Introduction: Make a Decorative Candle/Jar/Bowl Lid With Polymer Clay
Do you have a cool bowl, jar or candle with no lid? I do..actually I have many. Wouldn't they be better with lids? Right! So let's fix that!
For this instructable, I made a decorative lid from polymer clay for my candle. I hate dusty candles AND, when I'm done burning the candle, I can clean out my jar and have a nifty trinket box :)
Step 1: Gather Materials
In addition to the cool candle, jar, bowl or whatever you want to add a lid to..you will need:
-X-acto knife or Straight Razor (scissors may be substituted for some parts..you can probably use a knife for others)
-Texture Media (Stamps, Cloth, Stones, Sticks..whatever you have that has some cool texture you want to impress in your clay)
-Ruler or Tape Measure (2 Rulers if you have them..if not, we will discuss options later)
-Cardboard (I recycled a shipping box)
-Sturdy Cylinder for rolling clay (Acrylic Roller, Rolling Pin, PVC Pipe, Vacuum Extension Tube..whatever you have to roll the clay out) Even better would be a pasta machine dedicated to clay.
-Pencil or Pen
-Small bit of thin craft wire (optional for butterfly antenna)
Step 2: Trace Your Container & Cut Cardboard
Turn your container of choice upside-down and trace on to cardboard two times. One will be cut as drawn and we will be downsizing the second one to account for the lip of your container plus approximately 1/4". Measure your container lip and add 1/4" to that measurement. For instance, my candle had a 1/4" lip + 1/4" = 1/2". Now mark that measurement on the inside of one of your tracings and connect the lines. If you have a circle, you can use a drafting compass to draw your inner circle.
Cut out the original shape and and reduced size template out of your cardboard with your x-acto knife or scissors. Take your reduced size shape and trace it two more times or as many times as necessary for your cardboard thickness when stacked up to give a reasonable depth to keep your lid from sliding off your container. This is the inner portion of the lid.
Stack the smaller cut-outs on top of the larger cut-out and glue each layer. I used a glue stick but you can use whatever you have handy for cardboard. Test fit it on your container. It will have a little play and some of that will be taken away by the clay that we will be adding to this next.
Step 3: Condition and Roll Out the Clay
Condition the Clay:
Wash your hands and then get your clay in the color of your choice and start conditioning it. Don't forget to wash your hands or you'll have gunk in your clay no matter how clean you thought your hands were!! Polymer Clay needs to be kneaded into a workable state. It comes out of the package hard and a bit crumbly. Knead it until it is smooth and pliable in your hands. This is the time to mix your colors if you would like a custom color for your lid. Just mix using your basic color theory rules. This allows you to choose only primary colors if you need to purchase clay and then mix them to your desired colors. If you are mixing a custom color, be sure that you make a pretty decent ball of it because it's hard to recreate the exact color if you need more later. For my project. I used about one full package of clay for the lid. I mixed brown and green in a 2 to 1 ratio to get a nice mossy color.
Roll Out the Clay:
Lay out a sheet of wax paper to cover your work surface (a smooth non-porous work surface is best). Lay your cardboard piece down and put the rulers on each side leaving about a half inch to an inch extra. Your are going to roll the clay out like a pie crust to cover this so you need to know how large of a piece to roll. The rulers on each side will serve as a guide for how thin to roll the clay. If you don't have 2 rulers then you can use any 2 objects that are about 2-3mm thick.
Roll your clay into a ball and slice in half. Roll each half into a ball. Flatten one of the balls onto the wax paper with your hands as much as possible to get you started. Cover with another sheet of wax paper and begin rolling. Roll each ball out into a sheet as thick as your guides (approximately 2-3mm). Your roller should rest on the guide on both sides to ensure even rolling.
If you have a pasta machine laying around that you don't intend to use for food ever again, then use it for this! The clay can be run through the pasta machine starting at the lowest number and progressively moving to number 4 (2mm) for this project.
Step 4: Trim Clay and Cover Cardboard Lid Template
Take your cardboard and lay it upside down on the clay. Trim with knife or straight razor approximately 1/2" larger than the template.
Put other sheet of clay on top of the template and smoosh down around the protruding area. Trim excess at the outer edge.
Take excess and roll into a ball. Roll the ball into a snake with your hands just like when you were a kid. Try to get it the same thickness as your cardboard top piece and long enough to go around the outer edge of your lid. This is to soften the lid edge.
Place the top sheet of clay back on the table, put your cardboard on top of it taking care to center it. Wrap the snake around the lid and cut excess at the overlap.
