Hey guys!! Spring is finally here and I thought it would be the perfect time to share a new project I’ve been working on! It started back in November when I was thinking about fun Christmas gifts to make my friends and family. This year, I decided to make cute little fairy doors that could be used both indoors or outside in their gardens!
The first thing I needed to figure out was what I needed to use to actually make the doors. I went to the Dollar Tree and ended up getting a few different craft supplies like Popsicle sticks, floral wire and small smooth stones just to play around with and see what works best. I also did a little research (ahem….pinterest) on how to go about creating the perfect fairy door and after a few trials (and errors) I found the magical world of air-dry clay and boy-oh-boy was it a game changer! I went to an arts and craft store and decided to try the DAS Air-dry clay in white. It was about $11 originally but I had a 50% off Michael’s coupon (score!) so it ended up being less than $6! As far as the tools that I used to shape the doors, I took quite a few classes in college about hand building with clay and making ceramics, so luckily I still had all of my tools. Honestly, you can use anything from toothpicks to butter knives to a button with an interesting texture to help you create your fairy doors! If you want a specific set of sculpting tools, I think I bought mine for about $10 at Michaels. In college, I originally bought a set of plastic ones but soon after, I ended up getting a nicer sculpting tool set for about $25. They were metal with wooden handles and it came with so many fun things to play with. Either style of tool works great.
Getting My Hands Dirty
To my surprise, the air-dry clay resembles something very similar to the real stuff that I used in college. The instructions on the package say to use lotion on your hands while working with the clay, however, I just got a bowl of water to dip my fingers in as I worked and it was perfect! Another thing I would like to note is that the second time I bought this clay, I accidentally grabbed the red clay and it was horrible. The product worked just fine but it stained EVERYTHING in terracotta red: my work table, my clothes, my hands and my sink when I washed my hands. Not to mention I ended up covering the entire project in white gesso before I could paint it. This is a trivial complaint, but I wanted to mention that there are two different colors and the white clay is SO much better to clean up.
Clay: 1, Tikanne: 0
In order to mount the doors onto something that would help retain their strength, I decided to use 4x6in wood plaques (Michaels $0.80/each). That size turned out to be amazing for what I was looking for. They are pretty sturdy and the perfect size: not so small that it’s impossible to notice the details and not so large that you need to re-arrange your home or garden to display them! When building the doors, I used the plaques as a guide for how big to make each piece but I waited until the clay was dry before attaching the door to the wood.
It’s All In The Details
For the features of the actual door, I dug into my sculpting tools. I really like the look of a more whimsical shape for these doors because it adds just a little tough of magic to the overall design. I start by rolling clay into a slab that is about 1/4 in thick and then using an angled blade tool, I carved a 3 inch wide door with a rounded top. Using the same tool, I shaved off a little from each side of the top to give the door a slightly pointed tip. Eventually I made a stencil out of cardboard so that I could speed this process up a bit.
Next, I started on the door frame. On most of my fairy doors, I rolled about 11 small balls of clay and pressed each one into a flat, rounded rectangle “Stone” shape. I really love the way it looks when you add moss and vines around it. As an alternative to the “stone” door frames, some of the doors, I rolled a 1/2 inch snake that was long enough to wrap around the sides and top of the door and used my needle tool to carve a wood grain into the new door frame. This gives it a more rustic feel and also contrasts very well with the bright colors I use to paint each door. When I am making the fairy doors, I build each piece off to the side and then lay each layer onto the wood. At this point, I am NOT gluing anything down.
The most time consuming element of these fairy doors was making realistic looking moss that serves as the background and fill in any gaps around the door frame. I start by pinching off small amounts of clay and pressing it onto the wooden plaque that I build the doors on (I stay close to the door frame and work my way out). Next, I dip my needle tool into water and start poking holes in the clay and then I drag the tool across the holes and the result is a really scratchy surface that, when painted green, looks really fucking cool. To fill in gaps between the stones and the door, I pinch off smaller pieces of clay and do the same exact thing.
Even More Details
Now lets talk about the details that really pull the fairy doors together! Once I have the door, door frame and moss completed, I get started on all of the fine details like the wood grain of the door, the hardware that holds the door to the frame and a cute little peep-window.
I used a needle tool to make a wood grain texture on the doors, first by making thick vertical grooves to make up the individual planks and then I go in and carve random lines to imitate the grain of the wood. The vertical grooves are pretty deep and the grain effect is slightly less deep. This is important for when you go to paint the doors later.
