Proteas are one of my favourite flowers. As you know, I grew up in Europe and even if we have all these amazing and beautiful flowers, we don’t have the “exotic” ones. For me, all the lands outside of Europe have such amazing plants, almost alien, which are impossible to not attract a flower lover’s imagination and desire… So, ever since I saw my first real Protea years ago, I have been making them and I keep making new ones, trying different construction methods and materials. And it is always a fun.
So, today I will mix two of my favourite things – watercolours and flower making. As you will see – it is really fun to create in this way and also – very easy, so it can be a great, fun project for the whole family.
I hear a lot of people complaining that the lockdowns are making them nervous. The news says that aggression at home is increasing, because all the family members are together at home all the time. I believe that crafty families do not have this problem. Crafting relaxes our minds and adds excitement to the day. So, one of my recipes for family and home peace, especially for children, is crafting.
How to involve the little ones in this Protea project?
Depending on their age, you can give your kids different tasks. If they are little, ask them to colour all the petals and leaves. Here, probably, a very useful tool will be a water container brush, which I also use. This will save you from a serious amount of water being splashed around your craft space. If the kids are older, give them the task of cutting the leaves and the petals or, at least let them help you doing it. The good thing in this project is the large number of petals and leaves needed for each flower. And if you decide to make a Protea bouquet as a gift for someone you love – you will have almost a whole week’s activity and the resulting peace at home. In my experience, kids love crafts.
But, if you don’t have enough time or prefer not to play with paint around the house, in my Etsy shop you will find these easy to print and cut Protea templates.
What you need to create this Watercolour Protea flower
Of course – watercolour paper and watercolour (or acrylic) paint, PVA glue and scissors. Also, some brown-(ish) crepe paper – no special weight here, it will only be for covering and connecting the elements.
Also, you will need a Styrofoam egg, 0.6 mm florists wire and side cutter pliers for cutting the wire. Okay, the side cutters are not essential but are my suggestion, even if the wire is thin. The wire will damage your scissors blades and soon you will have to buy new ones. The wire should not be very thick, because you will have some bending to do and, for me, the 0.6 mm is the best for this. Later you can add more wire where needed.
Second, you can substitute the florists’ wire with any similar 0.6 mm wire from the hardware store or jewellery shop. And third, but not last, the Styrofoam egg also can be substituted with simple kitchen supplies. The easiest way is with paper and aluminium baking foil. In my article on how to substitute flower craft materials, you will find exactly how to do this.
And – of course – my favourite 2 in 1 palette and colouring “mat” – a plain, white porcelain plate, which you can wash after colouring and use it again as a plate. This can save you from cluttering up your craft space with unnecessary materials. This is always important but becomes particularly salient if you would otherwise need plastic palettes for more than one child.
How to start…
Cut 4 simple Protea petal templates in different sizes. Every set of four must be smaller (or bigger) than the previous one by a little bit – say, 3 to 5 mm. Also cut one or two leaf templates.
Using the templates, outline at least 9, better 12, petals and at least 3 leaves. Every leaf will need a mirrored image for the reverse (back) side, so 6 outlined in total – 3 with the template flipped over.
Also, using a simple ruler, outline the stamens, as shown. You will need 5 strips as shown to make the stamens. If you are making a big flower, you will need more. But don’t worry too much about the sizes. You only need only one of these strips of stamens to be a bit narrower than the other ones. The rest can be the same size. Simply A4 (Letter) paper width for the total length will be a pretty useful guide.
Colouring is such a fun!
There are two ways to colour the petals – the first one is with the simple watercolour technique I used.
The other one is to use coloured cardboard and to add more colours on the front side of each leaf. This will help you to easily create darker petal backs and lighter on the front side, if working with lighter colours.
Colouring the stamens follows the same pattern. You can make them with lines of colour like I have – orange on the bottom, pink in the middle and light grey along the top – which will increase the visual volume of the flower and also will make it look more realistic. Or follow your own colour scheme – it’s up to you.
With the stamens you will have to keep the white line – don’t colour it. It will help your children to know how long the stamens have to be and also – where to put the glue (on the back of the white line J ).
Making the stamens’ head
Once your watercolour details are dried, cut them all out.
And wire the Styrofoam egg as shown. If you are working with the Styrofoam substitute idea, check here for details.
Curl all the leaves, by pulling them gently with the scissors’ blade. It is better to use blunt scissors for this, because a sharp blade can easily damage or tear the paper. You can also use a short ruler or the closed scissors instead.
Now, working with the stamens, start with the narrower one and put glue on the bottom of the back side (white in my project). It needs to be an unbroken line to be sure that all the parts will be glued. I suggest you do not use alcohol-based universal glues here, because a lot of these will “melt” the Styrofoam. If you are using the substitute idea, this will not be a problem.
Glue the first line of stamens (the narrower one) wrapping it around to cover the top of the Styrofoam egg.
And then glue all the other ones slightly lower down on the egg in order to create this “hat”-looking shape. If you feel uncomfortable, because the paper is thick, you can make small cuts on the white line to make the stamen strip more easily bend around to follow the egg shape. If you keep the stamens mostly around the central (wider) part of the egg, it will be easier to glue thicker paper. When you finish with all the stamens, leave the whole assembly aside for the glue to dry.
Make the leaves
While the stamens head is drying, use the time to complete the leaves. Each leaf has two mirrored elements. Put glue on one of them, stick the wire in (don’t forget to put glue on it too!).
And then close both sides of the leaf on the wire. Press and massage it well with your fingers to be sure that the glue is well spread, and the wire will be firmly fixed between the paper layers.
Then with a thin strip of crepe paper and PVA glue cover the rest of the wire to create a realistic looking branch.
Now it is time for the petals
Glue the longer ones under the end of the stamens. The idea is to cover the visible uncoloured part.
If you want some of your petals to be more closed, put the glue not only on the bottom area, but almost to the middle or to the top (depending on your idea).
If you want to make some of the petal layers more secure, wrap them with crepe paper strips, stretching the paper and applying PVA glue.
The last petal layers will need glue spread on almost all the back. Keep only the top not glued to maintain the realistic look of the flower.
Adding the leaves and other final steps
When the petals are all glued, add more wire to the existing thin stem to make it stronger and thicker. Wrap them all with stretched strips of crepe paper and PVA glue to hold it all together. This will make the stem very strong. Put more wraps closer to the flower head.
Once the stem is covered, it is time to add the leaves. Do it again by wrapping them with crepe paper strips and PVA glue. Stretch the strip well to create a strong connection between the elements. If there is air between the layers, the construction will be not strong enough.
The last step is to roll some more petals and to “tidy” the stamens…
And your Watercolour Protea is ready. Do you feel like you want to make more in different colours? I have this feeling when I finish every single one of my Proteas and one day I will be patient enough to create a huge bunch!
Enjoy your paper craft time! ♥
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