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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Make a poor man Paper clay pumpkin pail!

Seriously weird Paper clay Pumpkin pail instructions!

When I first started to make clay creations I really couldn’t find many how to articles or videos. I thought some of the things I have learned by trial and error would make a cool blog post. Trust me I have destroyed many a clay doll or sculpt in my time!

So here are some paper clay tips that I have learned. I am totally self taught so some tips might sound ridiculous! Folk artist does mean a self taught artist! Nothing wrong with being self taught! Many a famous RICH artist were self taught!


1. The best clay I think you should start out with is of course ….paper clay brand name Creative. It costs about 9 - 11 dollars for a 16 oz package. You can buy this at Michael’s, Hobby lobby and other craft stores or you can purchase it via eBay.

2. One thing I didn’t realize for like 6 months is that you can bake it in the oven at 200 or even on warm..DERR! I can be stupid like that. If you use the warm setting you can gently dry it with little or no cracks but I am getting ahead of myself here.

3. Tools. Omgosh I can’t stress enough that you don’t have to buy expensive tools if you can’t really afford it. I should know because I think I am one of the thriftiest Folk artists around due to being poor lol!
I use paint brushes for gentle shaping, a wood carving tool because I just happened to have one laying around the house, q-tips & finger nail files, A sharp pokey thing that puts the holes in hand made beads. ..( My terms are so professional huh?!) I also use old vintage dip pens for fine detail, …anything just randomly within reach because I am lazy like that!
Heck I raid our barn for tools!

( Quick tip…keep coffee way out of reach or you WILL dip your brushes in it. Or am I the only one nuts enough to make this dreaded error! ) Death by coffee clay is not pretty.

If you are half blind like me you might want to put your glasses on. ( My glasses are pitiful due to the dog eating them one night. ) I also need 3 bright lights to see what I am doing… ANYWAY….

This how to can also be used to make a snowman pail.

Materials needed:

Paper clay, DUH
Wax paper,
Small bowl of water, or a cup…Just don’t place the water in your hands…it spills like that..hehe
Glitter ..optional

Paint brush flat and fine tip
Wire & wire cutters
Paper towel, ( I get super messy. Probably because of my half eaten glasses. )
Exacto tool or a sharp kitchen knife
…( Don’t run with pointy objects )
Or whatever you can find around the house to sculpt with. Please don’t use your cat.
Reynolds wrap
Styrofoam ball medium size. Not dinky not huge ( makes about a 4 inch pail )
Something to roll out the clay with. Rolling pin or even a marker.
There are more expensive tools but this is my cheap way! I use the marker because again, I am lazy like that!

Step one: Remember I am giving you the easiest way I know. This is how I used to make pails or little trick or treat buckets when I first started experimenting.
( Do not use a real pumpkin…your buyers will get really mad! ) J~

Take the Styrofoam ball and cut off the top just like you would with a real pumpkin.

Scoop out the guts. I use a wood carving tool but you can also just scrape the insides with a knife and break the pieces out. Try to make the ball thin but not too thin that you might make a hole.

Set the scooped out ball aside. You will be wearing some Styrofoam bits. This is normal..hehe

Take a glob of paper clay.. ( again So technical terms! ) heh
Roll it pretty flat but not paper thin on the wax paper. Less stick age that way!

Place your ball on the clay in the center.

Score the clay…( take a knife and make little cuts in a circle around the ball so the clay is easier to apply.

At this point don’t wet the clay! Just use your fingers to squish the clay on all around the ball blending it together for a smooth surface. Make sure you have enough to squish in the inside. Now roll the ball between your hands smoothing the clay all the way around. Make sure you have enough clay at the top of the ball so you can squish it inside the pail.. Sort of like a pie crust! Stick your finger inside the ball and smooth the clay around the inside. You might have to cut a few strips of clay to fill the inside of the ball completely. Just smooth it all around with your finger. ( you don’t need this perfectly smooth…if you look at most folk art you will see bumps left there to get a vintage clay look.

