Lessons

Lesson 5: Painted Plant Pots

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If you were to look at my lovely spreadsheet for craft group ideas, you would find that this week we were going to have a little Carnaval party and decorate some cupcakes. If you are very perceptive, however, you may notice there are no sweet treats to be found on the blog today! No, Carnaval was not cancelled and was a huge celebration despite the questionable weather – photos to come soon! We just had to do some rearranging to accommodate which is often what volunteering is all about.

So, this week someone suggested painting plant pots and we ran with that as you can probably see. Our apartment is full of plants and our local supermarkets tempt me with cute little leafy greens and succulents every time I go in. That said, I have done a little pot decorating in my time and love a colourful home for my plant children. I have also ended up with a tonne of plastic pots that I can’t bear to throw away – any plant lovers out there relate?

As buying 15 or so terracotta pots was not practical or as budget-friendly as I’d like, I decided to have a hunt and managed to find some nice black pots made from recycled plastic. I also took my own plastic pot hoard and some of those were given a new life too!

Now, there are a tonne of amazing tutorials on how to decorate or even make your own plant pots and accessories so definitely go and do some googling or fall down that pretty Pinterest rabbit hole! For my sample pots I used simple mandala designs but this project is really more about the very relaxing process of painting any pattern your heart desires.

Supplies:

If you want to get fancy with your dotting techniques you can also try out a dotting tool, often used by nail or clay artists! There are plenty online like these ones I found after a quick search. I think you could probably use the end of a paint brush instead or go crazy and try a crochet hook or knitting needle. If you try either of these let me know how you get on!

Another optional supply is seeds! I bought some affordable seed packets and they were all snaffled up by our craft group so I definitely recommend adding them to your list as a little bonus.

I also recommend trying out different acrylic paints, particularly if you’re painting on a black or dark coloured pot. You won’t need to splurge on anything fancy but different paints will be thicker and allow you to achieve opacity more quickly than others. Of course, you may want thinner paints to layer or create some cool effects so experiment!

If you’re in the UK, check out HobbyCraft for some really affordable terracotta pots (if the plastic doesn’t appeal), paints and other bits and pieces for this project! If you’re in the Netherlands like me, check out Action which is where I found most of my supplies.

Skills and Techniques:

You will likely already have the skills to make a beautiful plant pot – props to you!

After following this project (if you can’t already!) you will be able to:

  • Design a simple mandala using a compass and pens or pencils (if you do the warm up exercise)
  • Create a dot mandala pattern on a plant pot
  • Use acrylic paints to decorate a plant pot

Warm Up:

I didn’t end up doing this exercise with my group as I figured everyone would rather just get stuck in with the painting! It also meant that I didn’t have to purchase a range of coloured pens. I also wanted to make sure that no one felt pressured to copy my mandala inspired design and in the end I loved seeing the range of designs that our group came up with.

That said, if you have a class that all speaks the same language or you’re feeling brave, doing a nice mandala warm up is a fun way to get the creative juices flowing.

Materials needed for the warm up:

  • Coloured pens, crayons, pencils, a black pen – something you can draw fine lines with! I used these Artline Stix drawing pens (I also own the brush marker version which are lots of fun to play with!)
  • Paper, I used regular printer paper
  • A compass or something circular you can trace around (like a plate or empty flower pot)

Firstly, use your compass or trace a plate to get a circle shape. A compass allows you to draw concentric circles to follow in your pen(s) or pencil(s).

Once you have drawn out your circle(s), now comes the fun part! Above I have broken down the rounds I used in my mandala and numbered them 1 – 8. If you or your group are feeling nervous about your drawing skills, start by just drawing out some patterns in straight lines. There are great resources for patterns online and all around you (I’ve saved some of my faves on my Pinterest board for this project). Look around for Henna designs, tattoo designs, fabric and other prints, journalling photos or photoshop brushes – just to name a few!

Once you have the ‘straight line’ versions of your patterns, pick your favourites and see how they work in the round. If your pattern has peaks or focal points such as the green points in my line 6 or flowers in line 7, it is a good idea to draw out the first four at the top, bottom, right, and left of your circle (like the North, South, East, and West points on a compass). Then you can fill in the rest by working out how many repeats fit within the space.

For example, for my line / row 7, there is only one additional flower between each of the first four points (8 flowers in total).

