This post is part of the Tour the World by Flower Blog Hop organised by Playground Parkbench. Bloggers from around the world have been busy crafting around their national or state flower. How amazing it is to see what everyone has come up with and to learn a thing or two along the way!
A National Flower Clay Craft Idea
I am a Belgian and have been living in New Zealand for a number of years. I’m quite embarrassed that I didn’t know what the national flower of Belgium is! (Google kindly informed me it’s the red poppy.) Thinking of New Zealand so many plants and flowers immediately came to mind, so we decided to go with our adopted home country for this flower craft challenge and showcase some of the beauty of Aotearoa.
I was surprised to find out that New Zealand does not have a national flower. When I think of New Zealand, three flowers immediately come to mind: the kowhai blossom, the (silver) fern and the pohutukawa blooms.
My first idea was to recreate something you see in almost every souvenir shop: a trio of clay art flower imprints. I’ve always wanted to buy a set to take back home to Belgium one day.
We might as well make them ourselves! (This flower clay craft idea is easier than it looks!)
Things to Learn about these New Zealand Flowers
I quickly want to grab the opportunity to say a thing or two about New Zealand’s most popular flowers.
The kowhai trees are native to New Zealand. The name kowhai comes from the Maori word for yellow. The tree is obviously named after it’s beautiful yellow flowers. Although it has no official status, the kowhai is widely recognised as New Zealand’s official flower.
The kowhai flowers in early spring. Kowhai trees in full blooms are absolutely stunning and attracts many birds. Their nectar is a favourite food for the native Tui and Kereru (wood pigeon), who you’ll often find feasting in it’s branches.
You might want to know that the Maori traditionally used the flexible branches for building materials and the yellow of the flowers as a dye. The bark of the kowhai was also used as a medicine to treat wounds and bruises.
New Zealand Fern
According to Māori legend, the silver fern once lived in the sea. It was asked to come and live in the forest to play a significant role in guiding the Māori people.
Māori hunters and warriors used the silver underside of the fern leaves to find their way home. When bent over, the fronds would catch the moonlight and illuminate a path through the forest.
The New Zealand fern has become a national emblem over time and is worn with pride by sports teams, companies, organisations and the people of New Zealand.
In our craft we used the image of an unfurling silver fern frond, also referred to as ‘koru’. The koru (which is the Maori word for ‘loop’) symbolises new life, growth, strength and peace. It’s an integral symbol in Maori art, carvings and tattoos.
The pohutukawa with it’s crimson flower is another New Zealand icon. The pohutukawa tree traditionally blossoms around Christmas and is fondly named “New Zealand’s Christmas Tree”.
The photukawa is an evergreen tree that blossoms from about late October until January. Images of the pohutukawa tree’s crimson blossoms are widely found in art, on postcards and many souvenirs.
One old pohutukawa tree on the windswept cliff top at Cape Reinga, the northern tip of New Zealand, is of great significance to the Maori culture. This is known as ‘the place of leaping’. It is from here that the spirits of the dead begin their journey to their traditional homeland of Hawaiki.
Flower Clay Craft: DIY Wall Art
Let me talk you through the process of making some beautiful wall hangings showcasing your own state flower.
We used air drying clay, which we found at our local craft store. This worked really well. It was cheap, easy to use and fairly fast drying.
We found a square play dough shape cutter to help us create a base for our wall hanging. We just stuffed it until we found it was thick enough and smoothed out any creases with the tiniest bit of water. (If you gently rub a drop or two of water on the crease, it will smooth out for you.)
My daughter then drew the flower (or her impression of that flower) in the clay with a tooth pick. We discovered that you get the best results when you make obvious marks in the clay. There will be some little bits of clay the come out as you are scratching the surface. You can simply brush those aside.
We had an image of the flower handy and discussed certain characteristics. For the pohutukawa we had a little practice on paper first.
After my daughter was finished I took a minute to ‘tidy up’ her imprints by smoothing the clay out a bit and getting rid of excess bits of clay.
We then let it dry overnight. If you let it dry in a warm place, you should be fine overnight. (We managed to not do that and had to wait for two nights!)
This is also a good time to stick in some paperclips on the top side so you can easily hang your art work up once it’s finished.
When it’s dry, you can paint them the next day. This was a lot of fun. We had some discussions about the colours. My daughter decided to paint everything pink first. She then layered it with green, yellow, red and more green. It started to look very abstract at some stage. Which is perfectly fine (I keep reminding myself it’s about the process and not the result)!
We let it dry for another night and put a layer of varnish over it the day after. My little girl insisted on adding some glitter to the varnish. I happily obliged.
A little word of warning: I put on the coat of varnish myself since the fumes can be quite toxic, depending on which kind of varnish you use. Please read the labels and decide for yourself how you want to proceed with this.
Adding varnish does give the clay print a more finished look. My daughter was very proud. (Even though I helped out quite a bit.) And it did end up looking fabulous!
Come up with Your Own Clay Craft Idea
You can easily take this technique and run with it. Make it your own, or go crazy and make one of every state flower of the USA in case you’re American! (How’s that for keeping you busy?)
Just kidding. But you get the idea. Have fun with it!
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