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 craft paint and Supplies to make your own clay fairy houses

    You'll need clay (obviously), acrylic paints, brushes, scissors, and some kind of pokey tool (I used toothpicks and a pencil).

    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

    First, make a tiny cylinder. Then take a piece of clay that's a bit smaller and make a ball. Make that ball into a dome or cone, or a whimsical elf cap. Go crazy.

    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

    Use your pokey tool to make windows and doors. The pencil leaves a nice smudge of lead behind, which makes it easier to see what you're doing.

    "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

    If you want your fairy houses to stand up nicely in a pot or terrarium, insert toothpicks before you bake the clay. Cutting instead of breaking gives you much cleaner ends, without splinters.

    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

    You can bake your houses flat, but if you make them bigger (and heavier), they may flatten on the backside a little as they bake. In that case, I suggest standing them up in a strip of clay 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

    Try mixing colors while the houses bake. Adding a little water to the paint makes a nice wash effect that puddles color in the windows and doors.

    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

    Finished fairytale village! Now if only I can keep the plants alive.

    Curious about clay? Learn some secrets about how I sculpt. Or find out why cast-stone is such a marvelous thing!

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