Check out these incredible examples of mandalas on Instagram:

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Even though these examples are far more intricate than anything I have created, they are made using repeating patterns just like our mandalas. Whether your a doodler or have bigger mandala dreams, a lot of fun can be had just by creating patterns and putting them together in a unique way!

Method:

The main part of this project is basically a free for all but here is a little step by step for part of the first pot I decorated. Definitely check out my Pinterest board for this project for some more inspiration or just go with the flow – the possibilities are endless!

Step One: Use a lead pencil to sketch out the shape you would like to follow. I made two semi-circles as I knew I wanted to paint a dot mandala.

Step Two: Go wild! I used my pencil guidelines to create rows of dots using acrylic paint. That’s it. This project is simple but effective and so relaxing.

I also painted this tiny pot with a simple flower shape. You can see that I used a lot of acrylic paint (below left) to make sure the flower was opaque. Just make sure to load your brush with lots of paint and push it around gently, some practice will help you work out your own technique.

The Plan

As I said, this project was an easy last minute craft that we were able to organise at short notice. The plan was very loose as a result and, as I’m learning, this works quite well with certain crafts! I brought paper and pencils so that if people did want to sketch out their designs first I could facilitate that but did anticipate that we would mostly just paint together.

Reflections

I think this craft group had the most refugee (adult) participants of any so far! Almost all were familiar faces as well so it’s great that people are enjoying the group enough to come back – I mean, that’s the main goal, really! We had a really lovely time painting together, chatting and relaxing. If you need a nice easy project for yourself or your craft group, I would definitely recommend this as a breather from more challenging crafts.

What worked:

  • The craft itself was a nice, slow paced, relaxed option for the group. It is easy enough to buy an affordable plant to put in a pot or, if people are feeling more ambitious, growing your own plants can be very rewarding.
  • A lack of structure worked well for this project and we ended up with a beautiful range of pots that didn’t just copy my design (although that would be fine too)! Having access to the internet is great if anyone needs inspiration and a lot of the women searched for some design inspo online before starting.
  • I also bought about 20 seed packets from a local store. These were about 40 (Euro) cents each and worth every penny! Although I couldn’t lug enough soil to class for everyone, the seeds went down very well and were a nice little bonus for everyone to take home. I bought a mix of edible and decorative varieties, some that would attract bees or butterflies and some flowers that were a particular colour. Hopefully our lovely ladies will have some blooms for spring!
  • BYO water! Something I haven’t mentioned is the lack of access to water in our craft space at the refugee centre. We (volunteers) only have access to the staff bathroom upon request and find it a bit of a hassle to get water for painting or for cleanup afterwards. My solution this week was to bring my own water in plastic bottles which worked a treat. For clean up we pour all the dirty water into one container and it goes on a hedge outside the centre! I wrap the used brushes and palettes in a plastic bag, make sure it’s secure, then take it home to wash in my kitchen sink. This is a low-fuss option if you’re working in a space which doesn’t have easy water access or need to get out quickly.

What I would change next time:

  • Plastic table covers – Something I need to invest in (not that they’ll cost too much) is some plastic table covers! I have forgotten to do this and take the blame for the volunteers having to scrub acrylic paint of the tables before we leave. If you are doing anything with paints or planning to get messy, do yourself a favour and buy some plastic tarp or table cloths to save some time and scrubbing in the future!
  • Colour mixing charts – Instead of buying every acrylic paint colour under the sun, I got a few essentials including primary colours and some secondary, as well as black and white. While this saved money and allows people to mix their own colours, I think giving the group some tools to help with this would have been a good idea. A DIY colour mixing chart would also make a great warm up exercise! If you need some inspiration have a look on google or check out Peggy Hill’s colour mixing Pinterest board for some ideas.
  • Additional examples with different styles – Even though the ladies in our group were able to whip out their phones and look for inspiration online, some print outs of different styles might be useful in the future. I keep meaning to make use of the whiteboard we have in the craft space but even just being able to have different ideas printed out and placed around the table could be fun.

All in all, another successful craft group! I will definitely keep this one in mind for a chill, creative couple of hours. As it requires minimal brain power, at one point we had some music on, and one lady was even on a video call with her sister and showing her our crafty group (apparently she called me the boss)!

Are you a plant lady at heart? I’d love to hear about your own green adventures or decorations you’ve come up with! As always, if you do this craft by yourself or with your craft group let me know by sending me an email or tagging me on instagram at @kats_crafternoon_delight_

Love,

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