Autumn is a magical time in forests and gardens. Creatures make homes and hiding places to store up food and cozy things for the winter. Autumn also brings cooler days and art projects can help entertain kids when the winds and rain begin to blow. Making a fairy house out of clay is the perfect way to bring the magic of flowers, toadstools and hidden creatures indoors.
3 to 4 pounds of clay (stoneware, terracotta or non-hardening modeling clay will work)
Slip (slurry made from old, dry clay and water, to use as paste with stoneware or terracotta)
Fiberglass screen, a 12-inch square
Garlic press or strainer
Start by dividing the clay into two balls of equal size.
Using one of the balls, squeeze the clay into a wide rope, 12 to 14 inches long.
Form the coil into a circle by connecting the ends. It doesn’t need to be perfectly round. Press the coil flat with your hands until the clay is about one-half inch thick and three to four inches wide. This will be the base for your fairy house.
Draw a square on the base to create an outline of your fairy house foundation. If you are using stoneware, scratch the clay well so the “stones” of the house will bond securely to the base.
Next, begin rolling marble-sized balls of clay. These will be the stones to build your house.
When you have 15 or 20 balls made, start building your house by pinching each ball so the top is a little narrower than the base. Place the balls side-by-side along the foundation line you drew on the clay.*
Hint: Don’t make the stones too thin. They need to be thick enough to support the weight of the walls as you build your house. The stones should touch just enough to create a bond between each ball of clay. Leave a two to three-inch gap in the foundation for the door of your fairy house.
To create the door frame for your house, make a six-inch rope about one-half inch thick. Fold the rope into a “U” and place one end at each end of the stone rows where you left the gap for the door.
Continue rolling balls of clay and adding the stones to your house. Don’t forget to use slip between your layers if you are using stoneware.
When you have two to three rows complete, add windows to your fairy house by rolling four-inch coils, about one-half inch thick. Connect the ends of each coil to form a loop. You can make the windows round or shape them into squares if you prefer.
Place the windows along the walls of your house where ever they fit best. You can add stones around the windows to hold them in place while you finish building the walls.*
Continue rolling and pressing small balls of clay to complete the walls of your house. You should have at least one continuous row of stones above the windows.
As you build your house, you can add special “fairy” touches like ivy and flowers growing out of the stones. You can create little animals peeking out of the windows or add shutters, window boxes and a door to make the house warm and cozy. Toadstools and clumps of grass or logs around the base of the house can be secret places for magical creatures.
When your fairy house is as tall as you like, roll one coil long enough to create a loop all the way around the top of the house. Lay it on the top row of stones and carefully blend it into the stones to hold the walls together. *
Start the roof of your house by rolling two thick coils that will arch across the top of your house. As you press each end of the coils into the side walls, make sure they curve up so your roof will have some height. You will place screen atop the coils to support the thatched roof.
Using scissors, cut the screen in a circle big enough to overlap the edge of your house by about one-half inch on all sides. If you are using stoneware or terracotta, scratch the clay on the coils and spread slip on the screen so the screen bonds to the coils. Lay the screen on top of the coils and carefully press it into the clay so it stays in place.
Begin making the thatched roof by pressing walnut-sized pieces of clay through a strainer or garlic press.
Cut or pull the stands off and place them on the screen, starting at the outer edge and working all the way around the roof of your house.
Then, repeat in smaller circles so the thatch overlaps all the way to the top of the roof. If you are using stoneware, you will want to use more slip to help the “thatch” stick to the screen.
You can add all sorts of special touches to enliven your fairy house. Dried flowers and moss are fun to add after your fairy house is fired. You can also paint touches of color on the clay if you want to highlight the ivy, flowers or other magical creatures.
*If you are working with stoneware or terracotta, you will need to use slip as glue to join some of the pieces of your house. Using a pencil, make scratch marks on both surfaces you will be joining. Apply slip to the piece of clay you are adding and press the piece into place.
Myrna Minnis is an artist and teacher who loves to share her passion for clay with kids and adults through classes and her blog. She also sells a fun art toy, the oogly kit, to help parents encourage creativity with clay at home.