Paper clay is a wonderful medium to use for DIY bowls and with the proper techniques, the end results resemble fired clay in appearance. While you can’t eat off of these DIY bowls, you can use them as trinket trays or simply display them empty for the beautiful works of art they are. I know I’m going to keep them in mind for handmade gifts, as well!
What You Need
acrylic paint (I used Payne’s Grey)
acrylic varnish, high gloss (or spray varnish)
clear food bag, gallon size
paper clay (I used ACTIVA La Doll Premier Natural Air Dry Stone Clay)
small glass dish
transfer foil (I used iCraft deco foil, Silver)
transfer foil glue (I used iCraft deco foil liquid adhesive)
Roll Out Some Paper Clay
Paper clay is very friendly to work with. It is an air-dry clay, so you don’t want to work too slowly with it, but I’ve never had it dry out too much before I was finished sculpting it; no panicking necessary!
Tear off a small chunk of clay from the brick in the package and then seal up the rest of the clay so it doesn’t dry out. A little clay goes a long way!
Roll the clay into a ball and flatten it slightly with your hands. Cut the seams off a food storage bag and place the clay between the two layers of plastic. Using a clay roller (or rolling pin), begin flattening out the clay, working in all directions to keep the shape circular. (You may have figured this out already; the plastic keeps the clay from sticking to the roller.)
Keep rolling until the clay is evenly about 1/8″ (3mm) thick and is slightly larger than the diameter of your small glass dish.
Press the rim of the dish onto the clay, like a cookie cutter. (I’m using my watercolor water dish.)
Lift off the dish, shaking it a bit if needed to release if from the clay. Peel away the excess clay.
Shape Your DIY Bowl
Use your finger to smooth out the deckle edge (or leave it if you prefer). A finger dipped in water makes this really easy.) Here I added some texture around the edge using the pointed end of a wood skewer. It’s also fun to add some texture to the overall surface at this stage. You could stamp into it, press fabric lightly onto it, etc. I made simple dimples using both ends of the skewer.
Shape the circle into a bowl. You can start this process by draping it over your glass dish. Don’t get too hung up on making a perfect bowl shape; an organic shape looks lovely, as well. (See those small cracks? You can gently smooth those out with water and your finger.)
Set your DIY bowl aside to dry. I like to work on several pieces at a time, so while I had my clay out, I went ahead and shaped two more bowls, a couple of heart ornaments and a votive holder. Depending on the thickness of your clay, and the humidity of your environment, your bowl may be dry in as little as two hours or as long as overnight.
Embellish Your DIY Bowl
When your bowl is dry (it should no longer feel cool to the touch like it does when it’s still damp and not completely cured), it’s ready to pretty up!
You’re going to be adding some paint to your bowl, but before you do that, you’ll want to give it a coat of varnish to seal it so that the paint doesn’t stain it. This IS paper, remember? You want to be able to rub off most of the paint you’ll add. One coat is fine, two is better.
Apply a dark color all over your bowl. Use the brush to really work the paint into any texture you added.
After the paint has dried a little (it doesn’t need to be completely dry—but wait a couple minutes at least), wipe it off gently with a paper towel. Try not to scrub it, or you may take up the paint you want to leave in the divots and such. If you find there’s paint that doesn’t want to wipe off, use a bit of rubbing alcohol and a light touch to remove more paint.
To add a bit of beautiful sparkle to your diy bowl, start by adding foil glue where you want to place some transfer foil. I used the fine tip on this bottle to make tiny random dots on the inside of my bowl and also used my finger to rub a bit around the rim. Let the glue dry completely.
Remove a sheet of transfer foil from your tube or package. Note that it has a shiny, right side and a duller wrong side. The shiny side always stays up and the dull side always goes against the glue.
Cut off a small piece of transfer foil to make it easier to work with. Press the foil (shiny side up) over the areas with glue and burnish well with your finger.
Peel up the transfer sheet and marvel at the pretty foil left behind on your bowl! Repeat for any areas where you placed glue.
Finished DIY bowl from paper clay with transfer foil embellishment.
Now the jewelry I wear regularly doesn’t need to be all over the counter. Problem solved and in a beautiful way!
DIY Bowl Variations
The shape you give your bowl as well as the color of paint gives you nearly endless options. Here are a couple more bowls I created at the same time as the one I showed you how to make.
Raw Umber was used for the bowl on the left and black for the one on the right.
I hope you’re inspired to make your own DIY bowls from paper clay using this fun and easy process.
And if you’re interested in learning paper clay techniques, you might enjoy Artful Paper Clay by Rogene Mañas.
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