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How to make a graceful decorative bowl with InstaMorph. Create any organic, free-flowing shape with a basic technique.

In this tutorial we will use a fun, inexpensive product called InstaMorph. It is a type of plastic that melts at very low heat (thermoplastic) and can be shaped into almost anything. Similar products called PolyMorph and Shapelock are also available. It is said to be safe and non-toxic when used per the manufacturer's directions.

For this project we will use a simple technique. We will heat some of the plastic and stretch it into long strings. Then we apply those strings to a warmed shape. When the strings of plastic cool, they keep the shape of the supporting form. With a little paint and/or glitter, we can make a very pretty decorative object for just pennies.

Related Links: Author krummery shows how to make a string bowl, and cathychen uses streamers to make a lightup jellyfish.

Step 1: Tools and Materials

Materials

  1. InstaMorph - This project uses the white pellet version of the product. You can buy blendable color packs and make your own custom colors.
  2. Paint - Cans of regular spray paint work well, and these are what we use for this project. The special paints for plastic work even better. But artists' acrylic paints and nail polish also work great on InstaMorph.

Tools

  1. Hot Water - We need something to melt the InstaMorph in. Hot water (well below the boiling point) is a great way to keep a supply of plastic melted and ready to work with. A crockpot slow-cooker works well to keep the water at a steady and safe temperature.
  2. (Optional) Toaster Oven - Ovens are great for heating both the shaping-forms and Instamorph. I use it to heat the form and to bring the applied strings of plastic to the melting point.
  3. (Optional) Hair Dryer - Great for keeping the strings of InstaMorph pliable.
  4. Pan or Tile - Something safe to place the hot form and plastic on. Can also be used in the toaster oven.
  5. Heat-safe Form - You need a shape to help you form the strings of plastic. Make sure the form is heat safe and that the melted plastic doesn't stick to it after cooling.
  6. Tongs or similar - helpful to pick up and manipulate the melted plastic.
  7. Scissors - To cut the strings to size

Step 2: Make Some Strings

You can create a free-form lace with strings of InstaMorph and form it into bowls, bracelets etc. Just stretch the warm plastic into strings, then drape the strings across a warmed form. Paint the resulting object to add some interest.

Make the Strings

Heat some InstaMorph pellets. (Always follow the manufacturer's instructions for safety) For this project, I used a small crockpot filled with water. I dumped a small scoop of plastic InstaMorph pellets into the heated water and waited for them to turn translucent and clear. The pellets clump together when they melt. Use the tongs to pull the melted mass of pellets out of the water. When they are cool enough to touch with your hands, roll them into a blob.

Pinch the warm ball and stretch the Instamorph. A string or streamer will form. The thickness and consistency of the strings will vary depending on the temperature of the plastic and how fast you stretch it. You can make streamers as thin as a hair, or thick like 1/4 inch ropes. Play around until you can make the types of strings you want.

Use scissors to cut the string away from the main ball of plastic. Since these strings are so thin, I use regular office scissors. Thicker pieces of plastic require shop tools like cutters or snips.

Reheat the left over clumps of Instamorph, then make another string.

When you have a collection of long strings, cut the strings into manageable sized lengths for your project. This project used 3 inch strings. For a larger project you might want to use longer strings.

Step 3: Form the Bowl

Forming Strings into Lace

Heat your "form" and begin to apply the strings to the form.

The heat from the form will make the strings pliable and somewhat adhesive. You can also use a hair-dryer or bowl of hot water to soften the strings. If the strings stop bending or adhering to the form, just pop the form (with strings still on it) back into your heat source for a moment.

Continue to do this until you have created the pattern you want. Make sure the individual strings adhere to each other to form a single surface. You can always stick the form and plastic back into the oven or water for a moment. Press the intersections of the strings to make sure they stick to each other. This is also a good technique to create a smooth flowy surface on all the strings.

Now, let the plastic cool until it returns to the milky white state and remove it from the form.

This project uses the metal bowl from a broken kitchen ladle. I know this object can take the heat and that the plastic will not stick to the surface once it cools. Make sure the form you use is heat safe and non-stick.

You can use the resulting bowl like it is now, or you can apply paints and finishes.

Step 4: Decorate and Enjoy

Finishing Touches

Add some paint or other decoration to your object. I wanted a combination bowl/dome to display natural objects in, so I chose some light green for the outside, lavender for the inside, and some metallic gold for the lip.

I prefer the spray paint meant for plastics, but any spray paint works for low abrasion tasks. I've also successfully used acrylics, model paints and even nail polish. The color scheme is up to you. Seal the paint with a clear-coat if you want to.

Let the paint dry and find some attractive natural objects to fill it with. Or use it as a base for a flower arrangement. I've even seen this used to make a dome for a hair-bun, just use some long hair-pins to secure it to the bun.

Have fun, and enjoy your new home décor creation.

<p>I'll definately put a picture up when I do make your bowl. Yes,organizing is so dull,&amp; it's not in my DNA!!!! I've never been very good at organizing!lol</p>
<p>I've got some of this plastic you used,but never thought of using it like this! This is too awsome&amp; thanks for the idea's you've planted in my brain just now by looking on this site. Right now I'm trying to organise my craft room,but as soon as I'm able I'm gonna try this!!!! Thanks,a whole new way to use plastic!</p>
<p>Thanks so much, that made my day. And yes, why did no one tell us we would spend half of our studio time ORGANIZING the studio. LOL </p><p>Have fun and post what you make, I want to see. Thanks again.</p>
Cool, how strong is it?
<p>Great question Greenman2. The short answer is VERY strong, but flexible. You can drop it or throw it across the room and it wouldn't break. I did a quick test. The bowl in this tutorial easily supports two 12x12x2 paving tiles, but I can bend the lips together easily by hand. (be sure to use plenty of heat so the strings meld into a single shape)</p><p>Part of this odd behavior is because of the dome shape, domes being an extremely strong, stable shape. Other shapes would behave differently. A cube made with this technique would collapse like a sponge. A very thin sheet could be worn as a necklace. Extremely thin strings would drape like a shawl.</p><p>The long technical answer is: PLA is extremely strong in tension and compression, but is very weak in flexure (bending). Those thin strings can take your finger off, and you can stand on a small block of it. But thin layers can be bent by hand easily, and anything less than a 1mm thick will sag even on short cantilevers.</p><p>But design with 2 or 3mm walls and PLA becomes very strong and structurally stable. It's the same material low-end 3D printers use, so check for tutorials on making stable shapes (rounded corners, braces and webbing etc.)</p><p>And as an added bonus, if the first design you try doesn't work well... just melt it again and make a totally new design for free.</p><p>Cheers </p>

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