To make the “hardware” I start by rolling a thin slab of clay and using a knife tool, I cut two long triangles and a rounded top rectangle. The two triangles are placed on the left side of the door where normal door hinges would go. I roll four TINY balls of clay to act as the bolts for the hinges. The rounded top square is placed where the door handle would go and using the needle tool, I carve out a tiny keyhole at the bottom and roll a small ball of clay for the door handle. (Note: at this point, the clay is still wet so I just set the tiny balls set aside until I bake the clay later)
The next thing I work on is a window that will be placed in the top, center of the door. This is such a charming feature and the shape of the window is totally up to you to customize. When I am making several doors at once, I roll out a slab and cut circles out of the clay with a lid from an old spice jar (It’s about 1.5 inches). Next I roll a thin snake and use it to frame the outer edge of the circle. I roll another snake and cut it in half to place in a criss-cross on top of the circle and voila! A tiny window!
With some of my fairy doors, I roll a thin snake to make vines that run along the door frame and roll tiny balls of clay and shape them into leaves that I will later glue onto the vines. I also have this really cool bright green floral wire that I sometimes use to make the vines. I love mixing clay with random craft materials to achieve a mixed media effect.
Make And Bake
Once all the pieces are assembled, I lay the doors on a baking sheet and pop them in the oven at 200 degrees for about 20-30 minutes. Don’t forget that at this point, the doors are ON the wooden plaque and it doesn’t take long for these bad boys to dry so don’t forget them in the oven. I have never had an issue with the wood burning and it makes the house kind of smell like a log cabin.
VERY IMPORTANT: The clay I used is AIR-DRY clay, so if you want to play it safe: let your fairy doors dry out in the open for about 36 hours. I happen to have two frisky kitties who apparently LOVE to inspect my creations, so I opted to take my chances and bake them at the LOWEST temperature for a little bit. It worked fine for me but these doors are pretty thin, so I didn’t worry about them cracking from the heat. I’m not sure how a thick bowl or cup might dry out in the oven.
After I take them out and let them cool, I glue each piece down with a little bit of Aleene’s Original Tacky Glue and they are good to go. I don’t suggest using super glue for this task because it leaves a rough white residue after it dries and honestly, the tacky glue works phenomenally.
Break Out Your Paintbrushes
Now on to the painting!! To color the “hardware”, I mixed black and silver paint to give them a tarnished metal look. I also paint the frame of the window the same color to tie it all together. It looks so adorable and pretty damn realistic looking. As for the color of the fairy doors, I want them to be bright and happy, so most of them are painted sunflower yellow, turquoise, lavender, and fuscia. Once the paint on the doors is dry, I cover them in watered-down black paint to make them look aged and really make the wood grain pop! The stones are painted light grey and then i use white to stipple on top of the grey and the end result makes it looks like stone. When it comes to painting the moss, I start with a dark olive green color. Using an old paintbrush, I dab the olive green over all of the moss and then go back with a bright green and dab that on top. It ends up looking really awesome.
When it comes to the order in which I paint each layer, I try to paint the largest areas first. There are a lot of small details and its easier to save those for last so you can use a small paintbrush and not ruin anything you’ve already painted. I will suggest that you limit the amount of custom colors that you paint your fairy doors with because it makes painting touch-ups a bitch.
Once all the paint is dry, I spray a few layers of Krylon Crystal Clear Acrylic Spray to seal them and make sure they can survive outside. I’m sure other clear sprays work, but make sure to use a spray with the same base as what you’re using to paint your fairy doors with. Acrylic paint= acrylic based clear coat.
I ended up finding a bunch of teeny-tiny perfume bottles and filling them with glitter to place next to them as well as making little mushroom stools out of bottle caps and wine corks, it was the perfect final touch. Other fun little details that I add are lanterns made from silver beads that I attach with wire to the door frame, tiny keys that are hung next to the door, and champagne corks that I paint to look like mushrooms. It’s fun to think of little embellishments to add to these fairy doors because if you’re making this for a gift, you can really customize each door.
From a personalized holiday gift to a new artistic venture…these fairy doors are so much fun to make! These doors turned out AMAZING and my friends and family loved them. I plan on making a ton of these fairy doors in all different shapes, colors, and themes just in time for the upcomming Summer art festival season! The sky really is the limit with these little cuties.