Seasonal Decorating Success is Guaranteed!

I have a long history of good intentions followed up by last minute rushes to get things done. I love to send handmade Christmas cards, but a week before international Christmas mail closes is not the time to be making them. I also love to decorate the table for holidays but that too needs to not only be planned in advance but also executed in advance. So this year I’m combining intention with execution and getting started early.

My table project for the holidays is autumn-themed and I’ve chosen oak leaves and acorns. The oak is a wonderful tree – it looks great all year round. In California, where I live, we have them in abundance and each year I watch as they sprout small green shoots of leaves that quickly turn into wonderful canopies of the deepest green. In autumn, they turn a wonderful gold and litter the ground with acorns that get scooped up by bouncy squirrels.

This year’s holiday decorations are oak leaves and acorns fashioned into table decorations and napkin rings made from AMACO Cloud Clay. Cloud Clay is an air-dry clay that is soft to work with, it stretches easily, and it dries to a light and flexible finish that feels just a teeny bit like suede. For this project you’ll need browns and yellows, so I’d grab a 4 oz. pack of Terra Cotta or Brown, one of White and one Yellow or Orange. You will also need an oak leaf cookie cutter – or some other leaf shape cutter. While you can cut the leaves by hand, cookie cutters make the project go a bit smoother. Add an acrylic roller, thin knitting needle, and a non-stick work surface and you’re done.

Start by pinching off an egg-size piece of clay and pull and fold it until it is nice and pliable. If you like, you can mix bits of various colors of clay to get custom colors – the colors mix very quickly so you can easily get a range of autumn golds and browns.

Roll the clay to around 1/8 -1/4″ thickness and press out the shapes with the cutter. Use the knitting needle to press veins into the leaves. Bend the leaves along the middle vein and curve the ends. Set the leaves aside to dry a little.

Make the acorns from small teardrop shapes of clay and add caps made from a second color of clay. Use the pointy end of the knitting needle to texture the acorn caps.

Assemble the leaves and acorns into groups – two leaves and two acorns. If the clay is still a bit wet, the pieces will stick together easily. If not, dampen them slightly and adhere.

Napkin rings are easily made from a small snake of clay flattened slightly and twisted around to make a circle. Press the ends together to seal. You can then add a leaf and acorn combination to each napkin ring.

Plan for a napkin ring for each guest and a few extra leaf and acorn combinations to scatter around the table. Cloud Clay items are extremely durable, so at the end of the holidays, pack them up carefully and they’ll be ready for the next year’s festivities.

by Helen Bradley (www.craftinggoodness.com)

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