With all the Harry Potter news this year (Ilvermorny, Cursed Child, and Fantastic Beasts!!), I had an urge to start rereading the books. The last time I read them all was almost 10 years ago, but when I was younger I read them so often that my mom confiscated them for a year (but she also bought me Deathly Hallows on the day it came out, so I forgive her...I guess).
I bought cork bottles a while ago to make terrarium/display pendants. I thought about making the rose from Beauty and the Beast, but I wanted to make something more original. And so, this was born! It was inspired by secret message bottle jewelry and owl post. I also got to finally use some metal filigree bead caps which I've had forever but haven't found a project special enough to use them!
For supplies, you will need:
- Polymer Clay in brown, green, black, white, and yellow (a bit of liquid clay or Bake and Bond will also help)
- Liquid clay mixed with gold clay, or gold-brown paint
- A domed corked bottle. I got mine from the scrapbooking section of my local crafts store. The cork should fit snuggly so it will not fall out when upside down, but should be removable so you can add new messages.
- Small filigree (I only had bead caps, so I used those)
- A headpin and a bead cap, or a glue-on bail for glass domes, with glue (optional)
Tools you will need:
- Needle and dotting tool
- Jewelry pliers
- An oven
Step 1: Owl Perch - Wire Support
Here we will make the wire support for the tree branches the owl perches in! This is also to attach the owl figurine to the bottle cork.
- Cut off a small piece of wire, and fold it in half.
- Bend the wire so it forms a shorter bottom branch, and a longer top branch.
- Using your needle tool, put in a 'pilot hole' in your cork. Use your pliers to securely stick the folded end of the wire into the hole. I like to keep this off-centered to make it easier to fit in the branches (as seen in the photos).
- Check that it will fit inside the glass dome, so that it is small enough that an extra layer of clay around the wire would still fit without touching the glass. You can use your pliers and re-adjust the shape of the wire, and even trim it until you're happy with it.
- Coat this branch and a bit of the base with bake and bond (or liquid clay). This is to help your polymer clay better stick to the wire and cork later on.
Step 2: Owl Perch - Tree Branch
Here we'll form the rest of the perch!
- Roll out some brown clay, and use your needle tool to wrap it around the wires.
- As before, make sure it will fit into the bottle, with none of the clay touching the glass.
- Texture the tree branch with the needle tool tool.
- Using your needle tool again, scrape off bits of green clay to form leaves, and place these clumps on the branches. If it doesn't stick easily, you can use liquid clay to glue it on.
[Tip: I like to cover any wire bits still sticking out of the brown clay with the leaves]
- Add a bit of the green clay to the bottom at the base, to better blend in look of the branch and the cork together.
Step 3: Your Trusty Owl Messenger - Shaping the Body
Here we'll make the owl! I like to make barn owls because I find that they're easier to be identifiable as an owl at this scale, but you can make a snowy owl like Hedwig, or (personally my favorite species) a screech owl like Hermes, or any other species you want ~
.....and maybe I also read a lot of Guardians of Ga'Hoole as a kid, so I have a bit of a soft spot for barn owls...
- Using the white clay, make a teardrop shape, and bend the tip to form a tail.
- Shape the eye sockets using a dotting tool.
- Make a tiny tapered snake from the yellow clay, and cut out the tiniest tip to form the beak. Attach this between the eye sockets, slightly curved (as seen in the picture).
- Place the bird on the branch, wherever it would be most stable. Check again that it fits inside the dome without any of the clay edges touching the glass.
[Tip: Using a bit of Bake and Bond helps!]
- Texture the body with your needle tool. For the barn owl, avoid texturing the face, but texture the head, body, and chest.
- Make two small flattened teardrop shapes for the wings.
- Add these to the bird, and texture as you did before with the needle tool.
[Tip: while you're texturing, you can adjust how the bird sits on the branch by nudging it with your needle tool!]
Step 4: Owl - Adding Color
Here's where the owl really comes to life!
In these steps, I use gold liquid clay, or gold clay mixed with liquid clay to add color because I find that I have the most control that way, but you can also use paint after baking.
- Add two black balls of clay in the eye sockets close to the beak to make the eyes.
- Use a bit of gold liquid clay and spread a thin layer over the textured feathery areas. Re-texture the feathers as needed.
- Around the face, use the gold liquid clay to draw the characteristic heart-shaped border. Avoid getting any of the liquid clay on the inside of this border.
[Side note: You know how artists sometimes say they let their art take a life of their own? Well, as much as I like making tutorials, I always find it more stressful taking photos and video of my work as I go, and I feel like it never comes out as well as it does when I work away from a camera. This little guy seems to agree! He looks quire annoyed with me, leering like that, while the other two owls I made look much friendlier and happier. Oh well,. I guess he has more character and personality this way...]
Step 5: Message Holder
This is optional, and you can just keep this as an owl terrarium/specimen model pendant, but I like to add this message holder as a reference to the mail system in the wizarding world.
Since I only had filigree bead caps, this is how I made the message holder. You can adjust this with whatever materials you have available to you. I've tried making a version with clay, but I thought the metal looked nicer and more delicate.
- Take your piece of filigree.
- If you're using a bead cap like mine, flatten out the filigree cap using your pliers, and cut it in half.
- Using round nosed pliers, shape each half into a semicircle.
- This is where the layer of green and liquid clay on the cork comes in handy. Stick the filigree at the base on the cork to form a ring that could fit a small scroll of paper (as seen in the photos)
Step 6: Baking!
Bake according to your clay packaging directions. Typically it tends to be around 275°F or 130°C, but be sure to read the directions on your clay specifically. Sometimes I use a clay that bakes at 120°-130°C, slightly lower than the regular temperature.
[hint: Be careful to bake your clay thoroughly. Under-baking causes crumbly clay! Also watch your oven and beware of burning, as my poor terrarium owl in the back second photo almost fell victim to. The white clay turned beige D: ]
[And if you care to notice, these two owls are the happier owls I mentioned before, not the grumpy one I photographed making. The one in the back also has mushrooms (for potion making), if anyone wants ideas on what else could be done if they didn't want to make a message bottle]
Step 7: Findings and Finishings
You can skip this step if you just want to keep it as a mini terrarium, but here's how you can add findings to make this into a charm or necklace! And its quite simple!
- I didn't have a cap/bail for the dome, so I used another bead cap and a head pin. Put the head pin inside the bead cap, and glue them both to the dome. You can use whatever glue works for metal and glass. I like to use a bit of 2 part resin, 2-3 hours after mixing, as a glue.
- If your using the same method as I did, use the needle nosed pliers to make a ring with the headpin after the glue has dried.
- If you wish, you can add a bit of glaze to this, although it isn't very necessary because your figurine would mostly stay protected in the glass dome. I think adding a bit of shiny glaze to the eyes would be enough to give your owl a bit more life, but you can use a matte glaze for the rest of the figurine if you'd like!
Step 8: Send Your Message!
Here's where the magic happens!
- Take a slip of paper, around 1-1.5 cm tall (or whatever would fit best with your owl)
- Write your message, and roll it up into a scroll. I rolled mine around a needle to help keep it small and compact
- Put it inside the holder, and put the glass over your cork.
Now your owl is ready to deliver your message! Make sure to remember to give your new friend owl treats on their return!
Also, I have entered this in the Wizarding Contest in honor of Harry's birthday (and also J.K. Rowling's?), so if you liked this, feel free to vote for it!
Runner Up in the