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Hearts in Hand

February 14, 2014

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Happy Valentine’s Day, dear readers … please select your Valentine!

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Unable to pick just one? Same here! Happily, these heart-shaped tillandsia planters are super simple to make using just a few easily sourced materials. Here’s how I created them …

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The materials: The hearts were hand-molded from Crayola’s Air-Dry Clay. It’s inexpensive (less than $5 for a 5 lb. tub at Michael’s crafts supply), easy to work with (usable out of the tub) and doesn’t require firing or baking (finished pieces are simply left out to harden and dry). Additionally, the dried clay can be painted with almost any paint, no special glazes are needed. I added color to the hearts with metallic specialty paints from Martha Stewart’s Living line. Available in 10 oz. sample pots, they’re about $5 each at Home Depot. I ordered tillandsias online from Etsy vendor CTS Airplants (click here). At approximately $40 for all, they were the most expensive element of the project. The black wood shadowbox I used as a background was a One King’s Lane find I had laying around. I don’t even remember how much it cost, I bought it so long ago. I’m glad I did, too; it’s the perfect foil for the hearts and the tillandsias … the black, with a subtle sheen, and the simple circular opening really set off the rustic metal-look tickers and whimsical air plants.

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The project: It had been a long time since I last worked with clay of any type, so I was a touch apprehensive dipping my hands into its plastic tub. But my misgivings vanished quickly: The clay was so cool and pliable in my hands, I found myself having fun from the beginning. Beginning each piece I molded a lump of clay into a rough heart shape. Then, rolling, twisting, pinching, pressing and folding clay, I made new interesting shapes that were easily added to the hearts using a smooth “glue” of water and clay. While ostensibly decorative, these new shapes had to do more than look good, they’d also have to function as supports for the tillandsias to come … The time passed quickly and soon I realized I’d finished nine pieces! Setting the pieces on an open-mesh wire rack allowed air to circulate around them for drying. Thicker pieces took longer to dry than those that were smaller and thinner; all were fully dry after three days (see above).

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About the paint: I used metallics as a way of elevating each piece to the level of a small sculpture, rather than a kiddie craft project. The Martha metallic paints are terrific; they provide great coverage, in colors that closely approximate real metal finishes, including tones of copper, white gold, yellow gold, lead, pewter and graphite. One color — a pearly gray — seemed really gritty, and using it was like painting with wet sand … dried, I was surprised to see it had turned to glitter (it’s the heart at top left, that looks like twisted tree branches). Viewing all the hearts painted and fully dried, I though they looked fine. But I wanted more. So, to add depth and patina-like surface interest, I dry-brushed contrasting colors on some pieces, dripping red paint down the front of the yellow gold heart (see above).

Then more fun trying out each air plant with each heart, testing the support structures/decorative elements; matching or contrasting their colors and characteristics against those of the hearts, for maximum effect. When I’d hit on a winning combo I’d photograph it inside the shadow box.

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Originally, my plan was to do three to five hearts … that I ended up with nine should tip you off to how much I enjoyed this Valentine experience. I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing them and will consider making some of your own. Feel free to send me photos!

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18 Comments leave one →
  1. February 14, 2014 5:35 am

    ADORABLE!!! I love them, your art and you. XO Happy Valentine’s Day to you and Paul.

    • February 14, 2014 5:37 am

      I got ’em done, Guida! It took seeing your beaded tillandsia project to push me toward the finish line … Happy Valentine’s Day to you, too. 😉

  2. February 14, 2014 2:15 pm

    You are always doing something fabulous and how much fun this must have been! I bought about 1/2 a dozen Tillandsias from eBay that I have sitting on the window ledge in my kitchen. I have them placed on crystals, amethyst and rocks that I have collected from trips to Quartzsite, AZ. Now, back to your fantastic hearts… when are you going to have some classes so we can all come and play? Your step by step description is great, but it would be so much more fun to do it together… but, if that can’t happen, then I just might have to buy a tub of that clay and see what trans folds. Let the molding begin!

    • February 14, 2014 4:03 pm

      It’s so easy, WF, totally child’s play … just have fun, create elements that the tillandsias can perch on and you’re good-to-go … I know you’ll come up with something cool. Glad you like! 😉

  3. February 14, 2014 9:25 pm

    These are awesome–do you find the Crayola clay warps/shrinks while it dries? I was using some air-dry clay and there was some warping, which disappointed me…

    • February 14, 2014 9:55 pm

      Hey, V, thanks! There wasn’t a lot of warping, although there was some: The base hearts began flat but ended up a touch wonky after drying. Nothing I couldn’t work with, though. In the end, I want to squish more clay! 😉

  4. Vickie Perez permalink
    February 15, 2014 5:19 am

    These look like lots of fun. Again with the ideas. Again you’ve got me tempted to do more.
    It’s been quite a while since I’ve done any squishing. Compleately different from wire and dirt. Thanks again.Happy Valentine’s Day to the two of you.

    • February 15, 2014 5:23 am

      Aw,thanks, Vickie! It’s amazing what triggers these ideas … I’d seen a video of kids using this clay and I was on the case … and it was the squishing that sold me. Do some! 😉

  5. Vickie Perez permalink
    February 15, 2014 6:24 am

    I might. This clay looks like it’s pretty easy to work with and to dry. Might try it and I’ve got a really neat book on doughcraft that has some really cool ideas. Maybe do a comparison. Have had the book for years thinking I might get around to trying it out one day.

    • February 15, 2014 7:09 am

      Well, Vickie, I only decided to use this clay because a) no firing and b) no glazing … plus, you can even use markers like Sharpies, or some other permanent marker, on it once it’s dry … Just don’t do what I did and wait till the last minute, if you’re doing them as a holiday gift or something —— mine almost didn’t dry in time for Valentine’s Day!

  6. February 15, 2014 7:16 pm

    Could I have your approval to post this on twitter?

  7. Vickie Perez permalink
    February 16, 2014 5:04 am

    The next time I’m out and about I’m going to pick some up and give it a whirl. Again, thanks for your ideas.

  8. February 16, 2014 5:30 am

    Absolutely impossible to pick one, tho that first one is pretty striking. The second row might possibly be my favorites. I even like them in their “bisque” state!

    • February 16, 2014 5:33 am

      Thanks, Denise … I think the second row contains my favorites as well … although the second one in the first row, the one with the bluish cast … 😉

  9. Barbie permalink
    February 22, 2015 12:36 am

    Thank you for the instructions. I’m so excited to make containers like these for my succulents and I will post pictures!

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