Now that you have all the clay on the ball inside and out ( hopefully a kind of thin layer ) push your pail down to form a flat bottom. You want your pail to sit well.

If you like use a flat small paint brush, dip it in water and smooth out your pumpkin! Play with it a bit…with a little bit of water you can make a beautiful smooth surface!

Ok here is the fun part! Use the end of a pencil or the handle of you exacto knife and push it into the top part of the pail for eyes! Or make triangles for a spookier look!

Take a small piece of wire and stick it into the pail where you want your nose to be. Take a little ball of clay and work with it until you have a little carrot nose.
Stick the nose to the wire. If you like you can use a wet paint brush and go around the nose so it sticks better. You can also gently shape the nose this way.

The mouth..
Same thing as the eyes! Find anything laying around that you can press into the clay for small circles. I use the end of my beading tool but you can use anything you can think of to make the desired size holes for your mouth. I like to make 7 dots so the middle one is centered.
I have even used a crochet hook before!

Or carve the spooky mouth like the photo!

Don’t forget to poke a hole on either side of the pumpkin for the wire handle!

Now really look your pumpkin over. Is is shaped like a pumpkin? Do you want to add detail like lines or eyebrows….anything your imagination can think of!
Is the inside smoothed with clay so the Styrofoam doesn’t show?
( One trick I use to get the Styrofoam smooth before adding clay is using a heat gun. ( embossing gun you can buy at Wal-Mart Martha Stewart brand .)

You are ready to bake!
Place your art on a cookie sheet. ( Yes your pumpkin is art! You created it with love and detail. This is art! ) Don’t let anyone tell you different. Crafting and art in my mind are just about one in the same! Ok , now If you did the bottom right on your pumpkin it won’t flop over.
I have killed many art pieces by letting them plop or forgetting about them in the oven because the dog barfed or something.

Turn your oven to 200 if you would like the pumpkin to dry quicker. You can risk cracks if you do it at this temp and forget to take it out of the oven like I do!. Also if you leave it in over an hour you Styrofoam might melt!

So lets say you used warm for about 4 hours. Take out your pumpkin pail and let cool. Make sure it is completely dry or you can risk cracking or even mold!

Once it is cool PAINT!!!
You can use acrylics and just have fun with it!!

After the paint is dry you can choose between a glossy or matte finish. I do both. I think they are equally pretty but many people prefer a matte finish for clay art.

Let dry!

( Oh some people paint the pumpkin with acrylic gesso first. I don’t because I think the color is prettier with out the gesso. )

You can go wild on your pumpkin! Use acrylics, watercolors or oil! It’s your call.

Now you need the wire for the handle. I have a wire curler but you don’t need that!
Wrap the wire around a pencil then gently pull is so it will fit your pumpkin.
Place the ends in the holes you made and fold the wire in the inside down.

There you have it! A sweet little Halloween pumpkin pail! ( or it could be a snowman pail! )

You can also add tinsel, tinsel pipe cleaners, crepe paper collars, glitter…again have fun.!

Some important rules.

The artist will hate you! Lol
You could get a bad reputation in the folk art world.
But mainly you need your own style to stand out from the rest!

This was my first how to and I hope I explained it right but it you need help just email me at

Now go get messy and have fun. I would love to see photos of you finished pumpkins!

Carmen and Grimmy Ellis


Tamara Dozier said...

Very nicely done. As long as I've been creating stuff with clay I never, ever thought to hollow out a Styrofoam ball to make a candy bucket. I use a different method but I'm going to try making one using your method. (I use balloons ... lol)

Briarwood Miniatures said...

Very nice tut, Carmen. I've been using paperclay for less than a year but I'm really enjoying learning what it can do.

Love your work, btw!


Nicola said...

Brilliant! Thank you for sharing, I shall definately have a go at this one! I really liked your funny instructions. I've dipped my paint brush in my tea many a time ;0)