I’ve been working on some simple tree ideas for polymer clay pictures recently; trees have been a bit of a theme in our family and my personal art work throughout the summer. While fiddling away with some shapes and ideas, I created this tree, a simple, almost naive style of tree which seems very pleasing to me.
As it happened, I had to do an art workshop with some children the next day and decided I’d have a go at this project with them. It worked incredibly well, so I’ve used pictures of their process for this tutorial. Obviously an adult might choose to be a little more refined with shapes and colours, but I think these photos show very well what can be achieved with a light hearted approach to this polymer clay craft. Apologies for the quality of the photos; I only had my iphone with me on the day!
1. Create a blue background to suit the size of project you want to make. This will work well either light blue for a day time scene or dark blue for night. Marbling it, particularly if you can keep the lines horizontal, will give it a some depth and make it that little bit more sky-like.
For my original, I ran it through a pasta machine till it was really thin and made a feature of the jagged edges. The detail on the back was made using the Spring Morning Texture Plate from Studio By Sculpey.
2. For the trunk of the tree, I made a thick sausage out of brown and copper Fimo blocks, rolled together and bent gradually back on itself so the lines of colour were up and down and in soft coils. Cut the sausage to slightly longer than you want the tree to be, then pinch out the base into a simple root shape.
3. Make two cuts in the top downwards, dividing the top quarter into 3 even pieces. Roll the middle one into a more natural barrel shape, then twist the others slightly so their flat edge is the base of the branch. Press the piece on to your base.
I textured my trunk lightly with this coils embossing plate from Studio By Sculpey but detail could equally be added by hand using a knife.
3. I used scrap Fimo for the leaf part of this project (actually, I used scrap Fimo for all of it!) I made pea sized blobs (the finished item was about 6 inches tall) of mixtures of green and yellow polymer clay and dotted them randomly around the branches. A couple sit on top of each branch but I found it looked better for some gaps between the actual blobs, as if the sky was showing through.
4. Once the blobs were in place, make a dimple in the top of each one. I used a Fimo Clay Tool but the wrong end on a pencil would work well too.
5. Choose some plain contrasting colours and put a blob into the top of each leaf dimple. We liked it best with 3 colours and tried to make sure there were no two colours the same next to each other.
6. Finish the colour contrast blobs off by putting a little hole into the top of each one.
I think all the kids were as pleased with their end product as I had been with mine. They ranged from age 5 to age 12 and, considering they had the same instructions, the same colours and the same tools to work with, they produced 6 very different end results.
Optional Step 7. For the rocks and grass on my version, I used simple blobs of Granite Effect Fimo and for the grass I made a mix of yellow and green ropes blended together into a rough mix that kept the lines more of less going in one direction. I chopped these and marked the surface with lines and the tops with indentations. Simple, but effective, long grass.