Wildfower Plaster Castings

Conundrum number 278: What to do about old lighting? (Yes, we're in need of a remodel, so there really are 277 other conundrums.) With about 30 lights needing to be replaced and/or updated, I'm trying to pinch pennies wherever I can.

These fixtures still work fine, but this look needs freshening up. My brain has been churning trying to come up with a solution. I saw this fossil on a trip to Sedona earlier this year.

I've been following some amazing artists on Instagram, especially Rachel Dien. Her beautiful flower castings are simply enchanting. I've pinned a lot of inspiring photos onto my Plaster Foliage Pinterest board. I researched plaster castings, and decided to give it a go, hoping to incorporate that into the "freshening up" of those light fixtures.

I could find no truly comprehensive tutorials, but the gist of all the information I came across on the web was pretty similar.

1) Roll out your clay about 3/4" thick.
2) Lay your wildflowers onto the clay.
3) Roll the flowers gently into the clay with a rolling pin, then carefully peel them out.
4) Set a picture frame on top of the clay.
5) Pour plaster of Paris into the form, approximately 1/2", and let set for about 30 minutes.
6) Remove frame; peel off the clay.

Voila, now you have a gorgeous plaster casting of flowers.

With the extra rain we've had this year, our wildflowers are prolific. I wanted to make molds of the wildflowers that I collected from our property for my sconces. Each week there are new varieties popping up everywhere. Eventually, I'd like to make a collection of all the different flowers that bloom on our property.

I made a template for size and arranged my flowers on my template. I rolled out my clay and transferred my flowers onto my clay slab.

I needed very specific dimensions for my light fixtures and couldn't find any picture frames the exact size I needed. Also, sometimes the plaster will adhere to the frame, be it wood or plastic. I looked high and low for something that would work at the thrift stores and our local re-store with no luck. Then the idea hit, why not make clay walls??? Then I could make the mold whatever size AND shape I wanted. It worked like a charm.

Think of the possibilities! All different shapes and sizes.

Notice the plaster comes out the mirror image of the mold. The picture frames will give you a cleaner edge, but I actually prefer this rough hewn edge.

I made these hangers from binding wire. Just put them in the back of the plaster while it's setting up. I wait about 5 minutes after I pour, and that seems to be about right. If they drop down or you push them all the way down to the clay you'll be able to see the wire on the front side of the plaster (not so pretty). The plaster needs to be set just enough so the wires don't sink down all the way.

When I mounted my first trial plaster onto the light, I couldn't see a lot of the detail because the light fixture was so high up on the wall and far away. I needed to accent the flowers. How to paint the plaster? I had no idea what type of techniques to use. I had taken a class years ago with Stephanie Lee and knew she would have just the information I needed.I watched the ecourse Simple Sculpting by Stephanie Lee through Jeanne Oliver's website, and learned everything I needed, plus was inspired by all the immensely cool projects she taught. I highly recommend her ecourse.

After playing around with a variety of  paints and techniques, I found the one that worked for me.

I used house paint to coat the porous plaster so the highlighting paint could be wiped off and wouldn't just soak straight into the plaster.

The edges weren't perfect, but were fairly snugged up. Again, I like the cragginess. I did go in and cover any paint drips on the edges so it didn't look sloppy.

Welcome to my new obsession! I'll be picking wildflowers all summer and making castings of them. Perhaps I'll mount a collection on wood....or mount each individual cast onto wood....or coat them in encaustic wax....or make a paper clay base for them....the sky is the limit on just what can be played with. For now, I'm very happy to have solved conundrum number 278.


  1. These are just gorgeous. Thanks for the tips and links too!