Conversation hearts and Valentine’s Day are kind of the perfect couple. The tiny, heart-shaped candies are practically synonymous with the day itself, their Be Mines and I Love Yous part of many people’s Valentine’s repertoires since birth. While the sweetness and ephemerality of these miniature love notes are certainly part of their charm, it would be great to preserve their sentiments forever. Beth Salvini, the artist behind felt this way, so when we enlisted her to create a special Valentine’s project for us, she immediately turned to these tried-and-true February 14th staples for inspiration. Made from clay and easy enough to make at home, these adorable charms provide the same sweetness as their candy counterparts, but can last a lifetime. Continue after the jump for Beth’s full tutorial! —Max
- Acrylic or craft paints
- Oversized safety pin (or cord/chain if you want to use as a necklace)
- Small container of water
- Clear medium or acrylic spray paint
1. Tear off a piece of clay and roll it into a ball, like an oversized gumball.
2. Flatten the ball into your hand slightly until it is the desired thickness, roughly 1/4 inch.
3. Pinch the bottom half of the sphere to develop the point of the heart.
*During the entire sculpting process, keep fingers moist and use a small amount of water to smooth out any creases or imperfections. Paperclay is very forgiving and easy to use!
4. Using the tip of a thin paintbrush push into the middle of the opposite side of the point, where you will form the top half of the heart. You can mold the top to be the desired shape you like. Using your wet fingers during this part will make the sculpting much easier.
5. Pierce one half of the top of the heart with the safety pin. Make sure to roll the pin up and down carefully to make the hole larger than the pin itself. This will ensure that you don’t make the hole too small.
6. Allow the heart to air dry for 24 hours, or if you are in a hurry you can bake the heart at a low oven temperature (200º) until the piece is set.
7. After the piece is completely dry, feel free to sand and smooth the heart if necessary, this material sands very nicely.
8. With your chosen color, paint the entire heart and allow to dry.
9. Using red paint and a liner brush, paint on the phrase you have chosen. If it is easier, you can lightly use a pencil to write where you want the letters first before applying the red paint. If you mess up, just wait for the red paint to dry and paint over with your base color and try again. Remember, this is a handmade object and the little flaws are the best part! When all of the paint is completely dry, use an acrylic spray paint or clear medium to seal the piece. There are a lot of nontoxic options available at your local art or craft supply store.
10. Put the safety pin through the heart and pin onto a jacket or bag. You can also use it as a charm and thread cord through the hole.