Everything You Need To Know About Creating A Beautiful Floral Slab With Polymer Clay
As an artist, the options for creating are endless, and sometimes completely overwhelming! I have been working with polymer clay for over three years and until recently I was terrified to attempt a floral slab for fear of spending wayyy too much time on something and ending up with a complete mess! This past Spring I gave it a try for the first time and absolutely fell in love with the result! ( And so did you because I sold out of every single pair of earrings cut from that slab within minutes! ) Turns out there was nothing to be scared fo after all - besides, whats the worst that could’ve happened? Spent time learning a new skill and practicing my craft? Sounds like a win to me!
So when I was curating new ideas for my latest collection I knew I wanted to create a new floral slab featuring bold and colorful Summer blooms. This time I was going to go all out and create a GIANT slab (like quadruple the size of my first one - nope not kidding) filled to the edges with bold shades of pinks and red, mixed with rich hues of greens, blues, and purples. It was truly a masterpiece to behold when it was finished! After spending over a week working on just this one slab, using 17 different colors of clay, crafting 15+ different types of flowers, using push molds or shaping each petal and flower center by hand, Adding in tiny details with dotting tools and veining techniques, cutting out over 83 pairs of dangles and studs combined, sanding the edges of every single piece (after baking of course!) and using hand coiled gold-filled jump rings to make the most beautiful one of a kind earrings……… I DON’T EVER WANT TO LOOK AT ANOTHER CLAY FLOWER EVER AGAIN! (okay just kidding, I would totally do it over again and again because they’re just that beautiful, but not for a really long time!)
My Method to Creating a Floral Slab with Polymer Clay
Step One: Start with a concept. Draw inspiration from your surroundings and put together a mood board (Pinterest is great for that!) including colors and themes that will serve as the foundation for your slab. Think about the way colors work together and don’t be afraid to get creative and push the limits!
Step Two: Create a mockup. This can be done as a quick sketch with pencil and paper, but if you are like me and like to see the full potential of your work before you set out with clay in your hands (and if you have access to these tools) draw it out on your iPad with procreate, and be as detailed or obscure as you want. The beauty is obscurity is that it allows you room to adapt and grow as you’re creating your slab. I am a visual learner and I do my best work when I have a reference to go off of, so I like to be as detailed in my mockups as possible. At the end of the day there is no right or wrong way to go about it - Heck, you can totally skip this part if you want, who am I to tell you what to do? - But I find that a quick mockup is my best bet to get started, and its a great opportunity to test out what colors you want to use!
Step Three: Gather tools and materials. There are so many tools and gadgets to help you create your masterpiece, and I find that it’s best to think about what tools you need to create this slab and lay them all out for easy access. Right now you might be asking: “Well Kelli, I’ve never done this before, so how am I supposed to know what tools I need to use for a flower slab?”
Here are a few things to get you started:
- Ceramic tile work surface: This keeps your clay secured to your work surface
- Clay Roller: If you’re a polymer clay artist, you most likely have a clay rolling machine, but you can also use an acrylic hand roller if this is a hobby and your first time working with clay
- Texturizing Tools: dotting tools, flower molds, veining molds, etc.
- Tissue Blade: For lifting/transferring flowers or cut pieces from your work surface.
- Petal cutters: There are multitudes of makers who sell assorted petal clay cutters, but you can also cut them out by hand with an Xacto Knife for a more organic look.
Step Four: Prep your clay colors + Roll out your slab foundation. Once you’ve figured out what colors you want to use, whether they’re pre-mixed or you need to mix them up yourself, It’s important to start with a good, clean, and well conditioned foundation to your slab. Pick a base color that will complement your flowers and roll out whatever sized piece you want and lay it flat on your tile. For my Summer floral slab I used a deep Teal-ish green (my favorite color btw). Once you have your foundation slab rolled out, this will give you an idea of how much space you will have to cover with flowers.
Tip: to make sure you make the most of the usable space on your slab, make sure your foundation is cut to a straight edged rectangle. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but the closer the better.
Step Five: Start forming your flowers! (This is about to be really tedious…….it took me 4+ days) You can cut out petals by hand and make each flower petal by petal. Or you can use flower push molds where you push clay into a silicon mold to form a flower design. (You can find these on amazon, local craft stores, and Etsy - They come in so many different flower design options). In my case I used both. Some of the flowers I used cutters to cut out individual petals, pressed them in between a veining mold to create that gorgeous petal texture, and pieced them together by hand, with bright yellow hand dotted centers. I did the same thing for leaves as well. And for one specific flower on this slab I even used the “cane” technique to create gorgeous pinkish red and yellow petals (that’s a whole other blog post in itself, so maybe I’ll dive into more detail on another day). I like to prepare an assortment of flowers in different colors, shapes and sizes to add as much versatility to the slab as possible. Once you’ve finished prepping your flowers for the foundation of your slab, you can now start the fun part!
Step Six: Arrange your flowers on your slab. You can do this in whatever method works best for you. My approach to creating the perfect “overflowing with blooms” flower bed look is to start with you bigger flowers and arrange those first throughout your slab. Gently press them down onto the clay and use your dotting tool if needed to dot the centers (adding texture and helping to adhere it to your foundation). As you finish arranging your bigger pieces, start filling in the big open areas with clusters of different colored and shaped florals. I try to avoid flowers of the same shade being right next to each other, but that’s just personal preference! As you continue to fill in the spaces, you may find little tiny gaps in your pattern. You can leave them or fill them with single petals, leaves, or dotted flower “centers”. Basically this whole part of the process is up to you and your desired end result. When you feel satisfied with the overall look it’s time to cut!
Step Seven: Cut out your desired shape pieces. This is where making sure the foundation was in a regular straight edged shape comes in handy. Odds are, you just invested hours, days, or weeks on this piece (depending on how big you made your slab) and you want to get the absolute most out of it, leaving as little as possible to be “wasted”. Consider cutting this slab for earrings with a clay cutter shape that is uniform and can be placed side by side with itself leaving little to no “uncuttable” space between pieces (i.e. A square, or something that nestles itself close together when flipped, like a teardrop shaped dangle, or even a mirrored shape). Again this is just my personal preference! For my Summer slab, I used a donut square shape with rounded corners. The center piece from the square donut ended up being used as studs and the squares fit so snugly together I was left with very little leftovers, and ended up with 80+ pairs of earrings and studs combined.
The Rest of the process comes down to your own methods of baking, finishing and assembling earrings. For my Summer slab, I wanted to really make these pieces something to be treasured for years to come. I finished my earrings with hand coiled gold-filled jump rings and brushed gold plated posts for a dainty and sophisticated look. These pieces are a statement and even though I call it my “Summer Slab” you could easily make these beauties work with any outfit any time of year.
If you’re up for the challenge I hope you give this method to making a floral slab a try and let me know how it goes! I find that the uniqueness of every single piece to be the most rewarding part of creating a floral slab. Even though no two pieces are exactly alike, every piece is it’s own work of art, stunningly detailed and equally beautiful.
Want to get your hands on some one of a kind masterpieces? Find my Summer Flower Bed works of art Here while they last!
This was a long one, but I am new to writing blogs and can get a little chatty. Thanks for hanging in there, Talk soon!
Kelli + Teddy