How-to Make Clay Decorations
Clay decorations are beautiful additions to a Christmas Tree. I love the sophisticated look of white with the hand made charm of these ornaments. To make these decorations you'll need some air dry clay, this can purchased at Discount Stores or at some newsagents. I love this clay, it's super easy to work with and doesn't acutally need baking, they also don't break them if you drop them, we dropped several on our concrete floor and no problem! Some of the ones above have a metallic paint on them which I bought from Kmart and I used a jute string to hang them.
You can paint them all or leave them all white, or just do a random selection like above. It really depends on your style. I use these on my tree mixed with a few other hand made items and some special store bought ones. I am a bit of a nut when it comes to our Christmas tree, I like it to be aesthetically beautiful, I'm not the mummy who lets the kids go crazy, although I get this approach, it doesn't suit my design and colour skills and love of interiors. I let the kids put up whatever decorations they want in their own rooms so they can appreciate them and leave the main tree pretty and stylish. To each their own! If you do like the kids decorations get them in on making these ones, they'll love it!
The clay comes in 500gms or 1kg packs, it's kind of a mixed paper pulp so it dries in the air or you speed this process up by putting it in a cool oven, this is how I do it. To make, cut a piece of the clay about 1-2 inches thick and then wrap the pack back up so it doesn't dry out. Roll this with a rolling pin until it's about 4-5mm thick, then cut out with cookie cutters, keeping each one next to the other, to save clay, it's best not to keep rolling this clay again and again as it will get different dry parts and the more you roll it out, the more of these marking's you'll see on the finished product, they look like different shades of white but not in a good way. You don't need water to work this clay, but you will use a tiny bit in the next step.
Once you've cut out a batch of decorations, roll the left over clay into a ball and wrap until you roll it out again to protect it from drying out as much as possible, if its' already starting to change colour either dispose of it or use this for the kids to muck around with or simply paint those ones. Take a clay tool, or a skewer and leaving the clay on the table, dip your skewer or tool into a little water and then smooth the edge of the clay as you'll notice a little of the clay looks 'hairy', it's the fibers in the clay and they look quite messy if you don't smooth the edges down. Then put a hole for the string in the top, making sure this is large enough that when it bakes it doesn't close the hole up. Lift these with a spatula and give a quick smooth to the back edges too, line a baking tray with baking paper and place the clay a little apart from each other, it won't get bigger but you don't want them sticking together. Bake in the preheated oven at 100 degrees celsius or 200 degrees farenheit. Leave the clay until it is dry, about 30 minutes or so depending on the thickness an size of the ornaments, the white clay looks a little grey when it's wet and will be quite white when it's dry. You can also buy a terracotta coloured clay.
If you wish to emboss your clay or put letters into it, do this before you cut our your shapes. To emboss with a doily, you'll need a fabric doily, roll your clay a little thicker like 6-7mm then place the doily onto the rolled out clay, roll over the doily with the rolling pin, which will emboss the pattern and also make the clay a little thinner as you roll. Remove the doily and repeat if you wish, I like to leave plain spaces on the ornaments, rather than all embossed, to do this, put the doily in the centre of your clay piece and when using your cutters, use some of the markings by placing the cutter half on the embossed part and half of the plain part. Again, smooth and put holes in your clay pieces before baking.
Quick tip for flat ornaments: bake slowly between 50-100 C or 150-200 F and turn them over around half way though so they don't twist whilst baking.
You can also use rubber stamps to make markings on your clay. You can use these to simply emboss the stamp on the clay before baking or you can press the stamp into a stamp pad with colour and then press this into the clay which will leave that colour once it's baked, embossing and decorating at the same time!
Once dry, remove from the oven and transfer onto a wire rack to cool before painting or adding string. You can also add glitter to these ornaments or use hot glue to glue other special items like gemstones to them. Of course you can chose all kinds of gorgeous ribbons if you like too, chose red for a traditional Christmas feel or green if you want them traditional but blending in to your tree. You could also go gold or silver or even white for a more luxe feel.
These decorations are gorgeous on a Christmas tree, or as name tags for Christmas Gifts, you can even emboss the names onto the clay. They are lovely as a detail wrapped around Christmas napkins for the table, or to hang on a bottle of wine as a gift. You can make them to decorate your door wreath or mantle or even as coasters for drinks if you can get them flat enough, which can take a little practice. You can even make little ones to use as necklaces.
This is a great activity to do with your kids or maybe grab some girlfriends and use your imagination to create some decorations together and have a catch up at the same time. If you have a little portable oven it's great to use, otherwise please don't cook food in the same oven at the same time or just after without allowing time for the fume to release, the fumes are a bit toxic and actually quite smelly, so good venitlation is a great idea too. If you're doing loads like I have done before it can be a bit harsh on eyes so please allow for ventilation. Otherwise, allow to air dry to avoid this all together.
Have a fab time making these, they're sure to be future heirlooms and perhaps making them could become a tradition. A group of mums and kids got together and made them for our school Christmas fete, bringing in quite a good amount of cash as a school donation. Whatever you do, enjoy!
Love, Kate x