DIY clay terrarium fairy houses

DIY terrarium fairy houses from Small Company ArtworksEver since my modest success with DIY garden markers, I've been looking for other ways to make fun things with polymer clay. Since I love terraria and all things tiny, I decided to make fairy houses for my terrarium of tiny plants.

My usual online searches turned up houses that were either much too big or much too fancy (Raku? Hand-carved wood? These are beyond my skill and patience.), so I took the radical step of inventing my own DIY. And it's really, really easy.

No, really. It took me longer to write up the DIY than to actually complete this project. So go make yourself some fairy houses to stick in your terraria and potted plants! 

Side note: You obviously don't need a terrarium for these houses. Imagine how cute these houses would be in that potted plant in your office. You can use long wooden skewers instead of toothpicks if you need them to sit up higher in the pot to be visible.

diy tiny fairy houses, invented

You don't need anything fancy for this project, and you can use your clay leftover from the herb markers or any other oven-dry clay you happen to have. I haven't tried this with air-dry clay, so let me know if that works for you.

  1. Clay. I used some neutral-colored Sculpey (affiliate link) so it would be easy to paint. If you don't want to paint, you could probably use the colored clays instead. But then you'll miss out on the fun dimensionality part.
  2. Paint. Acrylics work best. I used both regular craft paint and artist paints, because that's what I had on-hand. (affiliate links)
  3. Tools: paintbrush, scissors, toothpicks, a pencil
  4. Oven or toaster oven

Supplies to make your own clay fairy houses

step 1: tiny ball to tiny cylinder

For houses the size that I made them, start with a clay ball about the diameter of your index finger nail. Roll between your finger and thumb to make a cylinder.

Congratulations! You just made a fairy house. Let's add a roof.

step 2: mold the roof, 2 methods

Method 1: Make another ball of about the same size as the first ball. Shape the ball into a pancake, then curve it into a dome. Place on top of the base. Use your fingers to create your preferred roof shape. This is your fairy house, after all. I went with a dome, a peak, and an elf cap.

Method 2: Skip the pancake and just shape the ball into a dome. Live and learn.

Once you have your roof on the base, you can shape it into a peak, a cone, or a funny, little elf cap. Or a snowball or unicorn. 

Shaping the clay fairy house

step 3: add doors and windows

Bring out your pencil for this part. Using the tip, poke shallow holes for the windows. Use the side of the tip to make a long door.

"Why am I using a pencil?" you ask. "Why not one of my toothpicks?

Excellent question. I like how the pencil lead leaves a little shadowing when I poke the holes. If you don't like the shadows (or don't have a pencil), use your toothpick. You'll just need to move it around more to get big enough holes.

Adding doors and windows to the fairy houses

"Live & Learn" tip! Using a pencil with a slightly dull tip yields the best holes. Not too deep, and about the right width.

Repeat steps 1-4 until you have the fairy house neighborhood of your dreams. Go wild. My dream fairy house neighborhood had five homes, so I stopped there.

step 4: apply toothpicks

Using your scissors, cut the toothpicks in half. Insert the cut end of the toothpicks into the bottoms of your houses. Make sure to press them in far enough to hold. If you hold the house by the roof, you should be able to feel the toothpick before you poke through.

"Live & Learn" tip! Do cut the toothpicks instead of breaking them. Breaking them just gives you splintered toothpicks with uneven pointy bits and inconsistent lengths.

Inserting toothpicks into clay fairy houses

step 5: bake and wait (optional: play with paint)

Bake your clay according the package instructions and let cool. While I waited for this to happen (about 30 minutes), I played with paints to find colors I liked. If you already have colors you like, you can obviously go have a sandwich.

Or a cocktail. No judgment.

Clay fairy houses ready to bake

step 6: paint and dot

Once your houses have cooled, paint each one in your preferred colors. I started out leaving the "eaves" of the roof unpainted, but didn't like how this looked. So I went back and painted the whole roof, under and over.

For the curious, I decided against primary colors, since I wanted something more muted. I also thought it would be cool if the houses had a little metallic sheen to them. I mixed regular paint (purple, red, blue, yellow, and green) with some metallic paint (silver, gold, and copper) until I found combinations I liked. The metallic sheen isn't really there, but the pigments gave a nice muted effect.

If you'd like to get a similar effect, I used:

  • Blue and silver, in equal parts
  • Purple and copper, with more purple than copper
  • Red with a touch of copper
  • Green and copper, in equal parts
  • Yellow and gold, in equal parts

Painting the fairy houses

And no, of course I didn't measure, so I can't be more precise for you. I'm haphazard about DIY, remember?

To get the pale wash effect on the house base, dip your paintbrush in water and don't dry it completely. Dip the wet brush in the paint and apply to the house. The watered-down paint will run into the crevices, windows, and doors, while leaving the smooth surfaces lightly colored.

"Live & Learn" tip! If you end up with too much water pooling in the crevices, gently touch the water with the edge of a tissue. Don't dab, or you'll remove all the pigment. Just touch the water and let osmosis do its thing.

And yes, my ninth-grade self is delighted to have had an opportunity to use the word "osmosis" at least once in my adult life.

Once you paint is dry, dip one of your toothpicks into one of your colors and make tiny dots on the roofs. In my case, I used the metallic paints in various combinations. I found that different-sized dots looked best, so I started with 3-4 big dots and filled in around them with medium and tiny dots.

That's it! Now you can insert the toothpicks into your terrarium (or potted plant) and enjoy the fruits of your labors. And that cocktail.

Finished clay fairy houses in the terrarium

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