Thursday, December 8, 2011

Living Clay {A Handmade Christmas Gift}

Every year I always try to make a few homemade Christmas gifts. I really enjoy the labor of love that goes into making these gifts, and it makes giving more meaningful and fun for me. 

Of course, now that I have two little boys, crafting has become almost impossible and a little bit stressful. I'm sure you know what I'm talking about if you have little ones! Anyway, I'm still slowly accomplishing things, and I'm trying to make sure that we are enJOYing ourselves this season. Stress is no fun. So, I've decided that if I can't make gifts without being stressed, then I just won't make the gifts this year. For some reason, just telling myself that has lifted the stress load that I put myself under!

Okay. So, IF you can and want to, here's an idea for a lovely gift for any parent or teacher or pretty much anyone who works with children. This poem is called "Living Clay," and it has been around for a long time! My mom used to have a copy of it framed and hanging on her kitchen wall. It was a gift from someone, and I remember as an older child reading it and thinking about it. A couple months ago, I was helping my mom clean out her storage shed, and we ran across the framed poem in a box. I read it and remembered how much I loved the thoughts expressed in it. I took a picture of it, storing it away mentally and knowing that I could make a gift out of it someday. 

Here's the poem...

Living Clay
(author unknown)

I took a piece of plastic clay
And idly fashioned it one day.
And as my fingers pressed it, still
It moved and yielded to my will.

I came again when days were past,
The bit of clay was hard at last.
The form I gave it still it bore,
And I could fashion it no more!

I took a piece of living clay,
And gently pressed it day by day
And molded with my power and art,
A young child's soft and yielding heart.

I came again when years had gone;
It was a man I looked upon.
That early impress still he bore,
And I could fashion him no more!

Lovely, isn't it? Very inspiring to me (even when I'm stressed and not feeling like a very good mama)! I ended up making seven of these, and once I got the design down in my head and the first one finished, it went pretty fast.

What you'll need:
  • Living Clay poem on card-stock (copy it from above and paste it into a Word document; play around with the sizes according to what you need...mine ended up being size 12 font and the title was 14.)
  • Unfinished wood board (mine was a 5x7 piece from Hobby Lobby...30% off $1!)
  • Spray paint of choice
  • Scrapbook paper of choice
  • Embellishments (paper flower, fabric flower, burlap, gemstone brads, etc.)
  • Photo stand
  • Glue stick
  • Scrapbook mounting squares
  • Brown and black acrylic paints
  • Foam brush
  • Optional: Fiskars shape cutter with template (this is for cutting the paper around the poem)


1) Paint the boards: I chose spray paints I already had, so I could save money. First, I painted the boards black. Then I went over them with a coat of teal/aqua (what color is that??). The teal layer is not very thick, because I wanted the boards to look distressed. Worked beautifully! The key here is to not worry with making the paint job perfect. :-)

2) Cut and paste scrapbook paper to the board for the background. (I purposely didn't use mod podge with this project, because I didn't want that look, but it would definitely be a great adhesive. Glue worked great for me though.)

3) Print off poem on card-stock and cut out: As you can see, I fit two poems on an 8.5x11 sheet of card-stock. I did purchase a Fiskars Shape Cutter and template for this project, which with a coupon, still ended up being around $15. But it's a tool I can use over and over again, so it was worth it to me. If you have a Silhouette cutting machine, you could use it as well. I couldn't really figure out a way to get the pretty shape without one of these two tools. If you know how, leave a comment below! Also, I recommend watching a YouTube tutorial before using the Fiskars Shape Cutter. I was having trouble with it until I found a tutorial explaining how to use it. Click HERE for that tutorial. I did have to practice a couple times before I got good enough to cut the shape out without messing up. I really liked using the tools once I figured it out!

4) Distress the edges of the poem cut-out: This was fast and easy. I wanted a distressed edge around the poem, but I don't have distress ink or a roller to do it. So, I just experimented and was able to do it with a foam brush and cheap acrylic paint. I used dark chocolate brown and black paints. First, I put a glob of brown on a paper plate and got a little bit of it on my foam brush. Then I went around the edges as shown in the picture below. I didn't paint on the front of the paper. Just all around the edging. Hope that makes sense. As I went around all the edges, a little bit of paint naturally ended up on the top of the paper, which is exactly what I wanted. After the brown paint dried, I did the exact same thing with the black paint. I like the look of the 2-tone distressed edges. It went perfectly with the brownish-black tones in my scrapbook paper background.

5) Create desired embellishments and hot-glue them to the board: I decided to make leaves out of burlap and flowers out of paper and fabric. For the leaves, I just cut out simple leaf shapes (doesn't have to be perfect!) and hot-glued the ends of one side together to give them a 3-D look. Then I hot-glued each separate leaf to the board in one corner. Next, I made the flowers. Click HERE for a tutorial on how to make them. I didn't even draw out the circles for the flowers first. I just cut them free-hand. Went much faster (and again, it DOESN'T have to be perfect!). Flower tip: Roll the paper flowers tightly and the fabric flowers loosely; OR just buy some pre-made flowers! :-)

Gemstone brads I used in my design

Pretty paper flower!

"Before and after" burlap leaves and flowers--I did have to secure the bottoms of the flowers with hot glue to keep them from unraveling.

6) Mount the poem cut-out to the board using a raised adhesive: Almost done!! I wanted my poem to kind of stick out from the board, so I used pieces of cardboard to give it that "raised" look. Scotch Clear Mounting Squares would've worked, but I ran out. I know they have something similar in the scrapbook section of most craft stores, but I accidentally purchased the wrong thing. My adhesives were flat, so I just applied them to the cardboard to create my own.

Done!! Yay! So pretty! Before you think that this project is way too complicated, just realize that it takes a long time to explain each step in detail. AND I did seven boards! So, all things considered, it really doesn't take that long if you have the right tools. Or maybe you can take this tutorial, and tweak it to work for you! I'd sure love to hear about it if you decide to make one, so leave me a comment. :-)

I hope you're enjoying these final weeks before Christmas! Be sure to take time to relax and de-stress! And definitely DON'T give yourself guilt trips if you can't "do it all." That's not what life is about (and you may be a "perfectionist" if you find yourself thinking this way). I know I tend to think this way, so I have to constantly pray and re-focus my mind on what's truly important. I remind myself of what my true goals really are. This "Living Clay" poem is definitely a good reminder for me!

God bless!


  1. Thanks for commenting on my blog because I REALLY need your poem today. Your gift from the heart is truly lovely and the tutorial rocks!!

  2. Beautiful, Audrey! Made me tear up, thinking about my son (and daughters!) who are now grown.

  3. Sorry--that last comment was mine, although it looks like Audrey made the comment! I'm just learning this hi-tech stuff! :)

  4. What a beautiful poem and a beautiful gift. Thank you for sharing and thanks for the sweet comment on my blog. :)

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