These porcelain hangings contrast beautifully with the dark green of a Christmas tree. They also make an unusual year-round feature display suspended on bare branches of corkscrew hazel if you’re able to source some
You will need:
Clean rolling pin
Thin roller guides – 3mm
Sheet of plastic
Textured wallpaper – 2 sheets
Star-shaped cutters in several sizes (5-8) – or cardboard templates of stars from very small to large
Decorative beads – homemade or bought
Decorative string or ribbon
Before you begin:
If using card templates, make a pinhole at the exact centre of each one – it will help you position the centre hole accurately later.
Prepare a block of porcelain large enough to accommodate the cutting out of all the parts for the tree in one go if possible.
Working on a sheet of very clean plastic, reduce the bulk of the clay by beating it with the side of your rolling pin. Work in measured, even strokes from one side of the clay to the other, to avoid making deep grooves in the surface.
Roll out the clay between the roller guides, making sure it’s the approximate size and shape of your textured wallpaper sheets.
You will find that periodically turning the slab will make rolling much easier, and ensure it’s an even thickness.
When fully rolled, smooth over the surface of the clay with a rib.
Lift the slab on the plastic sheet and turn it over onto the first sheet of textured paper.
Peel the plastic sheet off the back of the slab and gently smooth over the surface with a rib.
Place the second sheet of texture over the surface of the slab.
Place the roller guides either side of the papers and roll the texture into the clay.
Roll over the first side then turn the slab over, sandwiched between the sheets of paper and roll the underside, to make sure the texture is fully impressed into both the surfaces.
Carefully peel the top sheet of paper off the slab.
Turn the slab over onto an absorbent board. It will stay attached to the paper when you do this, so don’t worry that it will fall off.
Holding the slab at one end, carefully peel the paper off. This is a little trickier because the clay will be stuck to the paper, but once the first end is released, the rest should fall away more easily.
Place the largest of your star cutters or templates on the slab as economically as possible and cut the shape out with a sharp knife.
Cut a second large shape, again positioning it as economically as possible to maximise the use of the slab.
If you’ve made templates from card, make a pinhole into the star through the central point so that you will know where to make the hanging hole later.
You may find it a useful exercise to make card templates from your cutters, just so that you can accurately pinpoint the centre of each star.
Cut out two of the next size of star.
TIP Cutters can be quite hard on the hands when working in multiples, so try pressing them down with a wooden block, as shown, to ease the strain
Don’t waste any of the scraps of slab left after cutting the largest stars; they’re perfect for cutting out the smallest shapes. Make as many as the spare clay will allow, it will save making them for subsequent decorations, but they can also be used for other forms of decoration – to make mobiles, chimes, jewellery, etc.
Continue to cut out all the stars in multiples of two.
Here you can see all the parts ready for the next stage of making, including many extra of the smallest stars.
Make a hole at the pin-marked centre of each star using an old plastic spray bottle tube with a wooden skewer through it. The skewer makes the tube sturdier to use, and the surplus plugs of clay can be quickly released after stamping out.
The trees can be made from the stars as they are, but to give them more character, cut tiny notches along each arm of the stars using the tip of your smallest cutter. If you don’t have a cutter, make the notches with a knife – more time-consuming but doable!
The smallest star will be too fiddly and difficult to handle if more clay is cut away, so leave this one as it is.
The finished stars should be allowed to dry out slowly on the board. Turn them regularly to keep them flat.
Once the stars have dried completely, very carefully fettle the edges with a damp sponge to remove any possible roughness.
Don’t worry about using water on the dry clay; porcelain can be worked in this way without damage providing you don’t use too much and you are not too heavy-handed.
Fire the stars to the clay’s recommended top temperature. It’s perfectly okay to fire items like these straight though without bisque firing. Just make sure the early part of the firing cycle is equivalent to that of your bisque, then continue the ramp-up to the required temperature.
To construct the trees, cut off a double length of rustic string or ribbon and loop it at one end.
Tie a knot in the string 2-3cm below the doubled-over end to form a neat and generous loop to hang the tree from.
Thread a bead onto the double string, up to the knot, then the first, smallest star – only one of these!
Add a second bead and the next size of star, then yet another bead and another of this sized star.
Continue to construct the tree in this way, separating each level with a bead and using two of each size star.
When all the stars have been threaded onto the string, finish up with a line of 5 or 6 beads then tie a knot in the string as close as possible to the last bead.
Cut the string so that a little is left to hang below the beads.
Test how well the tree will hang, using a length of dowelling or anything to hand, like a paintbrush handle.
Arrange the stars so that each level is offset and your tree is complete.
Hang the trees in multiples on a branch to make an unusual sculptural feature for anywhere in the home.