Photography by Bryan McCay
My May column for Family Circle is on the newsstands now and I wanted to add a few notes about the project (space constraints make it difficult to include every tip and observation on the page).
The idea of plaster flowers certainly isn't a new idea, but I had not found any examples of colored plaster, which I wanted to mix in with the standard white. I tried two types of food coloring, both of which are represented in the photo above. The first, McCormick's Neon food coloring set (available in grocery stores) produced the most consistent, overall color and coverage. That's what I used for the pink flowers.
But I also tried Wilton's Icing Colors concentrated paste food coloring (which I found in the cake decorating section at Michaels) in Ivory. The yellow daisies shown above started off as white fabric daisies that I dipped into the Ivory colored plaster. In their initial drying stages, the flowers seemed to be drying consistently, but after several hours I noticed that the color was becoming concentrated on the flower tips and looked yellow instead of ivory. I thought it was a great effect and worth mentioning.
Another experiment I tried was in using different colors of flowers to dip. I found that if I wanted to create highly detailed pink flowers, I was better off starting with a pink flower and dipping it just once (possibly twice, if the first coat is really thin). As the plaster dried, some of the pink flower showed through the plaster, but this looked pretty. The more you dip, the thicker the coating and the more detail that you lose.
When it came to drying these flowers, I found I preferred hanging most of them upside down from a hanger, secured with a clothespin (I hung them from my shower rod and placed a plastic garbage bag over the tub edge to catch any drips). Smaller flowers (or flowers whose petals I wanted to showcase open), I stuck the stems in a Styrofoam block. But I also wanted to include a few flowers and buds on their sides, so I let those dry just resting on the plastic garbage bag. That gave them a flat bottom that was easy to glue onto the mirror.
Finally, don't skip the fixative step. Plaster flakes easily and the fixative will give you a highly durable finish. So durable that I was able to ship this mirror from New Orleans to New York without losing so much as a tiny bud.