Miniature houses are classical decorative items and are often inspired by traditional architectural elements. Meanwhile, tribal and folk-inspired patterns and prints have been trending strongly since 2009. These miniature clay houses are so much fun to make, and the simple white geometric shapes are enhanced by the whimsical geo/tribal/folk-inspired hand-painted patterns. Read on for the full tutorial and template.
- White air dry clay (pack of 500g).
- Awl or any other sharp tool (you could also use a sharp toothpick).
- Blade cutter for clay.
- No. 0 and 1 paintbrushes for fine details and one flat brush No.12 for applying colour to bigger surfaces.
- No. 400 to No. 2000 sandpaper.
- Acrylic paint in the colours of your choice.
- Varnish that's suitable for clay.
- Cutting surface.
- Bowl for water.
- Palette (or any waterproof surface) for mixing your colours.
Step 1: Print the Pattern
Here is the pattern we will use to cut the clay and form the houses. If you print the outer grey rectangle to fit an A4 size exactly with a horizontal (landscape) layout, it will print to scale.
The small black rectangle with the dotted zig-zag lines in the printed version should be 7 x 15 cm [2.8 x 5.9 in]. This is exactly the size of our clay bar. The dotted lines with the scissors symbol are the cutting lines. So when we cut our clay along these lines 13 houses will be created. They are marked in the pattern with 13 different colours.
Step 2: Apply Pattern on Clay
So let's get started. Unwrap the clay and completely remove the packaging, but don't throw it away as you will need it later on. Put the clay bar on the cutting surface and place the printed A4 sheet over it. Try to place it in a way that the rectangular shape fits the borders of your clay.
Step 3: Mark the Points
Use the awl or any other sharp tool (even a sharp toothpick will be fine) to mark the dots of the pattern. These are the points where the lines meet. Try not to move the paper while you do this.
Step 4: Design the Cutting Lines
Remove the paper. Now you need to join the dots with lines to reproduce the pattern on the clay. Use a tool like a ruler or even your blade (being very careful) to make straight lines. Keep the printed paper in reach so that you can check the design and confirm which two dots you need to link.
When you are done, make sure the pattern looks correct.
Step 5: Cut the Houses
Use your cutting blade and cut one line at a time. While cutting make sure you hold the cutter with the sharp end facing downwards. Try to keep it as vertical as possible to your working surface. Pay attention to detail, cutting straight lines that fit exactly your marks.
You can use both hands to keep the blade stable and apply enough pressure to through the clay mass. When you cut your first two lines, the first house will be ready. Remove it and move on to cut the next lines on the pattern. Continue in the same way for the whole pattern. You should now have 13 cute mini houses. Hooray!
Step 6: Straighten the Faces and Clean the Edges
When you have cut all the houses you will notice that the bottom surfaces of your houses are not as neat as the rest. These were the sides of the initial clay bar and they haven't been cut. Use the cutter blade to straighten these sides and trim all the rough edges. The better finish your houses have at this stage, the less work you need to do with the sandpaper later on. Keep this in mind before you let them dry.
Tip: The better finish your houses have at this stage, the less work you need to do with the sandpaper later on. Keep this in mind before you let them dry.
Step 7: Allow the Houses to Dry
Leave the little houses in a dry warm place inside your house. Placing them near a radiator will fasten the drying process. They will need at least one day to dry. Keep an eye on the houses while they dry and turn them over, as the base side will be more wet.
Save the leftover pieces of the clay for another small project, such as a brooch. Just make sure to keep the remaining clay well-wrapped inside the packaging to prevent air contact.
Tip: Keep an eye on the houses while they dry and turn them over, as the base side will stay wet.
Step 8: Smooth the Miniatures
Once your houses are dry, you can take them outside to smooth the facades. Use sandpaper to rub all sides, smoothing out any irregularities and giving your houses a perfect finish.
Note that the sandpaper sizes are inversely proportional to the texture, which means the bigger the number, the smaller the grain. The numbers which are suitable for this project are from 200 to 1000. Start with the 200 for rougher surfaces and gradually move to smoother sandpapers.
Tip: Do this step outside because it gets dusty!
Step 9: Choose your Colour Palette
The paint we will use are acrylic colours. Choose the shades you want to use, picking at least five colours that complement each other. I used deep turquoise, pale olive, magenta, burgundy and pale umber. You can buy the colours you prefer ready-made or you can mix basic colours to get the shade of your choice. Use a palette (or any waterproof item, like the back side of a plastic food container) to mix your colours.
Step 10: Apply the Base Colour
Apply white colour as a base to all the sides of your houses. Use the flat paint brush for easy and fast application. One coat of colour will do the trick.
Step 11: Get Some Inspiration for your Design
While your houses dry, have a think about your designs. We will be painting a pattern zone at the lower part of each miniature house. You could also apply a pattern to the whole house or paint only the rooftop. I think it looks better if you use the same logic to all 13 houses of the village, but it's up to you. Get some inspiration for your designs from these five patterns I designed for this project.
Step 12: Sketch on Paper
Now that you have a theme and some inspiration, use pencil and paper to sketch your design ideas. Remember that tribal designs use zones of geometric elements: arrows, chevron, dots and triangles. They are easy to design and look cool when combined.
Step 13: Colour your Pattern
When you are happy with your pattern designs, apply some colour to them. Use the fine detail paint brushes No. 0 and 1 for these designs. To find the right colour combo and the one that matches your design make some tests on paper. Use the darker colours for small details that you want to pop out and the lighter ones for bigger zones.
Step 14: Paint the Houses
Now that you have the finer details sorted, let's have some real fun! Paint your houses and enjoy every moment of the process. Just make sure that one layer is dry before you apply the next one to avoid the colours mixing and ruining the design.
Tip: Make sure that one layer is dry before you apply the next one to avoid the colours mixing and ruining the design.
Step 15: Varnish for a Perfect Finish
You are just about done. When the houses are ready and completely dry, simply use some suitable varnish as a top coat. Use a flat paint brush (No.12 or bigger) to apply the varnish fast and evenly to the faces of the houses.
Clean the brush well after using it; otherwise it will harden. This step is necessary as not only will it enhance your colours and make the pattern design pop, but it will also make your houses water-resistant. So they will stay beautiful for longer.
Step 16: A Cute Village in your Home
Find the right corner in your home to display your cute mini creations. Place them randomly like a village or in line like a street facade. You can use them as window sill decor, display them on a sideboard, on the fireplace or anywhere else to create a cute little corner with tribal details.
How would you customise your miniature village? Maybe you could try giving it a festive theme! Let us know in the comments below!
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