Wrap the sheet on the bottom up and over your snake and work it into the other sheet of clay with your fingers. Smooth the area completely with your fingertip. You can use the side of your pinky finger to smooth the edge areas. Wetting your finger slightly with water helps in final smoothing and to remove fingerprints.
Step 5: Texture the Top of the Lid and Bake
Flip the lid upright and take your texturing media (I used an unmounted stamping sheet). I lightly stamped the clay and then covered it with wax paper and smoothed some of the texture away with my fingertip. Experiment with your technique with a scrap piece of clay.
If you encounter any air bubbles (as I did) gently prick a hole with a pin and press the clay down to allow the air to escape. Smooth over the pin prick with your finger and continue. I would also recommend pricking a few holes into the underside before you bake to allow air to escape like a pie crust. I had a blow-out while baking that I had to repair. You can repair polymer clay with more clay and re-bake if needed.
Place your lid upside down in an oven proof dish (I like Pyrex) and bake according to manufacturer's directions.
If all you wanted was a plain lid, you are done! Allow your lid to cool, place it on your container and enjoy!
If you want to add more detail to the top like my example..continue on.
Step 6: Sculpt Your Woodland Scene
I made my lid a woodland scene. First I sculpted a prototype from a single color clay to help get me started without wasting clay. Most everything starts out as a ball of clay. Depending on what you are creating you might shape clay balls into snakes or cones. After the initial shape is formed further refinements are made. Always wash your hands in between clay colors to prevent cross contaminating. Use Red last, red will get on everything so be sure to wash thoroughly after handling red clay!!! I like to work from light to dark colors or try to use more dark colors to keep things clean looking. White is the most unforgiving but little specs of dust or clay can be removed with your razor tip if you do get something showing up on it.
Lets start with the snail in my example. I partially blended 3 colors together by gathering them and twisting the ball in a siral fashion then I rolled it back into a ball and make a snake. Flatten the snake and roll up jelly-roll style. This is the shell. Now take a piece of clay for the body and roll a cone shape. Make it long enough to fit under your shell with the head raised up and the tail sticking out the back. Now roll 2 little balls of the same clay and 2 white tiny balls for the eyes. Flatten theballs into circles with something smooth like your knife. Lift them up (use your razor to lift them) and place the like colored ones at the top of the head for eyebrows and the white ones directly under for eyes. Blend the eyebrow dots into the head at the back and sides with your finger..you want them to look like the are one with it not just dots placed on it. Poke two dots into the eyes with a toothpick and make a little mouth with the side of the toothpick point. Flatten the body at the middle where the shell rests and set the shell on top of the body. Gently press together body and shell. Set aside your way cute snail for later.
Roll a ball of brown clay into a cone and texture with your toothpick or a piece of branch like I used. Set aside.
Mushrooms..take two colors of clay. One for the top and another for your stem. Roll into balls and then form a cone for the stem and slightly mash the other into a half ball. Set aside. I made a couple smaller ones too for my stump.
Butterfly..take the wing color of choice and make four small balls. I am fond of marbling so I used a mix of blue and white partially blended. Take another small bit of clay for the body and roll into a long cone. Flatten the four wing balls and slightly pinch to form a teardrop shape. Arrange the teardrops like butterfly wings and stick together lightly. Use a toothpick to add wing detail. Place body on top center and slightly bend wings upward. Set aside.
Make a couple balls for rocks in a color of your choice and set aside.
If at any point your clay becomes too soft you can place it in the freezer for a minute to help it work for you better. Your body heat helps make it pliable but it can sometimes get too soft/sticky to sculpt easily.
Step 7: Put Your Scene Together and Bake
Take your parts and start placing them on your lid.
Start with the snail the and then add your mushroom stem. Press your mushroom cap on top of the stem and have it touch the top of the snail for added support there. Polymer clay sculptures are not very structurally stable if more than an inch or so long without some type of armature inside. For our purpose I have used the snail for support instead of reinforcing the mushroom itself. If you want a freestanding mushroom I suggest adding something like a paperclip inside the clay to give it stability.
Now place the stump and add a couple more little mushrooms if you like. Place a few flattened balls on top of the mushroom for spots and add your butterfly. I decided to coil a couple little pieces of craft wire for antennas and poke them into my butterfly. If you do this, you will have to pull them out and put a touch of glue on the wire and reinsert after you bake. Polymer clay does not stick to metal.
Lastly I took the rock balls and pressed some flat spots with the flat edge of my razor and placed them by my stump.
Check that everything is sticking to the lid and gently press down more if needed. Smooth any fingerprints, place the whole lid in the pan and bake as directed. Take it out of the oven and let it cool.
Place it on your container and enjoy the fruits of your labor :)