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You've probably seen the various images I've posted to my Facebook page of different yard art creations.  This past week I got to spend some time with Deborah Abernathy (my mom!) of the Hypertufa Chicks learning how their craft is made.

We started by collecting all the things we would be using as molds.  The items we would be using included plastic cups, gelatin molds, a snack tray, a cake pan, leaves, a plastic bowl, bubble wrap, and a special mold created by combining a plastic container and a plastic face mold.

Depending on what effects you are trying to create, there are different recipes for creating hypertufa.  We used equal parts peat moss, vermiculite, and standard portland cement.  Portland cement is not kind to your skin or lungs, so we wore latex gloves to protect our hands and worked upwind of any dust.

Peat Moss

Vermiculite

Hypertufa Ingredients

We added all the ingredients into a wheel burrow and mixed them together with a garden hoe.  Another common tool used for mixing is a garden rake, but the hoe works better for breaking up chunks of peat moss. 

Hypertufa Ingredients Mixed

After all the dry ingredients were mixed we started adding water.  You want to add water until the mixture is moist and malleable.  Not crumbly.  Not soupy.

Then Add Water!

Before we can start forming the hypertufa we need to prepare the molds.  Each mold needs to be sprayed with vegetable oil, or once the hypertufa dries it won't come out!  My mom suggested avoiding using butter scented sprays because it makes you hungry for popcorn (although your hypertua won't notice the difference).

Spray your molds so the hypertufa doesn't stick!

After it was mixed and the molds are prepped, we could start shaping our mixture.  Once I had the molds filled I used my finger to scrape off the excess product (which save time later with cleaning the shape), bounced it lightly on a flat surface to remove any air pockets, and then laid it on a flat surface to dry.

Minion molds drying

To create the leaves, we used sand to create the waves and curves of the leaf.  Then we placed the leaf on top of the sand shape we had just created.

Shaping a leaf using sand

I added the hypertufa to the top side of the leaf and pushed the mixture out to the edges until there was a half-inch layer covering the leaf.

Covering leaves with hypertufa

After we finished filling molds and covering leaves we covered all of our projects with a tarp.  In the hot, summer sun the hypertufa can dry too quickly and crack.

After 24 hours had passed we were able to empty most of our molds.  Some of the thicker or more delicate projects needed more time to dry.  This is the ideal time to brush your projects.

Brushing hypertufa gives it a rugged look.  Unbrushed hypertufa looks similar to concrete.  Brushed hypertufa looks like lava rock.  Here is a picture of unbrushed and brushed side-by-side.

Unbrushed vs Brushed hypertufa

To brush out the hypertufa, my mom uses a metal wire brush.

 Brushing hypertufa with a wire brush

 After we finished brushing pots we headed inside to take out my minions and tic-tac-toe board!

Taking my minions out of the mold | Higdons' Happy Home

 Because the tic-tac-toe board hadn't completely dried I was able to scratch lines into it.  All I needed was a nail and a straight edge.

Drawing lines on my tic-tac-toe board | Higdons' Happy Home

They needed a little more time to dry before I could take them home.

Minion tic-tac-toe game drying | Higdons' Happy Home

 After all my projects had plenty of time to dry I was able to pick them up and take them home!  I was excited to see how my leaf had turned out.

My leaf after uncovering it | Higdons' Happy Home My leaf turned over | Higdons' Happy Home

Some people take dead leaf off of their project, while some let it fall off naturally.  I decided to leave mine on.  I set it in a mossy place in my yard with the hopes that it would start growing its own moss.

There are several mixtures out there that people claim you can use to make the moss grow quicker, but my mom said she hasn't had much luck with any of them.

Before returning my pieces to me, my mom sanded down the edges of my tic-tac-toe board to give it a cleaner look.  All that's left now is to paint my minions.  I will have to update this post when I've finished!

 

 

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