Introduction: DIY Airplant Terrarium and Sculpey Cow Skull

If you're a plant enthusiast like me, then you've probably run into air plants before. They're pretty affordable, low maintenance, and look great in glass bulbs like these. At the same time, there are other even lower maintenance things you can do that look great too. In this tutorial I will show you how to sculpt a little decorative cow skull that you can add to any similar no-maintenance terrarium.

Step 1: Materials

You will need:

  • Sculpey/fimo and access to an oven (or clay if you have a kiln)
  • Some sort of glass container (whether or not you want to hang it is up to you)
  • Pebbles or sand
  • Some dead ol' twigs
  • A tool with a rounded end about a quarter to a half inch across (I used the end of a paintbrush)
  • A tool to cut (I just used a sharp knife)
  • A tool to poke (I used a kebab skewer)
  • A brush and acrylic Paint: some sort of white or ivory, and brown
  • Possibly some clear sculpey varnish if you want to waterproof it.

Gather your materials. These glass bulbs are pretty ubiquitous these days, and can be found all over the place. These particular ones are actually meant for candles, but work great for this purpose as well. You can buy decorative pebbles at most plant shops, but you can always go out hunting for them as well. Alternatively, sand would give it a nice wild west/desert feel. I found the twigs in my back yard.

Step 2: Form the Basic Shape

Find some sculpey and make a ball. It doesn't really matter how big you make it, but mine was about an inch and a bit wide. Take your ball of sculpey and squish and pull it into a sort of triangle shape, letting the base flatten out against the table. If sticking is a problem, you may want to use a piece of parchment paper. Make a slight indent between the points where the horns will go, and keep the snout fairly rounded.

Step 3: Create the Eye Sockets

Now take your tool with the rounded end (in my case the paintbrush), and hollow out the eye sockets on either side of the skull. Try not to go too deep, or you'll lose structural integrity. You can now use your fingers to make slight indentations on either side of the "bridge" of the snout by pinching just below the eyes.

Step 4: Create the Snout

Now it's time to make the nose. Take your poking tool and make two holes on the snout, and then pick up your knife. Cut just between these holes and pull the blade down through the sculpey to the table. You're essentially splitting the end of the snout in half. Now take the two halves and pinch them together along the line you just cut. You should still be able to see the line you created.

Step 5: Create the Horns

Time for the horns! Go back to your sculpey and make two small balls. There's no ideal size, so you may have to eyeball it and make the horns a few times until the proportions are right. To create a horn, place the ball against the table and pinch and roll the top of the ball until you have a sort of cone shape. I suggest that you leave the cones a little shorter at this time so that you can lengthen the tips of the horns once they are already attached.

Step 6: Attach the Horns

Attaching the horns can be tricky, so try to be as gentle as possible. Using your knife or poking tool, scratch the base of each horn, and then the surface where you will be attaching them on either side of the skull. Once you have attached the horns and smoothed out the place where they join, you can pinch and roll the end of each horn to more of a tapered point, curling it in slightly.

Step 7: Add the Final Details

Now you just have to add the last little details. Take your poking tool and make two small holes on top of the skull between the eyes (as seen in the picture titled step eight). Now grab your knife and make two shallow cuts from each of these holes up diagonally towards the horns. Finally, cut another shallow line down the center of the skull.

Carefully lifting the whole skull off the surface, use your knife to press upwards along the bottom edge of the skull to create some subtle teeth markings. Give everything one last look-over and pop it in the oven, following the instructions on your sculpey's packaging.

Step 8: Paint Your Skull

Once it's all baked and cooled, you can use some acrylic paint to give it some colour and definition. Give the skull a base coat of some white or ivory mixed with a small amount of brown. Then take some dark brown and fill in the eye sockets, nose holes, and indentations. Seal it with varnish if you like, pop it in your terrarium, and you're done your skull!

Step 9: Styling and Caring for Your Air Plant

Styling your terrarium is simple. Add your rocks or sand to the bottom, gently place your plant, and add whatever other decorations suit your theme. Tiny figurines can make the scale of your setup more interesting as well!

Air plants, or tillandsias, are very unique plants. They have grown immensely popular in the last few years because of this, and make a wonderful addition to hanging terrariums. Unlike ordinary house plants, they do not need to be planted. Most prefer cool temperatures, and bright, unfiltered light.

Mist your plant every 4-5 days with a single spray for smaller globes, and 2-3 sprays for globes 3-5 inches. The smaller the globe, the longer the plant can bask in the moisture, so be cautious of over-watering.

If your plant ever goes too long without watering and is looking a little sad, try soaking it in water for half an hour and then letting it dry before you put it back in the globe.

- Happy growing!

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