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DIY Craft Tutorial: How to Make Decorative Clay Birds

Updated on August 8, 2016
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As an artist and a new home owner, Donna enjoys creating unique decorative items and holiday ornaments to welcome all to her artistic abode.

How to Make Decorative Birds from Clay
How to Make Decorative Birds from Clay | Source

These pretty clay birds are easy to make using polymer clay and some handy household tools. These birds can be made in any size or color and used to decorate your mantle, garden decor and flower pots, door decorations, wreaths, or your Christmas tree!

Materials for making a decorative clay bird
Materials for making a decorative clay bird | Source

Materials

These decorative birds can be made with polymer clay or air dry clay. I used Sculpey brand polymer clay, which is baked in a conventional oven to harden. Sculpey is a soft clay and easy to form into different shapes.

I also like to use household materials as my clay tools, so that these projects do not require special equipment. If you have clay tools, you can use those as well. Important: If you are using household items as clay tools, do not use these items in contact with food after using them with your clay.

My birds are about 3 inches long by 2 inches high. For each bird, you will need:

  • about 3/4 of a block of Sculpey clay - I mixed clay to make the colors for my birds, but Sculpey comes in a wide variety of colors.
  • buttons, pen caps, and other items to use as stamps in the clay. Look around your home for interesting items that will make imprints in your clay. You can also use ink stamps.
  • the tip of a pen, or similar item, for making small holes in the clay
  • an old credit card, plastic knife, or similar item, for making lines and cutting your clay
  • a plastic spoon for smoothing the clay
  • an old rolling pin, or a clean can from the recycling bin, to roll the clay

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Directions for Making a Decorative Clay Bird

I made a few of these clay birds, including three sitting on a natural branch. You can follow the directions below to make birds for any purpose or placement.

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1. If you'd like to make your bird sitting on a branch, the first step is to select your natural branch. I chose one with some curve for interest and some smaller branches coming off of it. Make sure the branch you choose sits even against your tabletop and does not roll or fall over into a different position.

Before beginning, you can paint your branch or wrap it in ribbon to add more color to your bird display.

Knead your clay until it is soft and your colors are evenly mixed.
Knead your clay until it is soft and your colors are evenly mixed. | Source

To Make a Sitting Bird:

2. Take your 3/4 of a block of clay and start kneading it until it is soft and pliable. If you are mixing colors to make a new color, this kneading will blend the two colors together. Continue to work your clay until it is soft and your colors, if necessary, are well mixed.

Step 3 for making a decorative clay bird
Step 3 for making a decorative clay bird | Source

3. Take your working clay and break off a ball that is about the size of a quarter. Put it to the side for your wings. You will shape the body first.

Step 4
Step 4 | Source

4. Take your larger piece of clay and using your hands, start to shape it into something like a turkey leg or small squash. Make a large rounded section, and form a small section that will become the head.

Step 5
Step 5 | Source

5. Now start to define your shape more. Using your fingers, form a neck between the smaller head and the body. Start to smooth your clay and flatten out the sides of the body. Birds normally have rounded sides to their bodies, but we will be adding the wings separately to fill out the shape.

Begin to pull the end of the body into a simple tail shape.

Step 6
Step 6 | Source

6. Once your bird's body is smooth, sit him up on the base by his tail and squish him down a little to put him in a sitting position and give him a flat bottom. You might want to gently push his head down a little into his body for a more natural position.

Making the wings for your clay bird
Making the wings for your clay bird | Source

Now put your bird's body carefully to the side and start making your bird's wings.

7. Take your ball of clay and roll it out to a round circle that is about 3/16 of an inch thick.

8. Using your credit card or a plastic knife, cut your circle in half.

9. Taking one half of the circle, use your fingers to gently shape the clay into a flat wing shape. I like to shape my wings this way so each set is different, but you can also go online to find a drawing or photo of a bird and trace or copy the shape of their wing.

Step 10
Step 10 | Source

10. Once you've got one wing shaped, you can use it as a template to form the other wing. Put your wings back to back to make them the same size and shape. They don't have to be perfectly the same, just close.

You can use household items to stamp and decorate the wings of your bird.
You can use household items to stamp and decorate the wings of your bird. | Source

11. Now you can decorate each wing, working one at a time. For the wing above, I used a button to stamp the rounded section of the wing, and used a credit card to make longer lines for the feathers. I used a small screwdriver to make shorter lines for more detail.

Once you've decorated one wing, make the same design on the opposite wing. If you don't like your decoration, or if you mess up, roll your clay for your wings into a ball and start again.

Stamping your clay to make a design for your bird's wings.
Stamping your clay to make a design for your bird's wings. | Source

You can also use a larger stamp to imprint on your clay circle and form your wings after stamping.

