Thursday, June 21, 2012

DIY Mutant Plant Specimen #1

Work has been progressing nicely on my Mad Scientist crafting binge.  I've got a number of things in the works at the moment, but I haven't gotten much completely finished.  I tend to get distracted or to do too many things at once.  I think I've got maybe two or three other props going and I'm trying to get the yarn crafting back on track.  So many projects!  It really got to the point where I needed to have something that I could call finished. There were a couple of ideas floating around in the back of my brain so I picked the one that seemed easiest and went from there.

Any good mad scientist is going to have bizarre samples and specimens all over the place.  Since I intend to go heavy on the blacklights for lighting the most logical thing is to do something that will glow in the dark.  Just getting something that glows wasn't enough, I wanted something that would look real until the lighting changed so that it would look real and eerie when put in that lighting change.  Small changes, big effect.

A quick rummage netted a suitable jar and some paints.  Then a bit of poking around in the garage uncovered some old silk flowers that I had bought years ago for a belly dancing headdress.  This is why crafters never throw anything away.  I had completely forgotten about those particular plant bits but they were there when I needed them.  (-:  Queen of the pack rats wins again!

Armed with fake plants and my jar I set out to make a mutant plant of some sort.

DIY Mutant Plant Specimen #1

This will probably be the easiest of the mutant plants, that's why it's Specimen #1.  It's a good starter/practice because it is so easy to do.  It's also fast.  You can make it in the time it takes paint to dry, literally.

You will need:

A jar with a screw top lid
Fake flowers
Craft scissors
Brown clay
Black paint
Krylon Glowz Spray Paint

Crafting Tip:  Unless you're going for something really specific, don't waste time and money on super fancy flowers.  Sure, you can get really nice, pretty flowers and you can even get them on a sale or with the ubiquitous craft store 40% off coupon but there is absolutely no reason to do so.  You're making a mutant prop plant so for all intents and purposes it doesn't matter what the plant looks like.  It might even be better if it is a little ugly or misshapen.  To that end I suggest you do what I do and rummage through clearance racks.  You won't find the best colors or latest fashionable flowers; you'll find the uglier ones that no one wants or the pretty ones that are missing bits which is absolutely perfect. You'll feel better about whacking a floral bush to bits if it's not terribly attractive or is already missing pieces.  It also helps to keep your crafting projects affordable.  If you have space, save whatever parts are leftover because they may come in handy again.   

Step 1:  Get your jar all cleaned up and paint the jar lid.

It will take at least two coats of paint to get good coverage on the lid.  A trick I've learned is to do one coat in one direction and the second coat on a 90 degree angle from the first.  That way anything you missed the first time is obvious and easy to get the second time.

Step 2:  Prep your flowers.

I had an assortment of flowers to pick from, so I brought in the ones that looked like they would fit the jar the best.  I wanted the plant to look mostly normal so it was important not to have an exaggerated jar.
I picked out a little yellow flower because it had the most interesting leafy bits and it fit the size of the jar really well.  To cut the sprig to the right size, cut through the plastic coating with your scissors but don't try to cut the wire.  If you have wire cutters you can use those. Otherwise use the scissors to clamp the wire where you want the cut to be and bend the wire back and forth. This isn't particularly good for your scissors so make sure you're using craft scissors that you don't mind getting banged up a bit. It will only take a few bends until the metal breaks.  Check back on your jar lid to see if you can put that second coat on.

Step 3:  Make your flower glow!

Gently pop the flower off the stem.  Be careful doing this because some flowers are more firmly attached than others.  If the flower won't come off easily don't force it, just try another one.  It's also possible that you got a type of flower that doesn't disassemble and reassemble well, so being gentle with it is the way to go.

Give the flower a nice coat of glow paint.  By taking the flower off you make sure that you only get paint where you want it.  You could, if you wanted to, paint the greenery instead and leave the flower normal.  I'll be doing something like that with later props.

Step 4:  Build a base for your plant.

Take some of your clay and roll it into a ball.

Check the jar lid to make sure it's all the way dry.  If the lid isn't dry wait until it is.  Then place your clay ball in the middle of your jar lid.  Press the clay into the lid leaving a high point in the center.  You do have to make sure that you don't get clay where the jar and the lid connect.  I grabbed a jar lid where that edge is easy to see so I could show you.  

Look on the inside of your jar lid and should see an inner circle that has a  ridge around it.  Stay out of that ridge, it's where the jar and lid seal.

Here's what your clay should look like, with a nice clear space around the edges.

Step 5:  Plant your plant.

Stick your main plant sprig in the center of the clay.  Since it looks a little sparse you need to dress it up a bit.  There are a couple ways you can do this.  You can pluck some of the leaves off the plant you've been working with and trim them up to stick in the clay.  If you have a bunch of random flower bits to choose from you can hunt for something that looks mossy and use that.

I had another thing of flowers that had a mossy bit on it so I pulled off some of the moss pieces and pressed them into the clay.
Fussy moss bits
Minus fuzzy moss bits

The mossy bits make a big improvement to the overall look of the thing.  Once you get everything set the way you want it, try the jar on for size. If you're happy with the look go on to the next step.

Fuzzy moss bits neatly arranged, it actually looks like a real plant!

Step 6:  Attach the glow flower to the plant, and cover.

Check the edge of the lid to make sure none of the original color is showing up and retouch as necessary.

And here you have it!  You can slap a label on it if you like.  I'll try to get a label making post up in the next week or so for those who need ideas.

Under normal light
Just plan glow in the dark with lights off

Under the blacklight

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