Wednesday, January 27, 2016

DIY Air Dry Clay Flowers (Plus Tips for Custom Clay Tinting)

This week's Wednesday DIY is all about making your own hand-shaped air dry clay flowers.  The same techniques can also be used for other clays, fondant icings, etc (except for the tinting, of course!).  You can buy pre-tinted dry clay (which can be mixed for custom colours) or tint your own custom colours using small amount of water-based paints, chalk pastel, or even powder/gel food colouring. White air dry clay is an affordable craft material and I like the ability to customise my shades to mix and match tints and hues.  Tinting can be messy business, so choose a suitable workspace and prepare to get your hands VERY dirty (or wear gloves if you wish).  Simply knead your clay to soften, and then incrementally add colour and knead it in thoroughly.  Tips: You may find it helpful to make a little indent and fold the colouring into the clay and be sure to wash your hands between mixing dissimilar colours to avoid unwanted mixing.

Small air dry clay flowers can be hand shaped using minimal (if any) tools.  The image above shows step-by-step thumbnails of my example flowers being made using the different techniques below:
  • Petals can be easily handformed by flattening a small ball of clay. Simply smoosh the ball for a rounded/natural petal shape, make it oblong and smoosh for a more elongated petal, or pince at one end before flattening for a tapered petal. To simulate curled edges, use your fingertip off center to unevenly flatten. For a curled petal, after flattening, you can pinch together the base. 
  • Centers can be as simple as a small ball of clay. Depending on your flower style, you can leave it round, flatten it, dimple it (poke with a small sharp object, like a toothpick or pin) or wrap it in band of a contrasting colour.  To simulate stamens, roll tiny canes of clay, cut to length, layer under your center, and curve up by hand after positioning.  Fluffy centers can also be created using the same technique as narrow multi-petal flowers below.
  • Flowers can be created in many ways, so experiment and have fun!  Simple flowers can be created by layering petals one by one and topping with a centre.  If you wish to simulate a center in each petal, indent each petal with a small knife after positioning it in the layer build-up. More complex layered flowers can be created by working from the center out (e.g. rosebud) or using a combination a closed center using pinched petals atop a more open outer layer. Narrow multi-petaled flowers like daisies, osteospermum, asters, mums, dahlias, etc can be created by hand rolling out a cane of clay, rolling it lengthwise to flatten (cylindrical object), trimming it if/as needed (either a small knife or a pasta cutter), slicing it into a fringe (small knife), and then rolling it up (on itself or around a center).  Alternatively, you can roll a flat sheet of clay, cut out a small flower-sized circle, and trim the circle in a fringe towards the center.  Tips: Petals on a flower often differ slightly in colour, so use a combination of slightly different tints and hues for a more natural look. If you are having difficulty with stickiness, a little bit of water on the connecting surfaces can help.

To have a safe clean place to set my clay projects as I finish sculpting, I like to pre-prep a small plate by covering it in cling-wrap. This is also an ideal place to do any fine touch-ups before-during drying, like carefully using a wet fingertip or brush to smooth out little cracks and defects.  Drying time will depend on your clay and the ambient conditions, but small objects are generally pretty quick. How durable your finished flowers will be depends on size, shape/detail, and also the type of clay you used - some are much more resilient than others. If you need something durable, select your air-dry clay carefully or consider using polymer clay.

After you leave them to dry completely, how you use your new clay flowers is totally up to you!  They make cute little embellishments for upcycling photo frames or gift/trinket boxes.  Sturdier flowers can be attached with a little contact adhesive or glue to magnet bases, bobby pin bases, paperclip bases, etc.  Tip: Remember, most air dry clays are not water-resistant, so coat/seal after drying if there is a chance that your creation might be exposed to moisture. They're often a little more fragile than polymer clays, so take care when crafting/using your creations.

I have a bit of a flower-fetish going on at the moment, and have been creating a whole variety of different flower-power inspired DIYs to share with you every Wednesday (our new DIY day in the weekly blog plan) from now through to Valentine's Day.  Stay tuned for more!

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