diy project: clay conifers

pinecone place setting
this last project using kid’s art supplies are ready just in time for thanksgiving. if you have some helping hands or a couple hours of down time between now and the big dinner, you should be able to whip these up for your table. model magic by crayola is this super cool clay substance that works like very soft clay, but dries like rubber with no cracking or crumbling. you can paint it when it dries, or you can add paint in while mixing to create custom colors. i know i sound like an advertisement, but this stuff is actually pretty neat. I am sure you have seen porcelain pine cones and nuts in shops lately; they are very beautiful and more durable than these, obviously. but i wanted a lot of them for my table, and the cost adds up quickly. these are cheap enough that you can afford to give them to your guests as gifts, plus you can make any kind of plant or flower you please. if you take good care of them, they can be turned into ornaments and last for years to come! have fun, and happy thanksgiving! – kate

CLICK HERE for the full project instructions after the jump!

pinecone materials

1. crayola model magic, white ( it is available at craft stores in the kid’s section. i used three bags for six place settings.)
2. scissors
3. credit card, plastic card, or any kind of heavy weight paper
4. leaves (optional, for leaf namecard)
5. gold pen (optional, for leaf namecard)
6. pine cone and acorn, or pictures of them (for sculpting reference)
7. toothpick or bbq skewer.


for the petal pinecone:
1. tear off small chunks of model magic, about the size of an almond. use your fingers to shape them into elongated petal shapes that taper slightly at the bottom. make about 25 petal in several varying sizes (use a pea sized amount of clay for the smallest chunks, a grape size amount for the largest chunks). also form a 3″ long tube for the center by rolling the dough back and forth with your fingers.
2. using the plastic card, create a crease in the center of each petal, excluding the stem.
3. begin at the top of the stem, push a petal against the center stem and gently rub the end into the stem to secure. do not connect the top 1/2″ f the petal, instead pull it away and down form the stem so it bends outward. continue layering the petal on top of one another moving down the stem. when you reach the bottom, snip of any extra stem and smush the bottom into a tapered flat shape. pull out the petals to a desired shape and let the shape sit on its base and lean against a surface to dry.
4. when the shape has dried for about ten minutes, it starts to get rubbery but not as sticky. at this point, use the scissors to snip the tips of the petal into a gentle point in the center. you can also use a toothpick or skewer to poke a hole through one side of the base to the other so the pine cone can be strung on a cord later, as an ornament or charm, etc.

pine cone petals
pinecone petal crease

for the scalloped pinecone:
1. tear off small chunks of model magic, about the size of an almond. use your fingers to shape them into elongated rounded shapes that taper slightly at the bottom. use your scissors to cut the bottom of each scallop flat. make about 30 scallop shapes in several varying sizes (use a pea sized amount of clay for the smallest chunks, a grape size amount for the largest chunks). make a flattened strip with rounded edges about 3″ long, and roll it to create a long, thin burrito shape.
2. begin to add the scallops from the top down, rolling them around the center piece and smush the base of the scallops into the stem to blend them together. gently push out the tips of the scallops edges slightly to prevent them mushing into one another.
3. continue wrapping the scallops all the way around and down the stem. when you reach the bottom, add tiny scallops to the base and flatten the base by snipping it with the scissors into a flat shape. lean it against a surface while it sits on its base for drying.
4. when it has dried for ten minutes, and begins to become rubbery but not sticky, you can use a toothpick or skewer to poke a hole through the base for stringing it on a cord.

for the acorn:
1. tear of a chunk of clay the size of a cherry and knead it in your fingers to soften it.
2. create a soft oval ball shape and then press it against a table top or flat surface. use your fingers to gently pinch the center of the oval to begin to create the bottom of the acorn. if you want it to be less squat, push against the edge of the shape at the base to push it in. if you want it more squat, press it down in circular motions near the center.
3. for the cap, tear a chunk the size of a grape and knead it to soften it. roll it into a ball and begin to smush the ball evenly around your thumb, like you are creating a hat.
4. once you have the indent from your thumb, begin pinching around the rim of that hole to thin the sides and streatch the shape. continue doing this until the shape will fit your acorn body. pinch the center of the hat into a tiny stem.
5. fit the acorn inside the cap and use your fingers to adjust the shape to a desired likeness of an acorn. let sit and dry for about five minutes.
5. while shape is still soft and sticky but slightly drier than before, use the credit card to create the slashes in the acorn cap in a cross-hatch pattern. let dry another ten minutes
6. you can now use a toothpick or a skewer to poke a hole through the cap just beneath the stem to allow for hanging on a cord or string.

for the leaf name card:
1. find a dry leaf.
2. use the gold fine tipped marker to write the names of your guests. allow to dry for a few minutes before handling.


clay shapes detail

  1. Oh, oh, oh so Beautiful – so beautiful ! I am going to try making those, ( I remember something similar, but not as nice, from school). Sadly, it will have to wait until after this holiday. I forgot something and have to run back out! Yikes! :) Michaela

  2. Marija says:

    This is a wonderful idea. Thanks for sharing the pics and the instructions, too!! I’ve used polymer clay before, but sounds like a much better alternative.
    Thank you!!!

  3. Jeanne says:

    I just got books from the library with the three year old that I nanny and we picked up a thanksgiving book that had the leaf name card idea in it. Adorable!

  4. Milena Dekic says:

    Fantastic DIY and such a great idea. Thanks for sharing all the steps.

  5. Anne says:

    I like the way these look so much. Especially left white.

    Are they heavy? Curious to know if they’re the kind of ornament that will need to be hung from a sturdy branch.

  6. Jennifer says:

    These are wonderful! And I just bought some clay yesterday. Hmmm…I think I have another idea for some gifts :)


  7. Megan says:

    So cute. What a great project. Cant wait to try that.

  8. I used to use that all the time! You can cut it easily with scissors too, just roll it out the thickness you need and snip the shape you want. Other than painting, you can also draw on them with most drawing pens – keeps a nice crisp line! You could also take a damp brush to the ink after for interesting effects.

  9. What a cute and unique idea! Thanks for sharing!

  10. Such a cute idea…I bought some clay months ago and it is sitting in my shelves ever since only waiting to be turned in something lovely. And this is it. Love the idea. Have to get out on the weekend and find some acorns and pines for reference…

  11. mark says:

    nice,nice and once more nice

  12. aunt mim says:

    WOW! You were missed at the table in VA, but that placesetting at your table is fantastic! I’m sure it made the food taste all the better. I’m going to try some of that stuff from crayola.

  13. Jeni Ann says:

    Love this! Gotta give it a try. I’m thinking as ornaments…

  14. Great idea, thanks for the instructions. I love the look of the clay acorn in the last picture too.

  15. Chrissy says:

    To answer Anne, that stuff is actually extremely light. It’s almost like sculpting with a marshmallow, so it would be perfect for ornaments.

  16. HeidiM says:

    Why not use fondant for an edible version…on a winter wedding cake, perhaps.

  17. cate says:

    They’re gorgeous! Like the sound of an edible version too!


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