kay, so you’re the happiest plant owner on the block because you are the mother or father to air plants. Now what? (Or, if you are confused what all this air plant business is about, you can start by reading my post about Air Plant 101.)
I think that phrase “Bloom where you’re planted” was coined specifically with air plants in mind. They scream contentment with every fiber as they are happy to grow pretty much anywhere – nestled into a little log, resting on top of pebbles, even hanging upside down like a jellyfish. There are plenty of ideas out there but, for my purposes, I knew I needed something that could hang on a wall and make a visual statement. I eventually settled upon creating some clay pots based on this excellent tutorial from Delia Creates, switching up just a few things to fit my vision. (As a side note, you could create these pots for other uses, too – I think they would make the most wonderful little jewelry holders or they could provide homes to office supplies like paper clips and rubber bands.)
Ordering air clay was the first step. I did all the research so you don’t have to! It looks like Crayola air clay is acceptable but there were some shaky reviews…I didn’t want to risk anything, so I eventually settled upon Activa Plus Natural Self Hardening Clay. One package (2.2 pounds) made about 4 pots…1 larger pot, 1 medium, and 2 small ones. I needed two packages to create homes for all 9 of my air plants.
Here’s the think about this clay: the initial color is tan/brown – it does NOT look the same color as it appears in the package photograph. At first I was alarmed, but my fears were alleviated as I watched it gradually turn white as it dried. (Since it’s air clay, you don’t even need to bake it. Major bonus!)
Here was my process. I pulled off a chunk of clay from the big block, eyeballing how much would be needed for the particular air plant I was working with (obviously, the bigger the air plant, the more clay necessary). I then worked that into a relatively smooth ball. There were still a few wrinkles and creases, which was fine.
The next part was the trickiest. I had to hollow out the middle of the ball – by pressing down with my thumbs and pushing outward – while making sure that the air plant fit inside properly. I also had to ensure that the bottom and the sides stayed nice and thick – since I was going to be carving away some of the clay later, this was especially important.
Some of the plants had wide bases or were more weighted on one side (making it trickier to get just the right shape for the middle of the pot).
Other plants were more manageable – like this little guy:
After the pot had been shaped, I took a toothpick and poked two holes on the opposing sides of the pot so that they could later be hung with fishing wire. If these pots were going to rest on a shelf, this step would be omitted.
Some of the pots needed to have higher brims while others needed to remain shallow. Sometimes I had to go back to the drawing board because the air plant toppled right out of my pot. I really think you need to have the actual air plants in front of you in order to make these properly.
Eventually, I had created the basic pots for each of my air plants. I loved them already and they weren’t even geometric and hipster and cool yet!
The next part was an exercise in patience. I simply had to let the air do its thing. See, the sides can’t be carved until the clay has hardened somewhat – the clay needs to be “set” enough that the knife creates clean lines but also still soft enough that you can cut through it. The sweet spot for this seems to be between 24-36 hours. I actually enjoyed cutting the clay when it was more on the hard side, pushing past 36 hours.
As you can see, I used our biggest knife for this. Alas, you probably won’t want to whip out this project for the next kid’s birthday party you’re throwing…
I cut straight slices across the top, bottom, and sides of the pots. (The insides stay plain and rather ugly until they get a splash of gold paint.) This part of the process required some muscle, but it felt like I was cutting a diamond as I watched the shavings fall away. It was SO SATISFYING. Look at all the shavings!
Here’s what a (nearly) finished pot looks like.
How sweet is this?!?!
My pots took another couple days to dry – in total, they can take anywhere from 3-7 days to fully dry. Once they were nearly there, I was ready for my final step of adding some gold paint to the inner bowls. I used this “glorious gold” acrylic paint and was happy with the color and coverage. Equally as important, this paint is water resistant (even though I remove the air plants from the pots when I water them, they still have some droplets on them when I place them back in their homes).
The transforming power of paint is just so. so. cool.
I let the paint dry and then these were finally complete!
If you haven’t played with clay for awhile – or ever – I really think you’ll find this project therapeutic. I suddenly have an intense desire to make cute pots for every surface of our home…but, seeing as I have a million other projects still on deck, I’ll live vicariously through you.
Tune in next week for the grand reveal of how these air plants look hanging on the wall of our bedroom. Spoiler alert: they made a blank wall look MUCH more fun.
(*The links in this post are affiliate links – meaning that if you purchase through them, the cost to you is the same but I get a tiny commission. Thank you so much for supporting this creative work!)