Introduction: Piranha Plant Pencil Holder

Almost all of us have played Super Mario Bros. I had collected some toilet paper rolls for another project and was looking at them and it hit me, I can make a pencil holder. But of what? DUH! Piranha Plant! This definitely turned out a lot better than I expected and was both challenging and fun. I'm going to go through the steps I went through for my first prototype. I did want to include the leaves, but wanting the base to be a functional tray, I was afraid they would block the tray. I considered making them big enough to hold small post-it notes, but I was afraid they would be too big and I would have to remember to bake them separately and then add them on. Ideas for next time is to either put magnets inside to hold paper clips or do a custom shaped notepad that sits on the leaves. I'm also considering adding magnets in the tray for paperclips and/or pins.

Before I got anything out, I went to my best friend, Google, and looked up some reference pictures. Once I decided on how I was going to proceed I gathered the following:


  • Toilet paper roll (1 is needed, 2 comes in handy)
  • Masking Tape
  • Aluminum foil
  • Polymer clay
    • Scraps in any colors
    • Red
    • Dark green
    • Light green
    • Black
    • White
  • Rolling Pin
  • Exacto Knife
  • Pasta rolling machine
  • Baking surface (I use glass from cheap picture frames)
  • Rubbing Alcohol
  • Baby Oil
  • Paper Towels
  • Paint Brushes
  • Various clay tools

Step 1: Building the Skeleton

Cover the inside and out with masking tape. Honestly, you don't have to, but I like to. I saw on another tutorial once that it's easier to remove the clay if you need to start over. Especially over foil, which comes into play soon. It also strengthens the tube.

Now here is the first time a spare tube comes in handy. You need to make a ball, but it needs a hole in the middle the same width as the tube. So take pieces of foil and wrap around the tube forming a ball shape. It doesn't need to be perfect, just roundish and to a size you like. Also don't make the foil too tight as you will have more shaping to do.

When you get it close attach it to your tube with masking tape and shape the mouth. I started forming the mouth by pressing the open circle against the corner of my table. It will start to close the circle, so with your exacto knife, carefully cut slits in the corner and open and shape it more. The corner of the table is still very handy. You may need to add more foil to get a suitable shape. You don't have to, but I suggest completely covering it in masking tape. If you need to start over, it makes it easier to remove. You will also need less clay in the next step.

Again, it does not need to be perfect. The next step covers cleaning up the shape.

For the inside of the tube you can either paint it or line it with paper right now, or fill with clay later.

Step 2: Rounding Out the Head and Mouth

My form is definitely round to begin with. This is where some scrap clay comes in handy. If you want you can also just all red. I just like preserving full colors to the outside. You don't have to mix it completely.

Just take little bits of clay at a time and build up to a round form. don't for the lip edges and smooth it out. Try not to leave air bubbles. If you find some, just poke a hole and smooth it out. Hot air expands and will likely cause a problem when you go to bake. Like a permanent balloon out the side of the head.

In the third picture you can see how one side is round as the other side is still being built up. I also built up around the corners. It needs to look closely like a ball partly split in half and opened. Also do the inside of the mouth and either fill it in completely curve in. It is completely up to you.

If you filled the outside with red, fill in the inside with a grayish pink. Have them meet at the lips. The line doesn't need to be perfect because we will be covering it up later.

If you filled with the actual colors and the inside of your tube is done, skip the next step. But make sure you wash your hands and clean your tools. Red stains and will get on everything else.

Step 3: Add the Skin

Roll out a thin sheet of a grayish pink clay and lightly lay it on the inside and shape to fit. Cut away the excess and smooth out against the filler clay. Again, watch out for air bubbles. If you get some, poke a hole with the tip of your knife and smooth out the air and then smooth over the hole to erase it. Make sure the clay comes to at lease the middle of the lips and the open of the tube.

If you chose to fill the inside of the tube with clay, like I did, take pieces of clay and firmly spread it around evenly on the walls. This also helps thicken the tube wall to support the head.

Now do the same with a thin sheet of red. It needs to meet the grayish pink and end where the tube and ball meet. Again, if it's lumpy or there are air bubbles, smooth them out with your fingers and pressure. Try to smooth out and limit fingerprints as much as possible. It's not vital, but it's less to fix later.

Step 4: The Stalk

I forgot to take pictures of making the gradient. Sorry!

