This DIY project was inspired by something I saw on Pinterest, and it was really easy to make and also very fun! These bookends add an interesting texture and a touch of glam to my bookshelves. I also love the combination of the gold leaf applied decoration with the raw and natural clay interior. I feel like that successfully achieves my personal style (natural with a pop of something unexpected). For this project, you will need air-dry clay (I used 7.5 lbs of Crayola white clay), knife, foam brush, water, foam board, gold flakes (I used a 3-gram bag of gold leaf flakes from Artminds), and metal leaf adhesive (I used “Speedball,” a black bottle with a picture of Mona Lisa on the label). I found the gold leaf supplies at Michaels, and bought the Crayola clay from Walmart (Michaels has it too). There are two main parts to this DIY project: the sculpting, and the gilding. It takes up to a few days for the clay to dry, so this is more than a few hours to complete the project. Once you do, though, you will be satisfied!
PART 1: Sculpting
Set up your foam board so you can sculpt on it. It will prevent messes and be your “table” which your clay will spend the next few hours/days drying on. Take all of the clay and work a small amount of water into it until smooth. The water makes the clay easier to handle and mold. I kept a small bowl next to me so I could continue to add water as needed. Slowly begin to mold the clay into your desired shape. I wanted a flat bottom (to sit flush on the bookshelf) with a dome shaped top. Continue to add water to smoothen cracks and holes. Connor helped me with the majority of this project – those are his hairy arms, not mine :)
Once you have sculpted the clay into your desired shape, it’s time to cut it in half (one for each end of the books). This is optional, of course. I wanted to have matching bookends, but if you have sculpted a masterpiece or just want a single statement piece, you can skip this step. I was able to use a knife to cut the clay in half, but a piece of wire might be more efficient and cut a cleaner line. Once cut, separate the two pieces, and touch up the insides and outsides with water to smoothen and make it flat.
Now, it’s time to set the project aside and let it dry. The time it will take depends on the shape and thickness of your clay. I kept it in a location where it wouldn’t get moved around a lot, but that I could check on it once in a while to see if it was ready. It took a few days, but then I got busy and didn’t get back to it for a week. Oops.
Part 2: Gilding
Once your sculptures are dry, you can pull them from the foam board. Then, I started by inspecting each piece and cleaning it up – breaking off any edges along the bottom and smoothing to make a crisp line. Next, I used the metal leaf adhesive and a foam brush to spread the glue over any surfaces that I wanted to gold leaf. For me, it was only the rounded edge, not the inside, to create a sort of glam-meets-natural aesthetic. Note: The bottle of adhesive said it would take 30 minutes for the adhesive to become tacky and to begin leafing. However, for me it only took 5-10 minutes. You will be able to tell when it’s ready by just touching it and seeing if it feels sticky. It stays this way for quite some time, but if you are slow like me at adding the gold leaf, you can always glue in sections!
When the adhesive feels tacky, get your gold leaf ready. I put mine into a bowl so it was easier to grab. Take a pinch of leaf and rub it across the surface. If large chunks remain, pull those off and dab them on other sections. I really had a hard time getting a technique down for it to look right. Connor had to help me! I was so shy about applying the leaf at first, trying to make it perfect. Connor had his side halfway done when I had only finished section smaller than one inch! He was very loose in his style and it worked well for the heavy texture we wanted. Just experiment and find the technique that works best for the texture you desire.
Once you cover all the areas with the gold leaf, go back and touch up any bare spots and flake off the spots that are excessive or too thick. After the gold leaf dries completely, lightly blow on the scuplture to get any flakes off that aren’t actually glued. You won’t get everything, and if you keep blowing, you might not have anything left. The main point is to just get any excess leaf off so when you walk by it doesn’t blow everywhere.
That does it! I hope you enjoy!