Life

DIY home hack: how to make your own vase and candle holders out of air dry clay

DIY interiors have never been more trendy. Fashion editor Harriet Davey talks us through her new-found lockdown talent: making candle holders, vases and planters from air dry clay.

Since lockdown, some days my biggest achievement is having enough milk for my cereal and other days it can be finding a new hobby. A lot of my time has been spent buying and upcycling furniture this year (in true Art Attack style, here’s a step-by-step I prepared earlier) and now I’ve moved onto clay. This may be because I’m slowly running out of room for said furniture, but it’s also because I wanted to try and recreate some pieces I’ve spotted online, for less. Scrolling to find lesser-known interior sites is also something I do now, smaller brands and sellers on Etsy are great places to search for inspiration. Along with Pinterest, of course. What I started to notice is that a lot of the homeware I liked were little candle holders, vases and planters that I thought may be easy to do myself. So, for the first time since I was about 7-years-old, I got some clay.

It seems as though I’m not alone in my lockdown arts and crafts adventure. Influencers on Instagram have also been showing off their DIY creations – from candlesticks to pots. 

Sophie – the creator of ceramics account @sophie.ceramica – even did an Instagram stories takeover for Mango to show everyone at home how to make her creations – she’s one to look to for inspiration. 

With bright candles being a firm interior favourite lately, Mafalda also created some candlesticks to show them off. To create your own clay pieces this is everything you should use.

What you will need:

  • White air dry clay (1kg)
  • Clay tool kit
  • Rolling pin
  • Mug with a dash of water
  • Paint brushes
  • Different sized glasses
  • Ruler
  • Chopping board
  • Grease proof paper
  • Paint (I used acrylic) 
Clay tools
Clay tools

Most of the items you need you should find around your home – below you’ll find shopping links to the exact clay and tools I used.

MY FIRST ATTEMPT

So, here’s how I started my foray into DIY homeware. I started saving screenshots of home accessories I liked and searched Pinterest for ceramics and other pottery to see which styles I could try with air dry clay. It only costs £4, it dries within 24-72 hours and you can get it in white so it’s easy to paint.

For my first attempt I made six little candle holders and vases with the 1kg of air dry clay. As soon as you open the clay it’s best to pull off the amount you need and close the bag (it starts to dry as soon as the air hits it). Next, knead the ball you’ve pulled out in your hands for a couple of minutes to make it slightly softer – this makes it easier to shape. I haven’t got any pictures of me making these ones as I didn’t know I would love them as much as I do.

Once the clay has been shaped into your desired DIY item (candle holder? vase? the world is your oyster) and smoothed, leave them out to dry on grease proof paper. This is vital, you really don’t want them to stick to the chopping board, trust me. Leave them to dry for around 48 hours and, once dry to the touch (you’ll also see they change from a greyish colour to white), they can be painted.

I used acrylic paint (from eBay, here) because they give a bold strong colour. If you want a softer finish you could use watercolour paint or for streak-free you can also try spray paint. Add candles or wild flowers to your new creations, sit back and admire.

First set of clay before painting
First set of clay before painting
Finished clay
Finished clay

Making the clay was not only satisfying to see the end result it was also so relaxing. So much so, I ordered my second lot before the paint had even finished drying. This is how I made a simple candle holder. 

HOW TO MAKE A CLAY CANDLE HOLDER

Measure the rolled out clay
Measure the rolled out clay

Step one: Roll the clay out onto a chopping board with a rolling pin. Place a glass on the clay and use as a stencil for the circle base. Cut round the edges of the glass with one of the pointed tools and you’ll be left with a cut out circle. To smooth the edges of the circle base simply use your fingers or one of the wooden tools in the kit. 

Step two: Time to make the part that will hold the candle. Take another piece of clay and roll it out into a long rectangular shape. Place the ruler on the clay and cut along one side using the pointed tool. This should leave you with one straight edge. Next, measure a couple of centimetres wide from the straight edge all the way along and use the tool to cut another straight edge. You should then be left with a long strip (see below). 

Score the edges to attach pieces together

Step three: Wrap the strip around the base of the candle and cut off to fit slightly loosely. Note: I learnt that the clay shrinks slightly once it dries so leave a bit of room around the candle base so it still fits in. Next, use the left over clay strip to wrap around the circle base to fit snugly and cut off the excess clay. 

Step four: To stick these three pieces together, mix a small piece of clay with some water in a mug to form a paste that can work as glue. Tip: it’s best to score each side you’re sticking together before applying the mixture to help it stick. 

Clay candle holder ready to be painted
Clay candle holder ready to be painted

Step five: Once these pieces are all stuck together dip your fingers in the mixture and use your hands to smooth the edges.

Step six: Now it’s time to dry. Carefully move the pieces over to another chopping board covered in grease proof paper. After 24 hours, turn the candle holder upside down to dry the base, this should take another 24 hours so around 48 hours in total but until it feels completely hard.

Step seven: When dry, it’s ready to paint. I’ve got a cobalt blue candle so I decided to do a colour clash use acrylic paints make the candle holder butter yellow and pastel pink. You can choose which ever colour suits your space. 

And you’re done!

HOW TO MAKE A CLAY PLANTER

Add clay around the plant pot
Add clay around the plant pot

I bought this little pink and green nerve plant (I’m also obsessed with house plants since lockdown) and I wanted to make a planter for it with legs. This is how to do it. 

Step one: Roll out the clay with a rolling pin on a chopping board. Place a glass (big enough to fit the top of your plant pot) onto the clay. Use a pointed tool to cut round the glass to create the circle base of your planter.

Step two: For the sides, roll out another piece of clay into a long rectangular shape. Measure the height of your plant pot with a ruler and mark this along your clay to create a long strip. With one of the knife tools, cut along the markings to create two straight edges. You should then have a long piece of even clay to fit around your plant pot. 

Step three: Wrap this around the plant to check the fit (remember to do it slightly bigger as it will shrink) and cut off the excess. To fix the sides to the circle base and to attach the sides to each other I used the scoring technique. Tip: to make it more secure merge the pieces until smooth using the curved tool in the picture above. 

Attach legs by scoring the clay
Attach legs by scoring the clay

Step four: For the legs, roll out a sausage shape and cut three equal pieces. Turn the pot upside down and decide where you want your legs to sit. Score the base where you want them and the top of each leg and use the clay paste to join them together. 

Step five: Use one of the curved tools to merge the legs into the base slightly to help them merge and be strong enough to hold the plant. 

Step six: Now, it’s time to dry. Move the planter onto a chopping board with grease proof paper and keep the pot upside down for the legs to dry first. After 24 hours flip it over to dry the inside, too. 

Step seven: This one may take slightly longer to dry so allow 72 hours until the legs are sturdy. Once dry, paint with acrylic paint. You can also use a toothbrush or strong paint brush to flick different coloured paint onto the planter. Tip: if you want it to look shiny instead of matte, add a glaze or a clear gloss. And voilà, your planter is complete. 

I also made some more candlesticks and holders – here’s the finished result…

Completed clay
Completed clay

I’m definitely no expert, this is just what I taught myself and experimented through trial and error to work out how to make the pieces I wanted. They’re not perfect but I actually like the look when they’re a bit more rustic. My next clay should be here any day now so I’m going to try and make a jewellery dish and ring stand. Youtube has some handy tutorials if you find it easier to follow a step-by-step. 

These are also some great accounts to follow on Instagram for inspiration: 

Opening image: Unsplash

Other images: Harriet Davey and Instagram

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