Sweet Happy Life

Capturing Garden Memories in Clay

Thyme Leaves & Mater Car Wheels

With Autumn in full swing and our snacking garden beginning to dwindle, I’ve been looking for a way to preserve some of the plants we grew this summer. Some of them will survive indoors it’s true, but the snacking garden will soon be retiring until the Spring.

I found just what I was looking for during a recent visit to Creative Habitat, when a chance conversation with Robin B. introduced me to the idea of using modeling clay to capture impressions of things you want to remember. We were chatting about an tempura paint project I wanted to try with the munchkin when she exclaimed, “Hold on a minute. I have to show you something!” A few minutes later, she came back with gorgeous wall decorations and miniature plates she’d made using modeling clay, lace, plants and paint. I was so stunned by the results that I asked her for the details and she generously shared.

With Robin’s permission I’m now super excited to share the details of this project with you. Not only was it easy but the results were so stunning that I keep staring at the ornaments we made and wondering: Did we actually make these? I just have to pinch myself! Preserved in lovely decorations made with the munchkin’s little hands are impressions of lavender, thyme, rosemary and blueberry leaves from our garden. My son also added impressions of Lightning McQueen and Mater car wheels for good measure. We turned these into flowers on the finished product.


To replicate this project you’ll only need a few things:

  • modeling clay
  • - a rolling pin
  • - a straw
  • - cookie cutters
  • - a small sponge brush
  • - small paintbrushes
  • - paints
  • - some string

You’ll also need a collection of things you want to use to make your impressions, for instance: plant cuttings, lace, buttons, toy car wheels, etc.


To make all of the ornaments shown here we only used half a brick of Das Air Hardening modeling clay. I broke off handfuls of clay and then we rolled each one out. I held the plant cuttings still while the munchkin pressed them into the clay with his mini rolling pin. He thought this was very cool and was excited to see what each impression looked like once the cutting had been pressed into the modeling material.

Lighting McQueen makes his contribution!

Initially I only planned on using cuttings from our garden, but my son insisted on bringing his beloved Lightning McQueen and Mater into the picture. Turns out this was a brilliant idea because, when combined with the foliage patterns, the wheel marks looked like little flowers!

Blueberry leaves, rosemary and Mater wheels.

When we were satisfied with the way our impressions looked I used large cookie cutters to cut the clay into circles. The one shown above I actually just cut with scissors because I was so delighted with the results. However, the ornament shown below was cut using a circular cookie cutter. We then used straws to make holes in the top of each ornament (so we could hang them up later on).

After a while the munchkin became more interested in smashing the clay than making impressions, so we called it a day and left our ornaments out to dry overnight. (In a safe spot high up and away from curious little hands!)

Rosemary and blueberry leaves.

The next day we painted our ornaments! We primarily used “grown up” paint for this so I don’t have a ton of pictures because I was so busy  keeping an eye on what the munchkin was doing. Our paint colors included:

  • DecoArt Dazzling Metallics in Champagne Gold
  • DecoArt Dazzling Metallics in Emperor’s Gold
  • DecoArt Dazzling Metallics in White Gold
  • DecoArt Dazzling Metallics in Festive Green
  • Crayola Washable Kids Paint in Red

First the munchkin coated each ornament in a layer of the White Pearl paint. We had this sponge-type brush in my crafting box (I have no idea why I bought it or when) so we used that to achieve an even coating.

The munchkin’s ornaments! Thyme, lavender, rosemary, blueberry leaves and car wheels.

Once that first coat of paint had been applied I gave the munchkin three ornaments to paint while I worked on two of my own. His finished products are shown above. Aren’t they pretty? These ones were made using thyme leaves, rosemary, lavender and car wheels. He mixed up some of the colors and then blotted the pink one with a burp cloth, which produced this cool pattern effect that you can’t really see in the photo. I don’t think that was what he meant to do, but that’s what happened and I love it. :)

Thyme, rosemary, blueberry leaves and car wheels.

There are the two ornaments that I did. I put some red paint mixed with white and gold onto the tire markings to make them into little flowers, then roughly traced the plant impressions with green paint. Nothing too fancy.

After letting the ornaments dry overnight again the munchkin strung each one with a bit of thick string I had in the cupboard. You could also yarn or fishing wire, but I think thicker materials are easier for little hands to work with.

And that’s it! This is one of the ornaments that is now hanging up in the living room. The back of each one has the date it was made and the plant we used to create the impression. I have a feeling we’ll be making more of these over the weekend and then saving them for holiday presents later on. (Now you know one of the things you’re getting mom!)

Many thanks to Robin and Creative Habitat for this cool idea. :)


2 CommentsLeave a comment

  • [email protected] says:

    This a great project! What kind of paint did you use?