One of my favorite trends over the last two years or so has been vases with a sense of humor. If something is going to be taking up space in my home, I want it to earn its keep! This little clay cactus bud vase does a great job of reminding me I have a choice to take life too seriously or have a little fun with it. It doesn't hurt that it's kind of adorable. I must warn you, though, hauling it up and down the stairs trying to find the perfect place to style it can lead to sore fingers. So be sure to handle your new favorite succulent with care!
I love how cheerful and unexpected they are, even if they feel a tad dangerous! They aren't likely to be a great desk accessory if you tend to talk with your hands, but they're a great place to set your donut down if you need to step away for a moment.
One box of 1.75 lb. polymer clay will make two cactus bud vases depending on the height you prefer. This particular clay will stay soft until you bake it according to the manufacturer's directions and will reach its fully hardened state once it's cooled down. Break your clay into small pieces and start kneading them into ping pong-sized balls. This will help smooth your clay and make it more pliable. Combine a few of the clay balls until you're happy with the amount you're working with. You can use a rolling pin to smooth your clay and then roll it into a long tube or roll your clay between your hands back and forth to get an elongated shape. You'll want it to be at least five inches tall to get the cacti effect. Keep in mind the taller you make it, the more width it'll need to provide support.
Your clay will likely have lots of fingerprints, creases, and nicks in it from handling. Smooth over the major creases and nicks by gently holding the clay in one hand and rubbing your finger in fluid movements over the creases and bumps to smooth the surface. You'll soon find the right amount of pressure to apply to get the desired result. You'll also have to keep touching things up in places as you work. My best tip here is to remove your jewelry before you start working to avoid even more indentions.
Roll another ball of clay into a smaller width and bend it into the shape of a cactus arm. Gently press the base of the arm into the side of the cactus body and rub your finger over the clay to help the clay from the arm adhere to the clay from the body. This requires a little patience, but you'll figure it out pretty quickly. If you're having problems with your clay arm staying put, you can always cut some of the wire and poke it into the arm and then adhere it to the body to act as rebar does in concrete. You'll still need to smooth out your clay for the most pleasing effect. Repeat carefully with the other arm on the other side.
Once you've finished smoothing out your cactus to the best of your ability, press your copper pipe, pen, or other device straight down into your clay. Do this part carefully as it will slightly compress your shape. Twist it around to help loosen the clay that might be inside the copper pipe and to make a larger opening, and then gently pull it back out. This will decompress your shape if you go slowly enough.
Space them out about 1/2" apart or more all the way around your cacti. As I mentioned earlier, these can be a pain to relocate if you aren't careful, so leave the underside of each cactus arm free from sharp wire needles so you'll have a safe place to hold them as you move them around.
Stick them in your pre-heated oven according to manufacturer's directions for the allotted time. I set mine inside a casserole dish instead of on a cookie sheet for a little more stability and had no problems. Your wire needles should be securely fastened into the clay after it's been baked. Find the perfect bud, fill it with as much water as it'll hold, and enjoy the one succulent that will never die on you.
My favorite thing about polymer clay is that you can literally mold it into any shape you can come up with as long as you're patient enough to see it through. Not into cacti? Try your hand at a face vase or something faceted and abstract. Your end result is sure to be a keeper! –Rachel