There are tons of of pretty projects on the internet, but these beautiful little clay planters out of oven bake clay kept popping into my head (and my Pinterest feed). It doesn’t hurt that their creator Claire’s photography is unattainably beautiful, but the idea is also intriguing: happy little planters in whatever shape inspires me? Succulents? A return to my elementary school Sculpey days? YES.
In dreaming up my own take on the project, I was inspired by the adobe houses that I saw in New Mexico around the holidays. We visit Brad’s grandparents in Albuquerque every year and I love the landscape and the new (to me) shapes of plants and houses.
I do really love the southwestern look, but other than rugs and art (and fuzzy plastic cacti in the shape of a drunken cowboy OF COURSE) I find it hard to incorporate into my New England home. A pretty clay adobe house planter could take care of that!
Adapting Claire’s simple shapes into an adobe house required some planning – particularly because I wanted to do a more complicated, three tier structure. So I drew up a template for myself in Serif DrawPlus. (See what I did, or use these too, by downloading the two-page template here: Adobe House Planter Template. You’ll get a folder with two image files, ready to print on 8.5×11 paper.)
To do this project, I needed oven-bake polymer clay (affiliate link — read our policies), a rolling pin, my template, various cutting and poking instruments (some pillaged from a local high school), a good surface for rolling and cutting, and a wooden dowel (not shown).
I used the X-ACTO knife to cut out the template pieces and then started to work out the clay, roll it, and cut down to size.
One thing that I apparently forgot from the clay-filled-haze-of-my-youth is how tough Sculpey is out of the box! This stuff needs to be worked out and warmed by hand in small pieces, so it took longer than expected. Still, I didn’t let myself skimp on the clay by rolling the pieces too thin. The structure will need to be sturdy, so I made mine around 1/4 inch thick.
The pieces were pretty floppy once I started to get into the 3-D assembly, so I found it helpful to have some extra surfaces to prop them up against to maintain the structure while I worked. I used a box of scalloped potatoes mix, but you could probably use something else if you don’t have that on hand.
I followed Claire’s instructions for sealing the interior creases to make the planters water tight: I rolled out tiny snakes of clay, poked them into the corners with my various pokey-tools, and then smoothed to form a tight seal. (If you find detail work to be therapeutic, you’ll probably love this project.)
When it came to add the front of the house, I wanted to make space for one of my favorite features of adobe homes – the wooden beams that are often exposed in rows along the top ridge. I had purchased a dowel to use for this purpose, so I used it to punch holes in the clay. On the “house front” I made three along the high edge and four along the lower edge.
Once this final wall was added the structural issues were resolved and the walls were sturdy enough to hold each other up.
Next, I turned my attention to adding the “porch” (really more of an entry way) that sticks out in the front. It was constructed in much the same way, and added three more holes along the front with my dowel.
I spent a little time smoothing out nicks and cleaning up the edges. But a little bit of imperfection in homemade projects is
the whole point just par for the course.
Then, it was time to bake! Obviously follow the instructions for the clay you have. For mine, I baked it for about 15 minutes in a 275 degree oven. When the clay comes out it is still a little pliable, but as it hardens as it cools. Apparently this stuff burns easily, so I erred on the side of not burning it.
The next step – and this is important – is to trick your friend and co-blogger into cutting your dowel for you by leaving it in her car and then nagging her about it for a week. I had mine cut to about 3/8 of an inch segments.
The dremel (which Sage used to cut them) darkened the edges along the cut, so I smoothed that out with rough sandpaper as I went.
I was planning on gluing them in, but I found that they fit very snugly in the holes and didn’t need any adhesive.
As it turns out, I was wrong! Once the dowels met the moisture from the potting soil and expanded slightly, I got a few small cracks in my clay because they were in there so tightly. If I were doing this again, I would make holes slightly larger than my dowels, and would set them with caulk or glue with a little flex. I could have also sanded the dowels down a bit so they weren’t in there so tightly.
However, I didn’t know any of that at the time, so once they were in, I declared my project done!
Or almost done, because I obviously needed to buy more succulents and put it to good use.
I filled the bottom of each section with gravel to help with the drainage because succulents are not fond of sitting in water. I definitely could have added drainage holes, but I didn’t think I’d like the look of this sitting on a dish to catch water runoff. I wanted it to be a stand alone piece.
To say that I am crazy about this little planter is… correct. I took many photos in celebration.
I really love the combination of the white clay with the light toned wood. I had thought about staining or somehow darkening the dowels to be more in line with the traditional adobe house look – and I do love high-contrast things – but I like this more “modern” take on the traditional form.
I also really like that it has three levels. It lets me play around with different heights of the succulents, beyond the usual and obvious groupings.
Yes, I absolutely did need an extra shot to pose it with my last succulent planter project, transformed from old thrift store bowls. How can you doubt that?
Thanks to Claire from Fellow Fellow for the inspiration! This project was very fun, let me relive my youth, and satisfied my craving for an adobe-style house, all in one afternoon. Not bad for a little planter!
(Sharing at DIY Showoff, Tip Me Tuesday, One Project at a Time, Whimsy Wednesday, AKA Design, I Heart Naptime, Link Party Palooza, June Before and After, Remodelaholic, Think and Make Thursdays, and Two Uses Tuesday – and featured at Style Motivation, Craft Gossip, Fun Family Crafts and Totally Tutorials.)