Altered Object – A Clock with a Mixed Media Facelift

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This article is written by Katja Blum

Yep. They gave us a Jesus clock. It was a joke gift for my husband’s birthday. The fact that he is Jewish seems almost insignificant in the… well… face of this clock, because even if he wasn’t… Anyway, this is it.

The Jesus clock in all its glory

I’m not a huge fan of joke gifts, because most of them are expensive landfill fodder, but after taking a deep breath or six, I was able to see past the weirdly glowing disciples and realize that this was a working clock that didn’t have to stay the way it was. My husband was generous enough to give it to me.

What to do with it though? Somehow I didn’t just want to spray paint it a pretty color, add some ephemera and call it good. I wanted it to have personal meaning, because despite the garish decoration, the original subject has rather a lot of personal meaning to many people.

Mulling it over, the clock reminded me of my favorite piece of memento mori art. It’s an easy pick, because this piece is the only one I like at all. Most art of the genre reminding us of our own mortality is way too creepy for my taste. However, my German hometown of Hamburg has a famous park cemetery, Ohlsdorf Park. One wall of its crematory is adorned with a gilded metal clock. The lettering underneath reads “Eine von diesen” – one of these. Just that.

I wanted to create a clock that would remind me to use some of the hours on it to make more time for the most important thing in my life apart from my family – writing.

First, I took the clock apart. With most of the cheap plastic clocks, this is easy. The clear cover pops right off (if it doesn’t, you can always break it off and not use it again). Be careful when disassembling the clockwork. Again, it is not hard, but you obviously want the parts to be functional.

Taking the clock apart

Once the clock was in pieces, I gave it a coat each of black spray paint and white gesso to lay the groundwork for a slightly distressed look. The frame was painted with a mixture of chocolate brown and copper. Then I covered the face with the image of an old typewriter, added a layer of Mod Podge and some alcohol ink. For a bit of texture, I used various stamps with white and copper ink.

The lettering, “Some of these”, I did freehand with my favorite method – white oil pastel and alcohol ink. I added a dab of paint here and there for depth and contrast.

The new clock face

The gold metal hands were colored with copper alcohol ink and got a thin coat of spray varnish. You want to mess with the hands as little as possible to ensure that the clock will work well. They should not be weighed down with too much decoration or have sticky layers of paint.

I reassembled the clockwork and decided to leave off the cover.

Some of these are for writing

Now it is hanging right above my desk reminding me to write more, make art and be happy for “all of these”.


Katja Blum is a writer and translator from Tulsa, OK. As an artist, she started with yarn, fabric and papier mâché (rarely together), branching out into collage and other paper arts about ten years ago. Her latest obsession is making soft stuffies and art dolls – to the delight of her son. She also likes to find creative solutions for ugly or broken things around the house – to the delight of her husband.

You can see more of her work with fiber, paper and words at




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