I recently saw some really realistic and lovely clay flowers and decided I’d play around with trying to make some myself. It’s clearly a craft that will take time and practice to come even within hailing distance of mastering. So far I’ve finished a grand total of one flower using a light-weight, air dry clay. I have no idea if this is the best clay to use. I wanted to use something light-weight, because I hope to eventually attach the flowers to painted canvases or painted wood, to hang up on the walls for decoration. I figure the lighter the flower, the better that plan will work.
Before starting, I watched some video tutorials produced by YuYi Clay here and here, and read a tutorial by Centsational Girl. The YuYi Clay flowers are colored and quite lovely and realistic, with very thin, shaped petals, and leaves with texture. The person making the flowers uses a lot of tools and cutters. The Centsational Girl flower is pure white, and has a charming modern, contemporary look, with thicker, more free-form petals, and is made just using the artist’s hands and a butter knife.
I had none of the tools shown in the YuYi Clay videos, but I was intrigued by aspects of both designs, so I combined the two methods. I figured that since I’m just getting started and playing around, I can do whatever I want. (My way is really more of an experiment than a method, I must admit.)
First of all, I had decided to try to make a more realistic looking flower, but have it be pure white. Unfortunately, despite having washed my hands before beginning, I handled and played with the clay a lot before finally beginning the actual flower, so it got a few flecks of dirt in it, and leaving it white isn’t going to be the best option. I am going to try to paint it at a later date.
I chose the same clay used in the Centsational Girl tutorial, mainly because it was easily found and didn’t need to be special ordered, and because it is light-weight and doesn’t need to be baked. I found that even with moistened hands, the clay was a bit sticky, so I decided to use a plastic sheet protector, as depicted by the YuYi Clay videos.
I first made a ball of clay, flattened in, put it in the sheet protector, and tried rolling it into a smooth sheet with a can of soup, which didn’t work very well. So I cut the plastic sheet protector to a smaller size and ran it all through an old pasta maker, which also didn’t work very well, alas, alas.
As you can see, things were looking grim. And the clay was getting dirtier and dirtier, despite being inside the sheet protector. (How does dirt manage to do that? It’s most vexing.)
Still, I decided to proceed for two reasona:
1) I am impatient, and,
2) The first go at anything is always a bit rough and imperfect. (Right? I’m surely not alone in this experience… right?)
I used a pin tool I had on hand to roughly cut out tear-drop shaped ‘petals’, removed the excess clay, closed the plastic back over the petals, and used the barrel of the pin tool to roll the outer edges of the petals to a thinner, rougher looking shape.
I made a small ball of clay, about pea-sized, and then started peeling up the petals, using the smaller ones first, and wrapping the tapered ends around the ball. (I’d have taken photos, but I lack a third hand, sorry.) I kept adding petals and working my way around the flower. I used the pin tool to carefully separate the petals a little bit and to try to shape some curves and waves into them. This part actually went pretty well, which was encouraging. I finally ended up with the flower below, which is a little out of focus in the photo. (Maybe you could try to think of it as a lovely film effect, used by filmmakers with fabulous actresses of a certain age, rather than simply poor photo skills on my part.) At any rate, ta-da!
I ended up cutting off the bottom of the petals fairly close to flush with the base of the flower, to make it easier to glue to a flat surface later.
I left the flower out all night and it was dry this morning. The clay looks quite nice in white, but, as I said, parts of it are flecked and smudged, so I will end up painting it. It is very light-weight and I think if I glue it to a wood-reinforced corner of one of my painted canvases, it would probably hold up. I think the center of the canvas wouldn’t hold the weight, unless reinforced in some way from behind.
This type of clay is very brittle at the thin edges of the petals, so I think much handling might prove fatal to the flower. (The thickness and texture of the petal ends reminds me of a food that I sadly have not eaten in years: Lay’s Potato Chips. Anyone who has ever had one of these delicious chips will be able to picture what I’m saying.)
I am planning on ordering some of the YuYi Clay and seeing how it is to work with. Maybe trying to assemble some cutters and other tools, as well. And I’m planning on trying for some more flowers with this same clay, made in a heavier thickness, more like the Centsational Girl flower. I’ll try to take (focused) photos and post them when I finish.
If anyone with some experience in this type of craft has any suggestions, I’d be most pleased to read them in the comments!