Cold Porcelain Dahlias

I was very lucky, indeed, to be able to take a class from Nicholas Lodge in Norcross, GA. While the class was in gumpaste, the techniques are the same for cold porcelain, and Chef  Lodge was gracious in sharing with me some of his experience in working with cold porcelain.

The class lasted two days, and every moment was packed with great instruction. By the end of the second day, my head was spinning with all that I’d learned. The people at the International Sugar Art Collection School of Sugar Art are friendly and fun, and the quality of the tools, cutters, veiners, etc., is exceptional.

We learned to make Fall flowers … my favorites were the wild poppy and dahlia. I could not wait to try these in cold porcelain, so here’s the piece I made with dahlias.

If you ever have the opportunity to participate in one of the classes, do not hesitate. You’ll love it.

“P” is for Peony …. and Patience!

A friend asked me to create a gift for a relative, and the only specification was a cold porcelain flower in the color purple. I love commissions like this, where I can feel free to create whatever inspires me.

I have a wonderful DVD by Nicholas Lodge in which he shows the creation of a peony. The peony is one of my favorite flowers … who can resist this large bloom with it’s bold color, and don’t you just love those ruffled edges! … so I decided to give it a try. Cold porcelain flowers are made with the same techniques as the gum paste flowers in all his DVD’s, and I couldn’t wait to get started.

A small styrofoam ball is used as the base form for the flower, and the petals are wrapped on this in layers, using graduating sizes. The first three layers are wrapped directly to the form, and the final layers are created individually using a wire inserted in the base of the petal, and are dried over a former to give the petals a shape that will wrap around the round base. After drying, I used two shades of purple petal dust on both the base form petals and the larger individual petals, giving it texture and depth. For the final assembly, I used floral tape to wrap the petals in layers around the stem of the base.

A light spray of sealer to protect it, and the flower was finished. I had a lovely fiber box to mount the flower and used some large serrated leaves beneath the peony.

The creation of cold porcelain flowers can be rather straightforward, but all the drying times between layers can slow the process and try your patience! This project took a great deal of time, but I’m quite pleased with the final result.

If you’ve not tried cold porcelain, do take a look at earlier posts on how to make the material, and give it a try. You’ll be surprised at the endless possibilities!

Let’s add some color ….

Cold porcelain paste has a translucent look that’s quite lovely, but most people like to use a more opaque color. In order to achieve this look, a white colorant is often added to the paste during preparation. I use white tempera paint (about a teaspoon is all that’s needed), but I understand that almost any opaque white can be used. Once your paste is made, you can color it with almost anything. Often acrylic paint is used, but I use the same gel color that is used in gum paste and have had great results. I understand that fading of color can be a problem, but I’ve not had this happen with this gel. You can find it anywhere gum paste supplies are sold.

I generally color the paste to a pastel shade of the final color I want, then finish the flower petals with petal dust in darker shades to add interest and texture. If you don’t’ want to invest in petal dust, you can use colored chalk. Because most of the flowers I make are created using the same  techniques as with gum paste flowers, I follow the suggestions for shading gum paste flowers as well.

Let me share a few:

  • A light dusting of yellow or pale green in the center of a blossom gives life to your flower.
  • Dust your flower with a darker shade than the paste, then use an even darker shade and a flat brush with a scraping motion against the edge of your thinnest petals. This give them definition and makes them look even thinner.
  • When using long stamens, lightly dust the ends with yellow or peach to give them a really bright and delicate look.
  • When you’ve completed the final assembly and coloring of your flower, hold it in steam for about 5 seconds. This ‘sets’ and slightly blends the colors.

Colors are lots of fun to play with. Experiment with coloring your paste and with dusting your petals and leaves. You’ll be surprised at the wonderful effects you can achieve.

Learning to work with cold porcelain

My obsession with making cold porcelain flowers actually came from my discovery of air-dry clay. I’d been playing with polymer clay, also a fun medium to work with, and came upon some flowers made using air-dry clay while wandering through the internet.

I happened upon the Deco clay site at www.decoclay.com.  I was awed by the beautiful florals made with this air-dry clay, and did several searches online to learn more. I found a certified instructor in Georgia, only about an hour’s drive away …. lucky me! Betty is a true artist with this clay, and a great teacher, and now a good friend. This clay is quite soft compared to polymer clay, and much easier on my hands. There are two books on making these florals, Clay Art for all seasons, and Clay Art for special occasions, both by Yukiko Miyai. Here’s a photo of a box I made (with lots of help from Betty!) in one of my classes.

So there I was, frankly struggling a little with the techniques of Deco clay flowers, when I came upon several sites showing cold porcelain. Working with cold porcelain and using cutters and other tools for shaping was much easier for me, and I have to say I was immediately hooked. The petals and leaves are made using the same techniques as gumpaste flowers for wedding and celebration cakes. The cold porcelain can be rolled very thin, making it a perfect material for leaves and flowers.

I found only one book on cold porcelain florals, Modelling in Cold Porcelain by Tombi Peck and Alan Dunn, but there’s lots available on making gumpaste flowers. Being a visual learner, though, I sought out and found some instructional DVD’s that have really helped me. My very favorites are those by Nicholas Lodge www.nicholaslodge.com and Scott Clark Woolley at www.cakesbydesign.cc. Both of these sites offer the necessary tools, cutters, veiners and supplies as well. The gumpaste flower books are easy to find online. Most assume you already know the technigues, though, so for me it was important to work with the DVD’s first.

Like any craft, practice makes perfect. One of the advantages of working with cold porcelain paste that I’ve made myself is that it’s not a big investment, so I don’t hesitate to throw out early attempts when I learn a new flower or technique.

So I encourage beginners to gather all the instructional materials you can and dive right in! You’ll be surprised at how quickly you learn.

Cold porcelain?? What’s THAT??

Don’t worry, lots of people have never heard of cold porcelain.

Basically, it’s a mixture of ingredients, primarily corn starch and white glue, cooked to a thick, stiff clay-like material. In this form, it’s often called cold porcelain paste. This material can be shaped and molded and sculpted into just about anything. I use it for creating flowers … it can be rolled quite thin, and that makes for lovely petal shapes.

It air dries, so baking is not necessary. When fully dried it’s quite durable, but care should be taken to keep it dry. Moisture can cause it to return to it’s original state, soft and sticky, and you’ll want to avoid this, for sure! An application of spray sealant should be sufficient to protect your finished piece.

Although you can purchase cold porcelain paste (sometimes called craft porcelain) on the internet or from craft stores, it’s much more economical and fun to make your own.  For me, making the paste was one of the most difficult things to learn. I made batch after batch after batch, but couldn’t get it right. Then a good friend I met in the Yahoo Air-Dry-Clay group suggested I wasn’t cooking it long enough. She was right. My next batch came out wonderfully well, and I discovered how great this material is to work with. My favorite recipe comes from Sangeeta Shah (with video!), and you can find it here.

So, if you haven’t made cold porcelain before, give it a try. Experiment with some different recipes and methods to make the paste, and leave us a comment on what you like best.

Hello World!

Welcome to Cold Porcelain Florals.

I’ve started this blog to share information and resources for working with cold porcelain. While my personal interest is primarily creating cold porcelain flowers, there’s many uses for this material, and I plan to provide visitors with some resources on these as well. My hope is to help and inspire, and I encourage you to share your questions, comments and suggestions.

Do come back often and join me in exploring the endless opportunities for creative excitement with cold porcelain.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 27 other followers