecary Jars on a Budget

Click on images to enlarge.

Like many, I love creepy things in specimen jars. I prefer to create an eclectic display of containers every year. Different sized and shaped ones are more visually interesting to me and help tell a story that they've come from odd, mysterious, dark, distant places. Old world styled apothecary jars are great additions with their antique look and instant creepy feel.

They seem to be a popular Halloween item these days in many of the more "high end" decorating catalogues and stores. I want to add a few to my prop closet one day but will have to wait due to those "high end" prices. I know less expensive ones are out there to find but I'm also trying to keep it another "no budget" decorating year. So until I have the piles of cash to spend on every small detail I'd like for October, cheap or expensive, here's what I did to create some jars of my own. They'll make decent filler for my ever growing laboratory themed dining room.

What I used: old pickle and tomato sauce jars, disposable plastic champagne glasses (the kind with detachable bases), clear aquarium silicone, large craft jewels, rubber creatures and computer made labels. Not pictured: paint brush, super glue, glue stick, food coloring (yellow & green), water, Dremel tool and a strong cup of coffee (yes... coffee).


I created two style jars with what I had. For the spider jar's pedestal, I first assembled a champagne glass. Although the base and the stem fit tight, for security, I super glued them. Super glue vapors can fog up clear plastic, so I only used a small drop. Then I silicone glued it upside down to the bottom of the jar. Having the wider mouth of the champagne glass as a stand makes it stable.
The jar lid is also a flipped over glass but with an inch of the stem cut off using a Dremel tool. A craft jewel fit in the cut end neatly to complete the fancy top..

The worm jar was very simple. I liked it without a pedestal. For it's lid, because the open sauce jar top was smaller, just a detached champagne glass base worked with a glued on jewel.I made the labels on the computer, printed and cut out. I then dunked them in a strong cup of coffee for the aged look. Once dry and put on the jar with a glue stick, I brushed on more coffee while wrinkling and tearing the edges to really make them old.

Feel free to steal these labels. Let me know if you use them, be fun to see!

Creating the fluid was the hardest part...for a silly reason. I was momentarily obsessed with making the perfect hue using yellow & green food color. I spent more time doing that than it did to make the jars. I DO NOT recommend keeping water in the pedestal jar, I used just for the pictures. The base is stable but I don't trust it to be strong enough with the water weight for any extended or unsupervised time. I'm going to replace the water with colored film/gel or use stained glass paint.

Overall a quick prop making experiment that worked out okay. It should be fun making a few more playing around with different jars and combinations. I may take extra time on those...grinding the jewel points flat and cutting out the champagne glasses' base socket on lids like the worm jar's, so all appears more seamless.

28 comments:

  1. I made a few of these last year. It is so much fun to come up with stuff to put in them and creepy descriptions. It didn't occur to me, though, to start with plain jars and fancy them up in this way. Finding suitable jars was really difficult, so this is very helpful for starting my imagination in new directions.

    For filling the jars, cicada shells are great if you live in a place where they're common. They're rather innately creepy. (I kept them dry - don't know what they'd do in water, possibly get icky.)

    I also discovered that adding a little liquid castile soap (like Dr. Bronner's) to water makes it cloudy if that's the effect you're going for. For a bonus, it makes some really icky looking stuff smell quite nice.

    Great stuff - I always get excited when I see you've made a new post.

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  2. Ingenious!!! Thanks for sharing!

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  3. You might want to try cheap hair gel that you get in larger vats. I've seen the "eyeball in the jar" done with that, and it looks great!

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  4. Great idea for stands - I never thought of that!

    My husband had us buying jarred peaches at Costco and a huge jar of pickles this year, simply because he wanted the jars for "specimen" jars this Halloween. The peaches were too sweet, and we always seem to forget about the pickles, but the jars will really look good with creepy-crawlies in them!

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  5. You are brilliant!

    You've just given me a project to test out this weekend. I just have to buy those plastic glasses (!!).

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  6. Those are gorgeous.

    You might want to check out AranaMuerta's Witches Kitchen (http://aranamuerta.com/2008/01/29/witches-kitchen) for some other neat bottle ideas.

