Aren't these polka dots pots the cutest? My original thought in making these was that I'd use them as a gift for a neighbor of ours who was moving away. She is a lover of all things gardening, so a set of pots plus some packets of herb seeds seemed like a nice, useful gift for her new home. But once I got started and bought all the supplies, I decided I might as well make a whole BUNCH of these adorable pots! In addition to the set I made for my neighbor, I ended up keeping a few for myself and giving the others away as little Mother's Day gifts for some of my co-workers. Mother's Day is over for this year, but a set of these pots in pretty colors would also make a lovely bridal shower gift (I'm thinking the pots would make a nice presentation nestled in a window box), end-of-year teacher gift (perhaps with a gift card to a local gardening center tucked inside), birthday gift, or a cheery "just because" gift for a gardening friend.
So here are a few instructions and a few photos on the process I used for making my pots. Let me start by saying that I got the idea for the pots from Crafts 'n' Things magazine. I had never seen this magazine before grabbing it off the shelf at the library a few weeks ago. Once I started going through it -- wow! I was amazed at all of the cute, easy to make projects inside, including these polka dot beauties.
First, I gathered the supplies I'd need to paint the pots. I used plain old 6" clay pots with a rim, but you could use any size and shape that you'd like. I chose these, frankly, because they were cheap! They were $1.49 each at my local super store. I also bought a few bottles of regular old craft paint in bright pastel colors, plus a bottle of white. I used inexpensive foam brushes to apply the paint, because I wanted something that would be easy to clean. I made sure I had one brush for each color, though, just so I could keep things moving along.
I painted my pots in two "sections," the bottom first, and then the rim and top. I found that by doing it this way, there was always a dry part of the pot that I could handle and I was able to manipulate the pot easily. For most of the colors, it took several thin coats (let dry in between each coat) for the pot to really look good. For the yellow and light green, it took a couple of additional coats. So just be aware that some colors may need more coats for really good coverage.
Here is what my pots looked like while drying, with just the bottoms painted. Acrylic craft paint doesn't take long to dry between coats, but I allowed an hour or so (in a bright, sunny area) to be sure the paint was completely dry before adding another coat.
Once all of the pots had their base coats of color, I added the polka dots. I'm going to admit here that it took a bit of trial and error to find a "tool" that would work really well to make perfect polka dots. You may have to look around your house for something that will work. I ended up using the item shown in the photo below, a round sponge dauber that is mounted on a wooden handle. I think I bought a bunch of these daubers at a stamping or craft show years ago, and I've only used them once or twice. Turns out they worked perfectly for this project!
While painting the body of the pots, I poured the paint into little cups, but for the polka dots, a paper plate worked much better. For each pot, I squirted just a bit of the base color onto the plate and then added enough white paint to turn it a few shades lighter than the "base" color. So, the polka dots on the pink pot are really pale pink (pink mixed with white), on the blue, they are light blue (blue with a few squeezes of white), etc. This gives a nice contrast against the base color of the pot, but the dots "blend in" better than stark white dots would. As far as technique, it was trial and error there, too. I found that what worked best was to get quite a bit of paint on the flat "tip" of the dauber, then apply it to the pot and twist a little bit to get a perfect (well, almost perfect) circle. You can just stamp random dots all over the pots or, you can do what I did and stamp them on in spaced rows. I just started out by painting a dot along the bottom, then a dot on the exact opposite side, then I added dots along the opposing sides (so I had four, evenly spaced dots along the bottom edge). I then filled in the row with a dot between each of the other dots. I did the same thing for the top row (right under the rim), and then the middle row. Then I went back and added a vertical row of two dots between each vertical row of three dots. Finally, I painted dots around the rim (using the same "divide the pot in quarters" technique). I let the now-dotted pots dry thoroughly.
I wanted my gift recipients to be able to use their pots outdoors if they wanted to, so that necessitated finishing the pots with varnish. The stuff in the photo above is what I used, but any varnish made for outdoor use will work. Just read the labels. There are a lot of products made ONLY for indoor use, and those won't stand up to weather. I also bought a fancy-schmancy fat foam brush with a plastic handle to apply the varnish. (You'll also need something to clean your varnish brush with if you don't have paint thinner or another cleaner at home.) WARNING: You definitely have to varnish in a well ventilated area. The fumes from this kind of heavy-duty varnish can be dangerous, so do it outside on a nice day, if possible. I varnished my pots in my sunporch, with all of the windows open so I had a good cross breeze blowing.
I'm going to be honest here -- the varnishing was the most tedious part of this project. It has to be applied very thinly so it doesn't run or drip, and of course, it has to dry between each coat. It takes longer for a coat of varnish to dry than for a coat of craft paint, but still, drying didn't take that long since the coats were so thin and I did the varnishing on a warm, dry, breezy day. I used three coats of varnish on my pots, and they ended up with a rich, glossy finish. Actually, I used a semi-gloss varnish, but there are matte and glossy varieties if you prefer those finishes.
The wet varnish, of course, is sticky, and you really have to do the whole pot at once rather than in two parts like I did for the base paint coats. This required me to come up with a clever way for the pots to dry in between coats of varnish. The photo above shows what I came up with. I simply inverted the wet, varnished pots on tall, sturdy acrylic tumblers. The tumblers were sturdy enough to hold the pot securely, but easy to move around if I needed to. Following that third coat of varnish, I let the pots dry overnight. The next day, after turning the pots over, I swiped a little bit of varnish along the top edge of each pot, to seal that little rim of color. After letting that final bit of vanish dry, the pots were complete. I decided to include with each pot that I was gifting a packet of herb seeds, but even the pot alone makes a sweet gift.
Here's another look at the finished pots. As you can see, the varnish really makes the difference in terms of eye-appeal. It also makes the pots super-useful, since they can be placed indoors or out. And, as I think I mentioned, these pots were easy on the budget. I made a dozen or so pots for around $35 total, and that includes the quart of varnish which was about $10. If your hubby has some suitable varnish in the garage, you won't even have to spend as much as I did. So, the next time you find yourself wanting to give a crafty little gift to someone special, remember these darling polka dot pots. Allow yourself a weekend to do all of the painting and varnishing so you don't have to rush. You'll end up with a usable gift that most anyone with even a slightly green thumb will truly enjoy.