Thursday, October 20, 2011

Painting with Nature - Literally!

This is a demo article on how to make a paintbrush from a yucca plant.  You can use any yucca plant. I happen to have access to a Red Yucca plant.  It doesn't matter how big or small the frond you cut off is. You can cut it to any shape.

I prefer a sharp diagonal shape.  The more a yucca brush is used, the softer the shape becomes.  This makes for a unique brush, but eventually you will have to cut and reform the edge.  Every brush is different which makes for unique brush strokes, which makes for very unique beads, well you get the picture.

This Red Yucca frond is lovely to use because it is firm and easy to hold. I typically cut the pencil length but you can make them longer or shorter.  The most important thing is to easily hold it in your hand. So make it a comfortable length.

Next stick the frond in a glass of water to soften. I let mine sit about 24 hours.

How long does a yucca brush last?  I don't know. I use them for a day or so and then I stick them on a shelf meaning to reuse them.  But six months or more may go by before I feel the urge to use one and by that time it is very dry and shriveled up, completely unusable.

Just go cut another one.  Yuccas can be 'harvested' any time of the year.

The yucca plant is made up of soft plant fibers.  After 24 hours simply use your fingernails to pull at the end, scraping off the green pulp.

If you don't have fingernails (like many potters and bead artists), do the best you can. If your nails are extremely short, you can try using the edge of a spoon or fork or knife.  Experiment.

This is the stroke that the paintbrush above left on my bead. A nice straight line. I just dabbed on the underglaze.

The yucca paintbrush holds lots of paint. You would load it the same way you would a watercolor or oil brush.  You will be surprised at how long one stroke can last.

You would pay a lot of money for such a nice paintbrush but the best thing about yucca paintbrushes is that they are free. 

Free is good.

Here is the same bead with a clear coat of glaze.  I fired this one to cone 1.

To finish this bead, I added some of my original hand drawn iron oxide decals and refired to cone 05.

Thanks for following along and if you make your own yucca brush, post the results so we can see your own unique bead creations. :)

Originally this article was posted on the Beads of Clay blog where I contribute articles once a month. I am reposting it here for my blog readers who may not be subscribed to the Beads of Clay blog.

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