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.
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.