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Plaster Fruit

At first glance, you might think the elements in this striking centerpiece were carved from stone a couple of millennia ago. But we got the museum-worthy effect by giving artificial fruit a quick dip in plaster.

plaster dipped fruit

Photography: Ngoc Minh Ngo

Source: Martha Stewart Living, December 2018

Introduction

Plaster of Paris powder is very light and fine, so wear a dust mask while mixing to avoid breathing it in. It also hardens quickly, so do not dispose of it in a sink, drain, or toilet, where it can cause clogs. Instead, let it dry in the mixing container, tap to loosen the edges, and empty into the garbage. To remove plaster from mixing utensils, scrape off hardened plaster, wipe with a damp cloth, and wash as usual. Once hardened, arrange the artificial fruit on an equally pretty vessel. We used a gold tray, but the brilliant thing about this tableau is that it looks good with any palette or décor. Another idea: Set individual pears or apples at each place setting on your holiday table.

 

(Also pictured: KPM Arkadia soup cup and saucer, $275, tableartonline.com.)

materials

  • Dust mask

  • Newspapers or plastic sheet

  • Aluminum foil

  • Bucket (Pictured: HDX mixing bucket, 10 qt., $4.50, homedepot.com.)

  • Measuring cup

  • Plaster of Paris powder (Pictured: DAP plaster of Paris dry mix, in White, $8 for 4 lb, homedepot.com.)

  • Bowl or other mixing container

  • Spoon or spatula

  • Wire

  • Wire cutters

  • Coat hanger

  • Faux fruit (Picured: Ashland Garden Fresh mixed faux fruit, $13 for 5 pieces; Garden Fresh faux small purple grape cluster, $4; large foam lemon, $2; and faux red apple, $3.50, michaels.com.)

steps

  1. Cover work area with newspapers or plastic. Lay down aluminum foil to serve as a drying station.

  2. Mix 2 parts plaster of Paris powder to 1 part water. Because it dries very quickly—you can work with it for about 15 minutes before it becomes too dry—you should mix small batches, one at a time. Sprinkle powder into water, covering surface evenly. (Don't pour powder in just one spot or it may clump.) Gently mix until plaster is smooth and uniform with a consistency like that of pancake batter. Let stand 1 minute.

  3. Wrap a length of wire around object, or poke it into base. Dip object in plaster mixture, gently swirl to coat, then remove and let excess drip off; hang object by wire from hanger and let dry completely, about 24 hours. Depending on object's shape, you may also hold it in your hand to dip it (the stem of a leaf, for example). Lay object directly on foil to dry, keeping in mind that places where plaster touches foil won't be completely covered and will show pooling at edges. For that reason, place areas that won't be seen in your finished project, such as the base of fruit or bottom of leaves, on foil. For a more opaque finish, let items dry completely, then dip again.

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