These clever clay catch-all vessels dreamed up by Rose Pearlman, remind me of barnacles in the very best way. And isn’t that fitting? On a dresser or shelf they can function in a similar way, filtering and safekeeping the good stuff—keys, and coins, and bobby pins—that might otherwise get swept away with the tide of household activity.
Rose writes, “every household has its own way of collecting and sorting belongings—books on a shelf, utensils in a drawer, toys in a basket—but the most challenging organization comes down to the tiny objects that get lost in a drawer or fall to the bottom of the toy bin. My solution to all the missing ear buds, vanishing hair ties, and collected acorns of the world are to gather them in small shallow containers, preferably ones that are pretty enough to have on a counter, small enough to fit inside a dresser drawer and durable enough to survive a toddler.”
In typical Rose Pearlman fashion, she came up with a simple, inexpensive, homemade version that achieves the purpose of clean, uniform treasure-catching, without falling into the trap of many at-home clay projects and looking too much like a kid’s craft.
For this project, Rose found DAS Air Hardening Modeling Clay to be the best material for its all natural, non-toxic, biodegradable ingredients, as well as its natural color, texture and durability. To keep the waste impact of this project low, she used biodegradable latex water balloons and a single sheet of plastic wrap to make all the vessels.
In making the vessels in my own home, I experimented with a few other workarounds to the disposable items, and found similar, though not identical, results. A bundle of lentils, I found could be gathered into a ball-like shape and used in place of the balloon. (This method worked best for the smallest bowls and it does result in a slightly flatter bottom and the kind of textured interior you might expect from pressing clay around a bundle of lentils. If you’d like a smoother look on the inside, you might try using flour or another fine pantry staple.)
I also experimented with using cloth in place of plastic wrap. For one of my bowls, I used a textured linen dish cloth to press the clay into a bowl shape and I really like the subtle pattern the linen left on the outside of the vessel. Overall, I concede that clear plastic and the balloon were undoubtedly the easiest materials to work with, in terms of being able to see the shape the clay was taking, working it into place, and achieving a rounded vessel shape. For those who might not keep plastic wrap stocked at home, I found that I was able to achieve the same effect using a cut-up piece of plastic bag that had come back with our laundry in lieu of plastic cling wrap.
All this to say, if you’re up for a bit of trial and error, feel free to experiment with alternative materials you have at home. If you’re feeling less certain, a balloon and a sheet of plastic wrap (or similar plastic film) make this project effectively foolproof. Step-by-step instructions and photos from Rose are below.
+ Plastic wrap or film (a single sheet can be used multiple times)
+ Rolling pin or wooden dowel (optional)
+ Soften a large handful of DAS clay, working it between two hands and forming into a round ball.
+ Flatten the clay ball using the palm of your hands to form a round disk. Continue to press the clay outward making the circumference wider. You can use a rolling pin if desired but do not roll it out too thin.
+ Blow up a water balloon but not to its maximum capacity; leave at least ¼ empty.
+ Cut off a piece of plastic wrap that will cover the balloon completely.
+ Place the clay disk in the center of the plastic wrap and the balloon on top of the center of the clay with the knot side of the balloon facing up.
+ Bring the sides of the plastic wrap up over the balloon and twist the plastic at the end over the balloon.
+ Use your fingers to press the clay upward towards the tied end of the balloon, working around the balloon evenly.
+ Once you are happy with the size of the vessel, gently remove the plastic wrap.
+ Place the clay wrapped balloon somewhere safe to dry. Given the sun exposure and the thickness of the clay, it can take a few days to become completely dry. The balloon will naturally deflate over time or you can gently remove it when the clay becomes solid.
+ Once the balloon is removed, turn your vessel upside down to let the bottom dry out completely before using.
Thanks to Rose Pearlman for developing this project, writing the instructions, and capturing the imagery. Rose is an artist, teacher, and textile designer. With a background in fine arts and a love of well designed functional objects, her creations blur the lines between art and craft and pushes the boundaries with non-traditional techniques and materials. Rose teaches monthly rug hooking workshops in and around her home in NYC, and also welcomes commissions for one of a kind constructions in decor and home furnishings. Her work has been featured in fiber magazines, galleries, and numerous online design sites. Her new book Modern Rug Hooking comes out December 3, 2019 and is currently available for preorder wherever books are sold. She lives in Brooklyn, NY with her family.
Step-by-step process photos by Rose Pearlman. All other photos by Erin Boyle.
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