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