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by Sue Heaser

A recent trip to Italy left me spellbound with Italian garden design. The lavish villas are often set in gardens that are formal and beautiful with a luscious combination of vistas, steps, pavings and plants. One feature that occurred regularly, even in simple gardens, was the use of large pots for small ornamental trees to make an attractive feature, often on either side of a doorway. This project is for a pair of Italian style fruit trees, a lemon and an orange. They make delightful ornaments in their own right or can be set on either side of a doll's house front door (click picture for a Larger View).

Garden twigs are used for the tiny trunks and leaf making is speeded up by using a simple stamp made of clay. Instead of the fruit, you could use small rolls of pink or crimson clay for a standard rose bush. The pots are made using the stone effect clay, Sculpey Granitex, which is so useful for simulating stone in miniature. I use my technique of "pottting" the clay to make realistic mini pots.

EQUIPMENT

  • A craft knife (Exacto) , preferably with a curved blade.
  • A large wool needle.
  • Several knitting needles, pencils or round paintbrush handles, ranging in size from 1/8 in (3 mm) to about 1/2 in (13 mm) to use for "potting" the clay.
  • Talcum powder.
  • A charm or an engraved teaspoon to decorate the pots.
  • A smooth sided jam jar for a rolling pin (or a pasta machine!)
MATERIALS
  • Polymer Clay: Leaf green, carmine, orange, yellow, dark brown, Grey Sculpey Granitex (or Fimo stone effect - granite.)
  • Mixture: orange leaf = leaf green + trace of carmine
  • Foil
  • Cocktail sticks
  • Wire brush or a fine nylon sieve
  • Green and brown acrylic paints
  • Fine sandpaper
  • A small potato cut in half to spike the cocktail sticks into while the foliage bakes
  • Two thin twigs, about 1/8 in (3 mm) thick.
  • Superglue
  • PVA glue
  • Coffee grounds
THE POTS

Fig. 1 Figure 1.
Form two balls of the stone clay, each 1 in (25 mm) diameter. Pierce the centre of one with the wool needle, only pushing the needle halfway down. Hold the needle horizontally on the board as shown and move it from side to side so that the ball rotates like a wheel on the needle. Press down lightly as you do this and the hole will begin to enlarge. When it is about 1/8 in (3 mm) wide, replace the needle with a thin paintbrush handle (or knitting needle) that has been dusted with talc to make it slip and repeat, enlarging the hole further. Replace with a larger tool and so on until the walls of the pot have thinned, taking care you do not push the tool right through the bottom of the pot. The pot needs to be just over 1 in (25 mm) tall and the same diameter. This process, which I call "potting" takes a little practice but once you have mastered it, you can make many different vessels in polymer clay. Periodically upend the pot on the board and press it down to flatten the rim. For a pot of this size, my final potting tool is the handle of a household paintbrush, about 1/2 in (13 mm) thick.

Fig. 2 Figure 2.
Now you can decorate the pot by impressing it with the handle of an engraved teaspoon or a charm and marking a rim with indentations. Support the inside of the pot with your finger as you press the outside. Do not worry if it is a little irregular - that adds rustic charm! Repeat for the other pot and bake both for 10 minutes at 265 F/130 C. Fill each pot with scrap clay and then press on a disk of dark brown clay, leaving a 1/8 in (3 mm) space at the top of the pot. Pierce a hole down the centre of the "soil", wide enough to take the twig base. Bake again for 10 minutes. Rub a little brown and green acrylic paint into the impressions in the pots and then sand lightly. This ages them nicely.

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