In another life, before my daughter was born, I used to spend many a happy hour making tiaras for brides. I've recently been contemplating picking up my pliers and pearls and trying to start again on a much smaller scale... and then my friend asked if I would make a tiara for her wedding and I thought it might be nice to see if I could still remember how to do it!
She had a look through my big box of tiaras (which has since become Maisie's favourite dressing up box) and she found a rose tiara that I used to make.
The roses are made with cold porcelain. If you haven't heard of it, cold porcelain is a really nice air drying clay that can be worked in very much the same way as sugar flower paste. I first learned about it 14 years ago when I was doing a sugar flower evening course so that I could make my own wedding cake. I've really not played with it nearly as much as I would like, but it's very easy to work with - so much softer and pliable than Fimo or Sculpey and much more durable than sugar flower paste.
I thought I'd share how I make my rose 'beads' here -
Maybe one reason cold porcelain is one of the lesser known air drying clays is that apparently it's quite easy to make at home and so there isn't so much of a demand for its mass manufacture. There are quite a few videos on YouTube showing how to make it. Personally, I tried it once and it cracked badly, so I thought it was better to buy some tried and tested - especially as it was for a friend. I bought mine off E-bay.co.uk from 'homemadecakes' and it was beautiful to work with
To begin with, add a good squeeze of permanent white gouache to your paste. This is not essential, but cold porcelain dries naturally translucent, which can give it a plasticky look, which is less desirable. The gouache just makes it more opaque and adds a realism to flower petals.
Gently knead a small ball of paste and roll it out with a rolling pin. Some instructions recommend dusting with corn flour, but I find that if I cover my board with a Teflon non stick sheet I don't need the corn flour. I roll mine out to a little under 1 mm and then cut it using 2 different sized rose petal cutters. 4 small and 5 larger petals.
Take 1 of the small petals and stretch it from top to bottom between your fingers. Squash one side edge between your thumb and fore finger. This will become your rose centre and the pinched edge will be the top. Pinch all of the other petals around the edges between your thumb and forefinger. This just softens the cut edge and frills the petals slightly for a more natural look.
Take your rose centre and gently roll it sideways onto itself so that the squashed edge is slightly open at the top.
With your first small petal, wrap it around the rose centre, opening it a little at the top.
Wrap your second and third small petals around the centre so that the third petal just overlaps the middle of the first petal.
Start adding the larger petals now, each time shaping and curving the petal top a little bit more so that the petals are become increasing more open.
Add the second large petal, keeping in mind that you want 5 petals that make a single circuit around the 3 inner petals.
Add the third large petal.
Finally, add the 4th and 5th large petals, placing them so that the last petal just overlaps the middle of the first large petal.
And there's the side view of the rose.
We don't really want all of that extra paste at the bottom, so pinch the base between your thumb and forefinger to begin the process of removing it.
Roll the base between your 2 forefingers until it gradually starts to separate from the top of the rose...
Continue until it naturally breaks off and you just have a little point left. That extra bit of paste that came off can be used again to make more petals.
Now, to turn your rose into a bead you need to insert a stick or rod. I use a 2mm knitting needle - remember that your cold porcelain will shrink by 20% or so when it dries, so don't leave it on the needle. Whilst the bead is on the needle, gently remove the point by pushing it towards the needle.
I tend to fill my little cutting board with as many petals as I can fit on it and then cover my board with cling film so that the petals don't dry out. I then just lift the cling film each time I need a new petal. The paste doesn't dry out as quickly as sugar flower paste, but it is always at its best when it is fresh.
Once they're dry - or ideally 'leathery', they can be dusted with sugar flower dusting powders or painted with oils or acrylics. I like the lustrous dusting powders as I feel that they give a more subtle, natural finish than paints. My finished flowers are coated with pearl ivory edible lustre and then the edges are dusted lightly with cream powder.
The whole thing can then be sealed with a few light sprays of matte sealant spray. The flowers wouldn't be waterproof, but they would stand up to a gentle wipe with a damp cloth.
Given my 5 year hiatus from tiara making, I'm pretty pleased with how this one turned out. I just need to tweak the design a little as it's not quite perfect, but I'll keep you updated!
Here's the final tiara. I added a lot more pearls and stabilized the rose beads so that they didn't wobble about.
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