Hi guys! I’m popping in today to show you the favors that I made for our recent wedding. Know, while perusing this, that my inspiration came from Rachel at Transient Expression. I saw and repinned her project back in the springtime, and when it came time to figure out what we wanted to gift our friends and family, her design blew most other ideas away. Check out her tutorial here.
In my head, handmaking favors seemed like it could be a gigantic pain in the keester, the kind of thing you imagine the bride and her mom and sisters hurriedly and unemotionally throwing together the night before the wedding in a last minute panic. That’s probably why shops like The Knot and MyWeddingFavors have worked hard to market the ease of ordering custom favors, like soap, and mason jar drinking glasses, and my favorite, Hotty McHot sauce which I’m sure tastes awesome.
None of those were really our style, and honestly? They’re all kind of overpriced for what they are. As I hinted in our wedding update from last August, we knew we wanted to do handmade favors, and those options were fun, creative, DIY-able, and affordable (I purposefully omitted the winning favor at the time). Rachel’s concept of making mini planters out of Sculpey clay was more costly than some options, but it wasn’t break-the-bank crazy and all in, our mass quantity of 75 planters amounted to be about $1.33/each. It would have been slightly less had we sourced succulents in the springtime.
I started by buying the biggest freakin’ box of Sculpey that I could find, on a day when one of my 50% off coupons was valid at Michael’s Crafts and Things. Sculpey’s one of those popular polymer clays that stays maleable until baked (like Fimo and Premo), and you probably haven’t played with it since you were in 4th grade art class, but it’s sold in small packages in a multitude of colors, as well as larger packs in more limited colors. Conveniently, I wanted white, and Sculpey offered the best value.
Rachel’s tutorial tells you most of the need-to-know tips. Soften manageable chunks of clay in your hand, and start making a ball that’s approximately the size you want your planter to be. Like Rachel, I also found that it was easiest to scoop the clay innards out before cutting facets into the outer surface of the planter, and I also found that leaving the solid molded ball to chill in the freezer for 5-10 minutes before starting to scoop (and again, before cutting the facets) helped it to return to a firm, more scoopable state. On top of that, I can say that you shouldn’t make dozens of golf ball sized Sculpey nuggets far in advance of when you’re going to use them, they will get 1) furry, assuming you have shedding pets, 2) smushed, or 3) dried out in the fridge or freezer (really, any more than just 5-10 minutes at a time in the freezer and the clay will be unfortunately brittle when you’re carving into it).
To scoop the clay balls, Rachel used a melon instrument, but I used what I believe is officially, a strawberry huller. It’s toothy edge made it easy to carve into the clay. I did, however, burn through two of these hullers during the 5-month course of making the pots; our latest one that has held up the best was this one (not shown in the photo below) from Amazon.
I tried to be uber-careful and perfect with the first few planters I molded and carved, but quickly learned to be not so particular. A few tips from my experience:
- The outer smooth edge is going to inevitably morph a little bit as you’re scooping and applying pressure to it. It shouldn’t be a big deal though, you’re going to carve off all of those fingerprinted surfaces anyways.
- Holding the clay in your hand helps you to gauge the thickness of the pot; you don’t want it to be too hallow, or else you’ll chance cutting through the clay completely when you’re making the faceted edges, and then you’ll have to start from scratch (I did this about, oh, 25 times).
- When you’re cutting your faceted edges, hold the planter in your hand and do your best to only touch the uncut surfaces.
- Start cutting facets at the bottom of the planter so that the finished piece has a way to sit upright, and work your way around. Use your sharpest, non-serrated knife, and make nice swift, shallow cuts towards you, like you’re slicing a small block of cheese in your hand.
- The top open edge of the planter will likely look really rough when you’re done. At this point, I froze the carved pot for another 5 minutes and then sliced right over the top to create a smooth and finished top edge.
As I said, I created our mass of mini-planters over the course of 5 months, doing anywhere from 4-10 in each sitting. I baked them all immediately, finding the best results in using the real oven and a foil pie plate. The thickness of each planter varied, but everything hardened up after 20 minutes in the oven. Note: I tried our toaster oven a few times. It works, but it will also toast the edges of your facets and leave them looking burned. Fair warning.
Our finished menagerie was a lot of fun to look at, although when I look up close all I can see are flaws. From afar, and in mass, they’re adorable.
Early on in the process, I self-rooted a piece of succulent and planted it into one of the pots just to see if this idea would work. Not only did it survive, but it flourished on our kitchen windowsill over the course of a few months with semi-frequent waterings. The water, you should know, does stay nicely in the planter, it doesn’t seem to saturate into the clay enough to seep through onto whatever surface you have it positioned on.
After seeing how well it blossomed, I got ambitious and bought a whole bunch of the cutest little succulents at Home Depot and Lowe’s over the summer, broke them into mini-branches, and began to root them in soil and glasses of water. This didn’t work, possibly because I didn’t pay them much attention (they’re succulents, how much attention do they need?) and the ones that hadn’t been potted yet dropped dead as soon as the weather turned cooler (note: the test planter still continued to thrive).
The only issue with this project was that I chose to do it when succulents were in mass all over all of the hardware stores during the summer. The week before the wedding, succulents were nowhere to be found, and we began to panic as we drove to all of the home improvement stores and garden shops within a 30-mile radius. Yes, even though succulents are primarily indoor plants in New York, they are considered seasonal merchandise and quickly replaced with Poinsettias during the month of December.
In all of our stops, we were able to find 6 plants that were lush and branchy enough to fill our planters, one of which being a pretty rainbow succulent splurge which I only got a few good pieces off ($17), and a couple of those pre-made succulent gardens that cost $7 but only have 3-4 plants in each container. Our best value was in the jade plant, which I was hoping to avoid originally because it’s not as cute and kind of awkwardly sized, but at $10 for a healthy pot, I was able to fill over half of the planters.
The non-Jade’s were delightfully cuter.
Total cost for 75 planters, as I’m calculating it, is $1.33/each
- $25 for clay
- $5 for extra strawberry huller
- $50 for succulents
- Soil (free, I used what came with the plants that we bought)
- Electricity for oven (immeasurable, throw on $20)
- Labor is also immeasurable, but I did most of my work while watching TV at night and not during the billable workday.
If you’re thinking of a spring- or summertime wedding favor idea, this might be the perfect fit and more easily produceable. Thank you to Rachel for the inspiration!