December 31, 2010

Homemade Gifts Reveal Part 3: Polymer Clay Stuff

In our third and final segment of the reveal of my homemade Christmas gifts, Blog, I'm happy to present the polymer clay projects.  It's my favorite medium! So let's get right to it.


My daughter Manzi likes Hitchcock movies, sure, but she's a fan of a lot of films, including Disney's "Ratatouille." She's nuts about the little rat chef hero, Remy.

Now Manzi and Nate's place is a little crowded (they're moving to bigger digs soon, yay!) so I didn't want to give her a Remy that didn't justify his existence somehow. Meanwhile, I knew that culinary devotee Manzi didn't have a decent salt cellar. So I decided to incorporate salt storage into my Remy. And, synchronistically, a week or two after I made this decision, Manzi even mentioned to me her desire for a salt cellar. It was destiny!

I sought out a few images of the cartoon Remy from different angles to use as models. Then I made a core of aluminum foil and incorporated some sturdy wire to support Remy's tail and arm. I used a pair of leftover eyes I'd made previously (a time-consuming process I was glad to have pre-completed), a lot of gray and pink clay, and beading wire for whiskers. A scrap of white fabric became his kerchief, emblazoned in red pen with "Cucina alla Z," a reference to Manzi's imaginary restaurant/catering business (her other nickname is "Z"). A salt cellar purchased from Bed, Bath and Beyond and an old baby spoon completed Remy's accessories.

Here's the little guy ready to assist in the kitchen:

And a back view showing off his tail:

If I had any artistic skill, this project would have been easier (it took me about five hours), but I admit I struggled to get my rat to have a proper resemblance to Remy. I guess I succeeded, because when Manzi opened the package, she obviously recognized him right away:

Happy happy joy joy, hey Blog?


My dad taught me a love of science fiction from practically babyhood. He introduced me to one of sci-fi's most famous robots, Robby from "Forbidden Planet," way back in the early 60s. As I pondered what I might create for a guy like him, the idea of a robot came pretty quickly to mind.

My day job is at a company that sells machine parts, and it so happens we have a lot of parts that have been used as promotional and display items and end up sitting around in odd corners and drawers, going to waste (and making a lot of clutter). From these I scavenged a nice collection of bolts, brackets, washers, oil site glasses and other nifty steampunk-y elements. Supplemented with a few items from our own junk drawers, I had enough stuff to combine into a robot. In fact, I used nearly everything I had glommed: again, kismet.

Combining these elements with metallic polymer clay, assembled with super glue and support wires for strength and stability, after something like four hours I achieved this final result:

Note that inside his belly you can see behind the glass a little red heart! That's 'cause I love my dad.  :-)

Here's the back view:

He looks ready to take over the universe, hey? And here's Dad showing him off on Christmas Eve:


Polymer clay jewelry is where I started with this hobby, so for sure that came into play come gift-making time.

For my mother-in-law Sherrie, who likes pins, wears a lot of blue, and collects birdhouses, I made a bird pin. I used techniques from my idol, Christi Friesen. Here it is:

I'm a sucker for jewel tones. Alas, I was at the day job when Sherrie received this so no photo of her wearing it, but she told me on the phone she loved it. Yay!

Meanwhile, for Nate's daughter Ava, I had to utilize Christi Friesen's dragon techniques. Ava loves the movie "How to Train Your Dragon" (who wouldn't?) so I wanted to give her a dragon of her own. I also worked her name into it! Happily, it's not hard to carve "AVA."

The little guy is curled around a blue stone and has bead eyes and a nice string of iridescent beads along his spine. As of this writing we haven't had a chance to give it to Ava yet, but I have been assured she will adore it!

Both these pieces came out in less than three hours. You can make such cool things with polymer clay so quickly!


Not content to leave the claying at that, I also made a little tree ornament for each of the grown-ups. I had several ideas I had accumulated during the season and wanted to try them all.

For foodies Manzi and Nate, it seemed appropriate to make something that looked edible. I had seen faux chocolates at Stein's Garden & Gifts and knew you could make fake chocolate a lot better with polyclay. I made four different chocolates and strung them up in pairs with red cord on homemade wire hooks. See what I mean? It starts me drooling just to look at them. Trick of the trade for stuff like this: use mismatched scrap clay for the cores and then cover with the good stuff.

For the older generation among us--Dad and Sherrie--I went for elegant. Sometime during our holiday shopping I saw tiny packages made of polymer clay, so I wanted to try it myself. I made red and green striped wrapping paper of pearlized red and green clay, and YES, it was just as painstaking as you might suppose. Yikes. But all worth it when I saw the result, such evenly striped, thin stuff. I literally wrapped two "boxes" of scrap clay in this wrapping. They were finished with tiny ribbons and bows of white clay. After baking, I painted Future floor polish on the bows and ribbons to make them shiny. With a wire loop inserted and strung on red cord, the ornaments were good to go on the trusty tannenbaum.

Katie and Chris are the whimsical types, so for them I had to make a pair of anthropomorphized Christmas tree bulbs. I think you can work out from looking at them the simple approach I took; and I used leftover clay wrapping paper for their little scarves (that stuff was too cool to toss out). A coating of Future on the "glass" parts makes them shiny.

Well, Blog, that sums it up for this year's Creative Christmas presents on my part. I can report that I've never had a Christmas where I enjoyed giving gifts even half this much. And the getting was just as much of an upgrade! From the promissory note for a professional photoshoot of all my crafts by Chris (much better than these pix have been, Blog), to Nate's crazy "Give me the Davie Special" gift basket of rum and amaretto... Katie's spa kits and certificate for a full-fledged spa day at her house, to Manzi's fun homemade gift cards for activities with her stepdad, everyone came through. Even non-artistic Davie found some absolutely amazing gifts we never imagined existed.

That was our Christmas at Magic House. If it sounds fun to you out there, you have almost a year to plan for having a Creative Christmas in your own family's style in 2012! Needless to say, we're already percolating ideas...


  1. As always, Diana, your talents amaze me. Your gifts are lovely and so personal and thoughtful! Well done. I adore the ornaments too! They are adorable.

  2. Thanks so much, Sam! Let me tell you, it was all worth every second of effort because my family members deserved those fun gifts.