Putting the finishing touches on your decorative clay bird.
Putting the finishing touches on your decorative clay bird. | Source

12. Once your wings are finished, put them to the side and start the finishing touches on your bird.

Begin to shape the gesture of the bird's body. If you want your bird to be sitting on a branch, place the clay bird on the branch and press down gently to make an indent or notch where the bird will be grounded on the branch.

Then using your fingers, begin to pull gently on the front of your bird's head to form a beak. Change between pulling from the top and bottom, to pulling from the sides. Continue these pulling motions until you form a beak in the shape you want.

I also wanted my bird's head turned, so I carefully twisted his head before shaping his beak.

Source

Take your bird off the branch and complete the body.

13. Shape your bird's tail as you wish. You can continue to pull it into a shape, or pinch it off and use your clay to form the tail separately. If you form the tail separately, you can stamp it with a similar design as the wings. Once you have the shape and design to the tail complete, you can gently press it into the stump you left when you pinched off your clay. Smooth the transition from under the tail using your fingers or a plastic spoon.

14. Take a pen cap or dull pencil and carefully make an eye on each side of the head. Try to make the eyes even on each side.

15. Now, working with one at a time, gently place your wings on your bird's body. Take one wing and decide on the placement on the body. Press just lightly to keep this wing in place. Now put the other wing on the other side of the body. Make sure they are placed evenly and in the same spot on each side. Once in position, press a little harder in the shoulder area of each wing, being careful not to smudge your stamp design. Blend the edges of your wings into your birds body.

16. Bake your polymer clay bird according to the manufacturer's directions. Before baking, check that your bird's beak is still shaped as you want it and that your bird's body doesn't have any dents or marks.

17. When your bird and baked and cooled, you can adhere him to your branch or other surface using hot glue.


You can shape your clay bird in many forms.
You can shape your clay bird in many forms. | Source

To make a more elongated or resting bird:

1. Follow the directions above through Step 5. Instead of sitting your bird upright, continue to shape the body by flattening the sides, rounding his belly, smoothing his neck, and pulling his tail. Then begin to shape the head and beak.

Attaching the bird's wings and adding final details.
Attaching the bird's wings and adding final details. | Source

2. Once your bird is shaped, make your wings as above. Attach them to the body and add final details to the tail, beak, and eyes. Then bake the bird according to the clay package directions.

You can decorate your clay bird after baking.
You can decorate your clay bird after baking. | Source

Ways to Decorate Your Clay Bird After Baking

You can add more decoration to your clay bird after baking.

1. You can paint polymer clay after baking with acrylic paint.

2. You can also color your clay after baking with colored pencils. In the example above, I colored in the depressed area of my stamped wings with colored pencil to add more detail to my bird.

You can use your leftover clay to stamp on and bake as small samples. One they're cooled, you can try different paint and pencil techniques on these clay samples before trying them on your bird.

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Ways to Use and Display Your Clay Birds

Once you've made a few clay birds that you love, there are many ways to display or use them in your home and garden:

  • Before baking your bird, roll a small piece of clay into a coil. Make a loop and attach it to the back of your bird as I did with my purple bird above. When you bird is baked and cool, add some string or ribbon through the loop and hang it in a window or use it as a Christmas tree decoration.
  • Perch your bird in an artificial bird's nest or on a decorative birdhouse. I've posted a tutorial for making a decorative birdhouse planter or flower vase here.
  • Sit him on a welcome sign or plant stake in your garden.
  • Add him to a pretty wreath or to the edge of a flower pot.
  • Just let him hang out on your mantle or on a shelf.

You can use hot glue or other craft glues to adhere your clay bird to most surfaces. Read your glue's label for to see what materials work best with your glue.

Copyright © 2016 by Donna Herron. All rights reserved.

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    • purl3agony profile image
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      Donna Herron 10 months ago from USA

      Hi Lynsey - So glad you like this tutorial. I think these birds would look adorable in your garden. You might want to do a few samples with various types of clay, because I don't really know how well polymer clay will hold up in changing weather. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

    • sparkleyfinger profile image

      Lynsey Harte 10 months ago from Glasgow

      These little birds are so adorable. The patterned wings are something i would never think to do. I think I'll make a few of these for my garden this Summer.

    • purl3agony profile image
      Author

      Donna Herron 13 months ago from USA

      Thanks, vespawoolf! These projects don't take much time, just some imagination! If you don't want to make a bird, you can just play around with the clay and some stamping to make a textural design to use as a pendant, earrings or other small object. Hope you try it and have fun! Thanks for your comments.

    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 13 months ago from Peru, South America

      What a beautiful craft! I wish I had the patience and materials to do this. Thank you for sharing your creative projects.

    • purl3agony profile image
      Author

      Donna Herron 16 months ago from USA

      Hi Thelma - So glad you like this project. I love seeing these little decorative birds on my spring mantle. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

    • purl3agony profile image
      Author

      Donna Herron 16 months ago from USA

      Hi RTalloni - You're very welcome! Thanks so much for your kind comments. I appreciate it!