First I added a thin layer of scrap clay on the outside and then I made a long sheet with a dark green on the outside and light green in the middle. It was wide enough for two pieces of it to wrap around the tube. Meet the edges up touching. Then smooth over the seam blending it all into each other. This is why I made the edges the dark green.

Then add a rope of green where the head and stalk meet and smooth over the seam again.

At this point you might be seeing marks from fingernails. This is okay. All you need to do is smooth and blend them in.

Step 5: A Base and a Tray

Because I knew the head was going to be heavy, I wanted it to have a base. Not to mention I really wanted to incorporate the pipe without making it too tall.

I started with a sheet of green so that the bottom was the same color as the pipe on my baking surface. I added brown on top thinking of dirt. I was later reminded that it comes out of the darkness of the pipe, so I added a layer of black. I ended up with a base at 1/4 inch thickness. I used my masking tape as a guide when cutting out the circle. Use your rolling pin to smooth it out and clear out any air bubbles.

Using another gradient piece with the light green in the middle, roll it out to the thickest setting on the pasta roller. Add strips of the dark green on each end of the same thickness and smooth out the seams. You should now have a long strip with light green in the middle.

Cut the strip to match half the diameter of your circle. Then cut it lengthwise into 2 strips of the same width. Use a ruler to be sure. Stand the strips up against the sides of the circle and smooth out the seams. You want some of the strip to be higher than the circle to create a small lip. Lightly run your fingers around the outside to ensure that it has be attached to the circle.

Take the plant and place it in the middle. Using light pressure so as to not mess up the stalk, press it down partially into the circle. Take a think black rope and wrap it around the bottom. Press it down. You can also use a ball tool to press it down and spread the rope into both.

Step 6: Clean Everything!

We're about to use white. White clay picks up EVERYTHING! So clean all of your tools, the pasta roller, your surface, and your hands!

I use rubbing alcohol and/or cleaning wipes. Both are effective. Rubbing alcohol works best in my opinion.

Step 7: The Final Details

If you haven't worked with white clay, then you need to know that it picks up EVERYTHING! Keep the rubbing alcohol handy. It helps if you get the clay dirty and can clean it up. Any lint that you see, exacto knife and a pair of tweezers does the trick.

Roll out a thin sheet of white and cut out circles in various sizes. I should have done this, but didn't. Clean up the edges before picking up a circle. Randomly place them on the sides, don't forget the bottom, and press them on. Don't worry about fingerprints. We'll take care of that soon. If the circle is big enough and you aren't afraid you will get it mixed, feel free to smooth them over.

Once you have your spots on, take some white clay and make some cones. Basically, you are making teeth. spread them out and place them on the inside of the mouth close to the edge. Make sure you press them on, but keep the shape. Again, if you think you can smooth off the prints without mixing colors, feel free to do so.

Now make two white ropes that is thick in the middle and tapers in thin snakes. Keep it even and place on the lips with the thickest part in the middle. Adjust the length as needed. Butt it up against the teeth and cover where the red and grayish pink meet. Blend the corners of the mouth.

Now to hide the fingerprints, you need a paintbrush, baby oil, and a small container. Pour out just a little bit of baby oil. Dip the tip of the paintbrush in the oil and brush off the excess. Lightly paint over the prints until they even out. Do one color at a time or else you will end up mixing colors. If this happens you can either scrape the unwanted color off with the blade and then even out with baby oil, use some rubbing alcohol on a brush, or even brush enough with a clean brush with baby oil.

Step 8: Bake, Cool, and Varnish

Now we are ready to bake. Set your oven to the temperature listed on your clay's directions. Bake for at least an hour. Allow it to cool in the oven.

Mine ended up being a little too close to the top element and has a slight brown tint on the top part of the lips and some of the teeth. This was easy to fix by going over with some white paint. Next time I will remember to tent it with some cardboard. Tenting is just like it sounds but don't let the tent touch the heating element either.

Varnish if you like and then your done!

Step 9: Fill and Enjoy!

Now you fill it up with pens, paint brushes or just admire it. Remember that you also have a small tray in the base. Next time I'll add magnets to attract paper clips.

Some other ideas for uses is as a flower vase, candle holder, or even an oil lamp insert and just have a flame coming out. So it could look like it's eating something or shooting out fire! It really is up to you!

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