I have been writing and creating art since I was a child. I also enjoy reading, playing guitar, photography, and painting.
Butterflies in a Jar: Art From Nature
Every once in a while, I come across a sad sight in my yard: a butterfly that has lived out its days lying on the ground. I love watching the different species coming to feed on the plants in the backyard, so I am always sorry to see one of them go.
A few months ago, I found a dead monarch and decided that I would mount it in a frame. The only problem with that idea was that the butterfly had died with its wings folded downwards, making mounting it in a normal frame without damaging it impossible. I thought about putting it in a shadow box, but they tend to be pricey.
While searching the local craft store for an alternative way to display the butterfly, my sister-in-law and I came upon some small, inexpensive hinge-top jars. We agreed that using the jar would be a great alternative to a frame or shadow box. After buying the jar and mounting the butterfly in it, I was pleased with the result. Below are the few quick and easy steps I used to create this natural piece of art.
What You Will Need
- A butterfly that died with its wings folded upwards or downwards (please only make this craft if you have found a butterfly that has died of natural causes—I am not advocating the killing of butterflies for art's sake).
- A square-bodied hinge-top jar. The one pictured in the photo below is about 2-1/4" x 2-1/4" x 4-1/2", and the average butterfly will fit inside it. However, before you buy a jar, measure the butterfly to make sure it will fit both through the mouth of the jar as well as inside the jar you plan to purchase.
- A dry* twig (smooth-barked is better, in my opinion) or a clipping of a willow branch used for home decor. (*The twig needs to be dry because a freshly cut twig put into a closed jar with the butterfly might encourage decay via the moisture the cutting releases. I like using small pieces off the sticks the ficus tree in my yard drops every now and then.)
- A hot glue gun. You can use craft glue for this project, but it will take longer to assemble everything since you will have to wait for the glue to dry between steps. I recommend using glue that dries clear because white glue will detract from the appearance of the finished product.
- Optional: raffia, jute, twine, or ribbon and a tie-on label
Step 1: Remove the Lid From the Jar
While your glue gun heats up, remove the lid from the jar temporarily. Not having a big, clunky lid dangling off one side will make the project a lot easier to put together.
Step 2: Cut Your Twig
Cut your twig down to size. Put one end of it in a corner of the bottom of the jar and trim it down until it just touches (or is just shy of touching) the opposite wall of the jar. Make sure the twig leans slightly closer to the side it starts on so that when you add the butterfly, it will be situated at the best angle for viewing.
Step 3: Determine Where and How to Place the Butterfly
Determine where and how you are going to place the butterfly on the twig. If the wings are pointing downwards, then one-third to one-half of the way down the twig would be best in order to ensure that the wings will not be too close to the bottom of the jar. If the wings are pointing upwards, then one-third to one-half way up the twig would be the optimal place for the butterfly.
Step 4: Glue the Butterfly to the Twig
Apply glue to the spot where you are going to place the butterfly on the twig. Place the butterfly carefully on the spot. (I say "carefully" because once you place the butterfly on the glue, you cannot move it without damaging it if you are using hot glue!)
Step 5: Do a "Test Run"
Do a "test run" to determine how you must maneuver the twig in order to place it in the jar. You may or may not need the tweezers for this; if your fingers are slim, you may be able to place the twig without the tweezers. Since you will have to move rather quickly to place the twig once the glue is on it, figuring this out beforehand can prevent accidental damage to the butterfly or glue streaks on the sides of the jar during placement.
Step 6: Apply Glue to the Bottom of the Twig
Make sure you put a generously sized bead of glue on the tip so that the glue will pool around the end of the twig once you place it in the jar.
Step 7: Place the Butterfly in the Jar
Place the butterfly on its twig in the jar, holding on firmly to the upper tip of the twig until the glue dries.
Step 8: Close the Jar
Once the glue is completely dry, re-attach the lid to the jar and close it. You now have a lovely piece of natural art. It is best to display it in a spot that receives no direct sunlight since the butterfly will fade if left exposed to the sun.
Optional: If you have the time and inclination, you can add a label identifying the species of butterfly in your jar. It is relatively easy to discover what kind of butterfly you have by doing an online search (I have included a few helpful links below). Websites dedicated to butterfly research and information normally have photos that can aid you in identifying your butterfly.
Once you know what you have, you can write out a label and attach it to the hinge of the jar with things such as raffia or ribbon—whatever suits you best. You can use a ready-made tie-on label or create a label with card stock as I did.