    • Thelma Alberts profile image

      Thelma Alberts 16 months ago from Germany

      These birds are beautiful. Thanks for sharing the tutorial. Awesome!

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 16 months ago from the short journey

      Oh, oh, oh how cute these are! Sometimes a DIY hub makes me want to stop everything so I can do it and this is one of those. The birds are such little darlings and I expect to be making some soon. Thanks for the clear instructions!

    • purl3agony profile image
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      Donna Herron 19 months ago from USA

      Hi Rachel - My creativity ends at cooking and baking (LOL) And cleaning! Just kidding - thanks so much for reading and sharing your sweet comments! I appreciate your support!

    • purl3agony profile image
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      Donna Herron 19 months ago from USA

      Thanks, Helena! I appreciate your comments, shares, and support!

    • Rachel L Alba profile image

      Rachel L Alba 19 months ago from Every Day Cooking and Baking

      Hi Donna, Is there no end to your creativity??? I love birds. Your birds are so pretty. If you lived near me, I would have you do them for me and pay you well. Thanks for sharing your God given talents.

      Blessings to you.

    • profile image

      Helena 19 months ago

      Wonderful! Will make a bunch for myself, thank you so much for the tutorial. Also shared on Pinterest, Google+ and on my Paper-li paper :)

    • purl3agony profile image
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      Donna Herron 19 months ago from USA

      I'll have to give it a try sometime. Thanks, Anne!

    • annejantz profile image

      Anne Crary Jantz 19 months ago from Dearborn Heights, Michigan, U.S.A.

      I used it on wood for my Recycled Pallet Planter which has been out in direct sunlight for 3 years, and the paint still looks good. The wood is showing cracks, but the paint looks good.

    • purl3agony profile image
      Author

      Donna Herron 19 months ago from USA

      Hi Anne - I've never used Patio Paint, but if it is latex-based than it would probably work on polymer clay. I would paint it on some polymer clay test samples before using it on any finished clay pieces. Thanks for the suggestion!

    • purl3agony profile image
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      Donna Herron 19 months ago from USA

      Hi AuntJennie and Misfit Chick - So glad you like this tutorial. Thanks for your wonderful comments. I appreciate it!

    • Misfit Chick profile image

      Catherine Mostly 19 months ago from Seattle, WA - USA - The WORLD

      Adorable!! These cute little birdies definitely look like something that would be worth taking the time to try. Thanks for sharing. :)

    • annejantz profile image

      Anne Crary Jantz 19 months ago from Dearborn Heights, Michigan, U.S.A.

      I've had good luck outside with the "Patio Paint" that Michael's sells.

    • auntjennie profile image

      Jen 19 months ago from Canada

      I love how detailed this tutorial is about the clay birds. I love the texture in the wings. I will have to give this a try.

    • purl3agony profile image
      Author

      Donna Herron 19 months ago from USA

      Thanks, Chitrangada! This tutorial is heavy on the photos, but I think they really help illustrate all the steps. Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 19 months ago from New Delhi, India

      These clay birds look so cute! What a creative idea!

      I loved going through your detailed instructions and the pictures are so helpful.

      Would try it for sure. Thank you!

    • purl3agony profile image
      Author

      Donna Herron 19 months ago from USA

      Thanks, Sally! Maybe I should make a felt nest to tuck them into? What do you think? Thanks, as always, for your kind comments. I appreciate it!

    • purl3agony profile image
      Author

      Donna Herron 19 months ago from USA

      Hi Chantelle - Hardened polymer clay can be put outside (year round I would think). You may see some fading in the color if the clay is exposed to sunlight for a long time. They should do fine in water or rain too, however if you decide to paint your birds, the paint will probably peel off in the rain or the color will fade in the sun. These little birds would be really cute tucked in a planter or sitting on the edge of a window box. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

    • purl3agony profile image
      Author

      Donna Herron 19 months ago from USA

      Hi Anne - I hope you do try making your own clay birds. It's a lot of fun and I hope you make some that you really love. Thanks so much for your comments! I appreciate it!

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 19 months ago from Norfolk

      Hi Donna,

      Very cute, love your little birds, they really came out very well. I have never worked with polymer clay but there is always a first time. Really nice project for the young and the elderly. Well done.

      Sally.

    • Chantelle Porter profile image

      Chantelle Porter 19 months ago from Chicago

      Very cute. Little birds are one of my favorites. Can you put them outside during the summer? (can they handle water.)

    • annejantz profile image

      Anne Crary Jantz 19 months ago from Dearborn Heights, Michigan, U.S.A.

      These birds are really sweet. I'll be sure to give this a try. Thank you for sharing!!!