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  7. Kewlio... I know what I'll be doing.

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  8. Great idea. I have some jars and those plastic champange glasses, I will give it a try. Thanks!

    Cheers!

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  9. I made mine last year, but I did use an array of glass jars I found on sale at different places and mixed them up with old, antique jars from antique flea markets. Did the labels and they turned out GREAT! My whole dining room was the Witches Apothecary and all the guests at our Halloween party had a grand time examining all the contents and reading the names and descriptions. Yours are great...you're like the McGyver of Hallowe'en! Very impressive!

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  10. Oh my goodness! I've been lurking for over a year now but I feel this strong urge to delurk and tell you I am bowing down to your greatness! I made some creepy crawlies last year that live in our house year round but these are much prettier! Thanks for the inspiration!!

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  11. I'm so glad someone pointed me to your blog! Halloween is my favorite and just last week my man found a specimen jar with a faux conjoined twin fetus in it in someone's "free" pile at a yard sale and brought it home to me. So I've been thinking of ways to increase make a collection. Everything is more sinister in large quantities.

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  12. I was lucky enough to inherit some genuine specimens in jars from my daughters classroom at the end of the school year. One jar contains a goose fish, red fish and wolf fish. The other contains sea quills, songe and anemone, and looks like something found on another planet. There's also a dry one containg skate egg cases. A little over ayear ago a friend of mine gave me a mouse brain in a jar.

    As always, Dave, your stuff looks fantastic. I'm going for a low-budget attempt at decorating this year. I'm giving myself $100.00 for materials, and hoping to come in under budget. After years of doing no budget store displays, I've learned a lot about making something from nothing. I actually find it a lot more fun in the same way those novelists under Stalin had to work around government censorship.

    I'm looking forward to seeing your new dispay this year, Dave.

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  13. Love the idea! If I didn't already have a hundred other projects in the works... ;)

    (I did just find a 2 foot apothecary jar - and it was a fancy one - at an outlet store for $9. HAD to get it and now I'm thinking it really needs friends to hang out with...hmmm)

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  14. Wow, those are fantastic! And so much more fun when you make it yourself. I'll be linking to this.

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  15. Genius!!! I love this idea!

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  16. You are good!! I am so going to do this. Last year I was a mad scientist for Halloween. I used my boys plastic test tubes and put colored water in them with like colored glow sticks and carried them around. Occasionally pretended to drink the glowing potions. So much fun!

    Katrina

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  17. Great job.

    If you want the bases to be more stable, you can find clear glass candle holders at the dollar store. And they will hold your full jars for a very long time if they are glued properly.

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  18. So fun! This was exactly the idea I was looking for.

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  19. Use a tablespoon of milk in your water jars for a nice cloudy look. I also like to super glue a small glowstick (get them at the dollar store, they are used for glow barrettes) to the underside of the lids right before people come so the water has a nice eerie glow about it. Love your site!

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  20. Love this idea, Dave, and am finally getting around to doing some of my own...only problem is, I can't figure out what to cut the glasses with! Every time I try, the plastic shatters!
    Help?

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  21. Rook

    I often use a dremel tool.

    If by hand, use a thin hacksaw blade. Slow and steady wins the race. Let the teeth do the work and place very little pressure on the stem while cutting.

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  22. Hi Dave! I just posted an ode to your specimen labels, and wanted you to know...

    Love the blog, sorry to post on an old thread but I didn't want to hijack..

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  23. Pensive,
    Thanks for the "shout out". Glad you like the blog. Your comment timing is perfect based on my post today.

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  24. this truly is so creative and really resourceful! Well done with an original idea, I'm jealous!

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  25. This is such a cool idea! Thank you!

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  26. This is awesome! Great use of cheap/free materials and making them look old and eclectic!

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  27. OOoooo!.. look at these Bell Jar displays from soda bottles:

    http://lifeartcollide.blogspot.ca/2012/10/soda-bottle-bell-jars.html

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  28. Your awesome tutorial was featured here
    http://friggle-fraggle.blogspot.com/2014/10/13-halloween-bottle-tutorials.html

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