In the By Thistle By Thimble story “The Caster's Secret,” we find ourselves in an age when trades are passed on exclusively from fathers to sons — but one famous plaster caster teaches everything he knows to his daughter. As he gets older and less able to work, his daughter secretly takes on more and more work.
After her father dies, a Duke’s son arrives at the workshop’s door with a very lucrative opportunity. The caster’s daughter is faced with a difficult decision: to tell the Duke’s son the truth, or to pretend that her father is still alive and take the job.
Isn't it so silly that art — one of the finest forms of universal human expression we have — used to be limited to men? Consider all the beautiful paintings that were only allowed to live in women's imaginations. Think of all of the interesting sculptures that we'll never get to see made real.
But it's also fun to read stories of women who resisted those restrictions. We learn of women who were trained with the help of a benevolent father, and others who were trained in spite of unsupportive ones — artists like Artemisia Gentileschi, Caterina van Hemessen, and Mary Cassatt all found a way to make their art. And that doesn't even touch the surface of a woman like Harriet Powers, a freed slave who used quilts to tell her stories.
If a few minutes looking up some of this history leaves you inspired to make some art with your daughters (and sons, too, of course, because everyone should get to make art!), pick up a tub of air-dry clay on your next trip to the craft store and give these clay trinket dishes a try.
This is one of my favorite kinds of art, because the process allows for such creativity, but the end product is still quite beautiful. Like all artistic endeavors, however, it takes a bit of experimentation to perfect your technique. We had a few of our dishes break as we were removing them from their molds, so it's best to a) work carefully at that step, and b) make a few extras so that any breakages aren't so heartbreaking. Playing with clay is such fun that it's hard to stop at just one, anyway.
Air-Dry Clay Trinket Dishes
1 small tub of white air-dry clay
Cutting mat or other durable work surface
Tools and materials to make imprints into the clay (stamps, a doily, waffle cutting knife, butter knife, spoon, etc.)
Several small bowls
Several colors of craft paint
1 small bottle gloss varnish
Begin by pulling a handful of air-dry clay out of the tub and depositing it onto your work surface. (Be sure to keep the lid on the tub of clay any time you're not immediately using it, so that it doesn't dry out.) Use the rolling pin to roll the clay out to about ¼ inch thick, then use the spatula to carefully unstick the bottom of the clay from your work surface.
Now it's time to play. Lay the doily on the clay and use the rolling pin to make a lacy imprint on its surface. Or use stamps to add words or pictures. Or use the edge of a spoon to make tiny horseshoe imprints. Enjoy making your dish unique!
When you're finished, use a cookie cutter or knife to cut out the edges of your dish.
Then, gently curve it into the bottom of one of your bowls and leave it to dry for 24-48 hours.
Once the clay is dry, you can paint your new creation whatever color your heart desires.
Allow the paint to dry, then finish your project with a coat of gloss varnish to really let it shine.
If you liked this tutorial, here are others you might enjoy:
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About the Author
The Sparkle Kitchen Series is created by Meryl Carver-Allmond.
Meryl lives in a hundred-year-old house near the prairie with her sweet husband, two preschoolers, one puppy, one gecko, and about ten chickens. While she's been writing since she could pick up a pen, in recent years she's discovered the joy of photography, too. She feels lucky to be able to combine those skills, along with a third passion — showing people that cooking for themselves can be healthy and fun — in her Sparkle Kitchen posts.