Why is it apothecary jars appeal so much to crafters? Perhaps it reminds us of all the pretty little odds and ends we keep here and there for our projects. Apothecaries were once what we would term pharmacists and more, keeping their herbs and concoctions handy in little jars next to the mortar and pestle. Or perhaps on display in their quaint shops, waiting for patients in need of medical advice and a remedy of fresh lavender, feverfew, or fennel.
Although vessels termed apothecary jars actually date back as far as ancient Greece, Babylon, and Egypt, the glass containers sought by today’s collectors date back no later than 15th century Europe. Many were simple glass jars designed to be used by anyone in need of storage, while others assumed a more decorative role with creative ornamentation. Some had ground-glass stoppers for keeping their contents sealed iin fresh. By the 19th century apothecary jars came in a wide variety of colors and could be labeled with their contents or what ailments they were meant to treat.
Today’s apothecary jars are mainly ornamental, sometimes seen in pharmacies to recall their origins, or used for decorating any space where pretty shapes and colors are needed. Hobby and decorator shops sell empty apothecary jars at low prices, and decorating them yourself will give your arrangement your own unique style.
For a traditional look, arrange at least three jars of different heights and shapes. For an unfussy look, fill with colored water, colored sand, or seeds. Keep in mind where your jars will go. Use contrasting colors to make your design stand out. If you have a blue wall, for instance, try filling your apothecary jars with eye-catching yellow or orange. If your taste runs to whites and beiges, fill your jars with your favorite bright colors to make them the room’s focal point.
For a fun look, fill your apothecary jars with candies for a party or reception or use them as cookie jars. Materials you would use for other crafts projects can be pretty in themselves. Fill a large apothecary jar with ribbons still on their spools. Choose all the same color with different sizes and textures or different colors with the same texture. . Another jar might hold a collection of buttons of all sizes, shapes and colors, while a third jar in your arrangement might hold colorful balls of yarn. The arrangement would be perfect for your crafts room or family room. Fill with guest soaps to make your guests feel welcome.
If you like the natural look, find some interesting bark such as sycamore or birch and arrange it along with some moss. Add colorful pebbles and dried flowers and tie a bow around the outside of your jar with raffia.
If you live at the beach or wish you did, fill your apothecary jars with natural-colored sand (either from the beach or from a pet shop) and add shells you have found at the shore. Stand curly willow twigs up in your sand for the look of a tiny beach in a jar.
Apothecary jars lend themselves to floral arrangements, with either fresh flowers, permanent botanicals, or a combination of both. Fill a jar with water and gently push a sprig of orchids completely under the water. This simple but dramatic arrangement is always impressive as it is easy to make. Floral foam is an aid in making more complex arrangements. If you use colored, or rainbow, foam it becomes part of the design. If you use drab green foam you will need to cover it with foliage, moss, colored paper, or powdered colored foam. Soak a piece of floral foam in water until it is slightly submerged. If you are using drab green foam cut it to a size that will fit into the bottom two inches of your apothecary jar with room on all sides. Cut fresh flower stems an inch from the bottom, at a slant. Place tall stems in the center of your container and arrange shorter stems all around. Make a paste of some powdered floral foam and press it around the inside of your jar, making sure to hide all the solid foam from view. If you use permanent botanicals there is of course no need for water, so you can use Styrofoam at the bottom, taking the same care to hide it from view. Turn your lid upside down and make a similar but shorter arrangement into it, then place it, still upside down, onto the top of your jar.
Apothecary jars by their nature evoke a feeling of cuteness and tradition, but there is no reason why they cannot be used for modern decorating as well. For a dinner party place a row of cylindrical apothecary jars of the same size full of colored water down the center like a row of soldiers. This will fit in with a modern glass home. To add drama, place a long mirror or runner beneath your jars.
Apothecary jars can hold holiday decorations which you can rotate with the seasons. For thanksgiving fill your jars with fall-colored leaves. Stand little pilgrim statues next to them. For Christmas use poinsettia and pine needles with white flocking, or fill with Christmas tree ornaments, Cinnamon sticks, Christmas candy, and gingerbread people go well too, and will look nice in the same room with a gingerbread house. For Hanukah alternate blue and silver layers of glitter from top to bottom of your jars and stand next them to the menorah. Make a gift of an apothecary jar by layering various kinds of coffee or tea through an apothecary jar and tie with a gift bow. After the recipient finishes the coffee or tea he or she will have a lasting decoration. At Easter fill your apothecary jars with lavender and yellow flowers or colored eggs and stand a bunny nearby. For a Mothers’ Day gift fill an apothecary jar with potpourri or permanent rose petals. For the Fourth of July your apothecary jars can hold red, silver, and blue stars.
I hope the above ideas have inspired your imagination. Now create something uniquely your own with your apothecary jars. Go to it.