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How To Make Your Own Clay Garden Art

Fall Festivites – Volume .1 Fun With Clay

Well, It’s that time of year again…it’s time to say goodbye to Fall and officially welcome in Winter (here in the United States at least.) I hope this Fall was full of many rich and wonderful creative endeavors for you.

This Fall I took a break from some of the traditional painting I do and got my hands dirty! I held a small clay workshop and I had a blast creating clay garden art.

This is a great project to do alone or with a group of friends that like getting their hands into things and that love decorating gardens. (Make sure if you are doing this with children they are well supervised)

How To Make You’re Very Own “Leaf Face” Clay Garden Art

What you will need:

  • A nice colorful Fall leaf for inspiration
  • 1 box of Laguna Ovencraft Clay
  • Some Clay Tools (Household items do just fine, i.e. toothpicks, nails, X-ACTO knife,
    kitchen knives…get creative, there are lots of things that work great as clay tools)
  • A clean surface to work on, like a wooden board, or newspapers on a table
  • Acrylic paint and a few paintbrushes
  • A good sealant, like DecoArt’s “Triple Thick Brilliant Brush-On Gloss Glaze”
  • A garden stake, shepherds hook rod or get creative and use a real stick (you will use this to attach your garden art to)
  • A small dish of water
  • A oven and a few days ☺

The best part about this project is that you get to start by taking a nature walk to look for good Fall leaves! If you don’t have any trees in your neighborhood, take a little Fall drive….or take a trip to your local park. I’ve also found grocery store parking lots seam to have a plethora of leafy material, at least where I live. (What you have no leaves at all? You live in a desert wasteland or a frozen tundra?? Okay…just use the image of mine as a reference or google one ;)

(Are you incredibly visual? Hate reading text? How did you make it this far?? :) Click Here to bypass all of that and watch a movie instead)

Otherwise….uuhumm…shall we proceed?

Once you’ve snagged your beautiful inspiration, get all of your supplies out and get into that clay!

Start by cutting the amount of clay that you will need to shape into your leaf, about the size of a large cube of butter or so.

Use your hands to shape the clay roughly into the shape of the leaf you are trying to re-create. Make sure the amount of clay you have is large enough to fit your actual leaf onto it.

Now take your leaf and press it onto your clay, use your fingertips to press the veins on the leaf onto your clay, so that it will make an impression of the leaf on your clay.

Take an X-ACTO knife or sharp kitchen knife and cut out the edges of your leaf on your clay. Use the edges of your leaf to guide you as you cut out your shape or you can just eyeball it. Just get the general shape of your leaf cut out, you can define the edges of it later. After you get your shape cut out, take a toothpick or a nail and carve and define the veins of your leaf into your clay.

Take another small amount of clay and form it into an oval shaped ball, rolling it in your hands. It should be about one inch or so in diameter.

Start shaping your leaf face, using your fingers to create indents for the eyes, nose and mouth area.

Use a clay tool, like a nail or toothpick to dig out the eye sockets and define the nose area.

Take two more small pieces of clay and shape them into two small balls for the cheeks.

If you need to, wet the area with water with your fingers to smooth and attach the cheeks; then blend them into the face.

Make two small spheres and a small snake like shape out of your clay and attach them to the face of your leaf head to create the nose. Use one small sphere on either side of the snake like shape as nostrils and the snake shape will become the bridge of the nose.

Use your fingers or a clay tool to attach the nose to the face. A toothpick works great; using a rolling motion.

Also a small amount of water works really well to adhere the clay to itself and a toothpick is perfect to create nostril holes in your leaf heads nose.

Use and X-ACTO knife or a kitchen knife to make definition on your leaf face. Cut a slit for the mouth, lines for wrinkles and eyebrows. Cut an almond shape in your clay face for each eye socket; hollowing out the area for a clay eyeball.

Create two small spheres for each eyeball, and use your fingers or a toothpick to insert them into the almond shape cavities you created in your leaf head for the eye sockets.

Use a clay tool to make a hole in the middle of each eyeball. This gives the illusion of a pupil once it is finished and painted black. Finish your clay face by defining it with your tools, shape the eyebrows, make crows-feet face wrinkles and define the lips. Shape and work on the face until you are happy with it. Remember there is no right or wrong here, just what you like!

Take the clay face in your hands and hold it looking at its profile, cut off any access clay, making the shape of the head a half circle. Score the smooth side of the face, as well as the area you want to attach the head to.

Wet the scored area of the clay with your fingers and attach the two pieces of clay together.

Once you have attached your face to the leaf, smooth the area around the face with your fingers, until the two pieces become one.

Now define the outside edges of your leaf, using an X-ACTO knife or a kitchen knife, as well as the veins of your leaf with a toothpick or a nail along with anything else you want to highlight.
On the back of your leaf, you will want to attach something to hang it up with, like a picture hanger. This is easy, just score the area you want to attach the picture hanger and use a small piece of clay, moistened and laid over the hanger. (You will see an example of this later on, on the finished product.)

Finally, carve your initials on the back of your creation along with the date and set it aside in a safe place dry.

You will need to let your clay garden art completely dry before baking it. This can take up to several days. Keep your creation in a warm dry place; you will know it is dry when it is no longer cool to the touch. Follow the instructions on your Ovencraft clay and you can’t go wrong!

Once your clay creation is completely dry, you are ready to bake your magnificent garden art!
Use a standard kitchen oven (no microwaves). An adult should oversee the entire, one-hour, baking period. Set your oven at 350 F, and follow the instructions and warnings on the OvenCraft carton. (Excessive temperature can generate irritating gas and smoke that should be ventilated from the room immediately.)

After following the instructions on the Laguna Ovencraft clay, and allowing your clay creation to completely cool in the oven, it should be a spotted reddish color and hard.

You are now ready to paint your clay garden art!!! You can use anything on your Ovencraft clay that you can use on wood, i.e. varnish, lacquer and paint.

Okay….now the really exciting part for me…_the painting_! Grab that gorgeous leaf you picked up on your, oh so serene nature walk, and absorb the colors and textures.

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Have a good time painting your leaf, remember there is no right or wrong…just enjoy yourself! I used Liquitex Basics acrylic paint and mixed colors like green, yellow, brown, black and white. Let yourself flow and create the color scheme that draws you the most. Another tip, I used a darker color in the veins to give it some depth, but a lighter color is also really cool looking. Experiment!

After you have finished painting your leaf garden art, allow the acrylic paint to completely dry.

Once your paint has thoroughly dried, it’s time to seal your garden art! I used DecoArt’s Triple Thick Gloss Glaze, but you can use any type of sealant, from matt to gloss that works with the type of paint you used on your project. (Always use oil based sealants with oils and polymer/water based sealants with acrylic)
If your garden art will be exposed to various types of weather, I would suggest a thick sealant, like the “Triple Thick” gloss.

If you use the “Triple Thick” sealant, allow 24 hours time for it to cure and make sure you seal your entire leaf, including the sides and the back of it.

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The final step is to attach your leaf face clay garden art to a garden stick or metal Sheppard’s hook. I actually got a small metal rod at a local hardware store, bent it with pliers and used florists wire to attach the clay leaves to the rods.
For an extra special little touch, I wrapped my metal rods with grape vines and secured them with the same green florists wire.

The beauty of this project is there are no “right” or “wrongs”. Be creative and use your imagination and perhaps you will invent a whole new way to display and enjoy your very own leaf face clay garden art!

“Thank you so much for enjoying this project with me! I hope you have had a wonderful Fall and that you are gracefully entering into this Winter season.” – Carrie Jackson

Journal Comments

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