Monday, 31 August 2015

DIY Dog (or Cat) Clay Paw Prints

Paw prints are a great way to celebrate special milestones or occasions during life together, as well as to hold on to mementos of beloved pets after they pass.  You can buy pre-packaged paw impression kits (which can be a nice option if you'd like a paw-and-frame set) or it's also easy to create your own prints with a few simple craft supplies.

To make a DIY impression paw print like those shown shown, you will need:
  • Plate or tray
  • Clingfilm
  • Clay (a non-toxic air dry clay works well)
  • Round biscuit cutter (optional)
  • Warm damp washcloths
  • Toothpick or similar for removing dirt/dust/fur from the clay print if/as required.
  • Treats...lot of treats...and patience (not optional)

Note: Impressions are best undertaken when your pet is relaxed and in a cooperative mood.  If you have a particularly active pet or one who dislikes having their paws handled, an extra human helper can go a long way towards keeping things controlled and calm during the process. The nice thing about creating with air dry clay is that you can always just re-roll and start over if your impression attempt doesn't quite go to plan. :)  There may be a bit of clay residue after you take the impression, so have a warm clean wash cloth at the ready and take your impressions somewhere with an easy-clean surface.  An optional very light paw spritz/rub of olive oil can help with a cleaner impression and less mess if your pet has rough or furry bottoms on their paws.

Work your clay in your hands until soft.  For ease of handling and clean-up, place a piece of cling film on a flat work surface.  Place another piece of cling film over the top and roll the clay between them.  Size/thickness will depend on the size of your pet/paw and whether you want any extra space around the finished print for writing.  If you don't have the option of rolling, you can also hand-form it into a flat patty slightly larger than your pet's paw. 

Remove the top layer of cling flim and place aside. Lift the clay onto a flat plate or tray for mobility.   Ensure your pet has a clean paw using a light wipe with a warm washcloth if needed.  Using your best patient efforts and plenty of treats, get your pet's cooperation to take an impression.  Gently but firmly press the paw onto the clay.  If you pet escapes before you have a clean impression, rework your clay and try again.  Be patient, and try to keep it fun for everyone.    Our older dog was very cooperative, but taking our puppy's print took several attempts.  The cat ran for cover and safety in the far recesses under a bed. All in a day's DIY exploits at the animal mad house! No pictures of that step - I was working solo and my hands were more than full.

Return the clay to your work surface and place the clingfilm back on top. Trim using a biscuit cutter.  The clingfilm is, of course, optional, but this rounds the edges as the cutter presses through. A little clay crafting trick that helps give your finished pieces a very nice edge.  Excess clay can be returned to the package and re-sealed for future projects. You can dip a fingertip in water to smooth out the edges and any flaws in your clay but don't use it on the print - it will erase the texture of the paw impression. If you've picked up dirt or hair in the print, a toothpick or something similar can help with damage-free touch-ups if  needed for a clean print.  Leave your print on the plate to dry (drying times will depend on your choice of clay and ambient conditions) - it will lift easily from the clingfilm.

I am planing to shadowbox frame our pets' natural (unpainted) paw prints, but am still searching for the right frame.  I also painted a set and plan to use 3M strips to put them on my pegboard in the office. :)  If you'd like to paint your paw prints, wait until they are thoroughly dry.  I recommend spraying for the paw print area so as not to loose the detail of the impression to a thick paint or brush marks.  An all-over single colour is easy to apply and can be very attractive, especially a gloss metallic which makes your prints look like metal. I opted for silver and black to match my vintage-style pegboard frames, and it really makes the prints pop.  It is a little trickier though as you have to hand-paint  My prints were first spray painted in silver, sprayed black on the backs, and then hand-painted gloss black on the front/edges around the prints. It was tricky work though!  I think all over metallic is much easier. Maybe next time. :) My beasts are too big for tree ornaments and that sort of thing, and I like the idea of having them on display in my office year-round.  Do you have other ideas for how pet paw print impressions could be used?  Let us know! We and our readers are always looking for ideas for celebrating our pets. :)

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