Scroll down to the end of the post to see the finished pieces, or read through for a full tutorial, complete with lessons learned.
First off, the sites and blogs and projects that inspired me:
As mentioned, I started with a pack of DAS air dry clay. Alternately, you could mix up your own salt dough or use another medium. Any clay would probably work. Just be sure that you seal your finished products if your medium requires it, or your ornaments/tags won't last.
- Work your clay or dough into a ball. (If working with DAS, if it's a little dry/cracking, add a little water with your fingertips. If it's too wet, wait a bit or just keep working it till it's a little drier.)
- Roll it out with a rolling pin.
Here are a couple of hideous pictures of my work surface, taken in the harsh light of my kitchen at night:
- Stamp the rolled clay/dough, or press in a textured object like a bit of greenery or a doily or something else - be creative. I used letter-stamps that I got at Dollarama a couple of years ago to stamp in the names of people in my family. You can use a stamp pad now for colour, or don't if you want to keep your ornaments white. I went with white. (Note, if you don't want to ink your stamps accidentally, make sure you've washed your previously used stamps with soap before letting them touch your clay/dough. I wash my stamps with an old toothbrush and some dish soap. Easy peasy.) Alternately, don't stamp in anything. Leave your dough smooth and decorate it after the clay is dry. Your call.
- Cut out shapes with a cookie cutter. (I don't really bake and therefore, have no cookie cutters, so I used regular drinking glasses to cut out my disks. A shot glass/jigger worked for the small ones. I used a high ball glass for the big ones. The edge of a drinking glass isn't the sharpest thing ever, so a real cookie cutter would probably have worked better, but I encourage you to make do.
- Poke a hole in each ornament using a toothpick or a straw or any small round object. (I used a metal stake from an old orchid plant.) Smooth edges of the hole with your fingertips.
Here's a look at one of my stamped, cut out disks, ready to be scraped off the countertop. I used an exacto knife to loosen the bottom when the clay seemed a little stuck to my work surface. If you rely on prying up the disks by hand, you'll bend them and pull them out of shape. Not the best idea.
- Once lifted from the work surface, you'll notice that the edges of your disks will be a bit rough/flakey/torn-looking. I just gently smoothed mine down by hand, using wet fingertips. Alternately, DAS sands down very well once it's dry, so you can just fix any rough bits after the fact that way (more on that in the last bullet point).
- Lay ornaments out to dry (if using air dry clay). If you're using another medium, follow whatever instructions you have for drying. Flip 'em over periodically so that they dry evenly. I let mine sit out for about 24 hours of drying time.
Here's a photo of some of my stamped and plain disks drying on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Once dry, give your pieces a light sanding. I used a nail buffer to sand mine. Nice and gentle. Pro tip: clay dust doesn't feel SUPER awesome in the lungs, so if you're sanding a bunch of these, you might want to wear a mask.
- Finally, go wild decorating. Use markers, paint, or whatever, or leave your disks plain. Do what's right for you, my crafty friends.
- Cover with a quick layer of sealant like Mod Podge, varnish, polyurethane, whatever works for you. This step is optional. It will make your ornaments last longer in the grand scheme of things. And string em up. I used white thread for mine, but ribbon, twine and yarn would all work well.
And now, for the exciting conclusion to this epic how-to post! Here's how my clay tags and ornaments turned out: