Ornaments based on jasperware, the unglazed stoneware first produced by Wedgwood in the late 18th century, transform branches into a holiday display. Jasperware is known for its blue background and white cameo patterns, but antique and newer versions come in a variety of colors, including lilac and green. Create your own ornaments using Paperclay modeling material and German springerle-cookie molds, or paint store-bought architectural ornaments. These branches have been sprayed white and dusted with glittering mica flakes.
A pound of Paperclay makes about 5 medium-size ornaments. Wrap any clay you are not using tightly in plastic to keep it from drying out as you work.
- 1-pound block of clay
- Acrylic paint
- Springerle molds
- Nonstick baking mat
- Cookie cutter or straight edge of a dough scraper
- Small brush
- Patterned paper
- 1 1/2-inch length of grosgrain ribbon for each ornament
Mix paint and clay: acrylic paint is mixed into the clay to create the background color. Basic color recipes are provided below, but you can experiment to make darker or lighter colors (keep in mind that the clay lightens as it dries). Mix acrylic paint in a small bowl. Wearing gloves, spoon paint mixture onto a 1-pound block of clay. Gently fold paint into the clay. Knead until the color is uniform throughout.
Use the following number of tablespoons of paint per pound of Paperclay.Blue jasperware: 2 blue, 1/2 blackGreen jasperware: 4 green, 1 blackMauve jasperware: 1/2 purple, 1 red, 1 blackCaneware: 2 yellow, 1/2 brownDrabware: 2 green, 1/2 brown, 1/2 blackDelft background: 1/4 black, 1/4 yellow
Traditionally used to make anise-flavored Christmas cookies from Germany, wooden springerle molds are carved in many shapes and designs. For ornaments, choose motifs similar to those used on antique china, such as botanicals, or select ones that suit your own decor.
Working on a nonstick baking mat, coat springerle mold lightly with mold release (available at art-supply stores). Press clay into mold, spreading it to the edges. Flip mold over, and push on the back until the clay is an even thickness: for small- and medium-size ornaments, 1/4 to 3/8 inch thick; larger ornaments, about 3/8 inch thick (if made too thin, the ornaments will buckle as they dry). Carefully peel away clay. Cut excess from the edges using a cookie cutter or, for square and rectangular ornaments, the straight edge of a dough scraper. Use your fingers to soften the edges.
Lay the ornaments on a wire rack overnight or until they are completely dry. If ornaments warp while drying, bend them back into shape. Once dry, use fine sandpaper to smooth any rough edges.
With a small brush, paint the relief designs with white acrylic paint (or blue watercolor for delft designs). For store-bought architectural ornaments (such as the vase ornaments), paint the entire ornament with 2 coats of white acrylic paint; let dry between coats. Use a different acrylic color to paint the background.
Trace each ornament onto a piece of patterned paper, wrong side up. Cut out the shape; this will serve as your backing. Cut a 1 1/2-inch length of grosgrain ribbon. Loop and attach it to the top back of ornament with white craft glue. Using a small brush, coat the ornament's back with glue, and affix the paper backing. From a length of grosgrain ribbon whose width matches the ornament's thickness, cut a piece long enough to wrap around the ornament. Glue ribbon along edges, starting and ending at top, so seam is in line with top loop.