Terra Cotta as a Crafting Surface

by Chris Williams

A peek at Chris' garden.

Many of my friends know that I enjoy gardening.  My flower gardens and porches are home to pots of blooming flowers.  Many of those pots are hand painted terra cotta.  Today I want to share what I know about painting terra cotta and how to prepare it.

Did you know that terra cotta means “baked earth?”  Terra cotta is hard reddish-brown clay which has been used as a building material as well as a decorative arts substance since ancient times.  Terra cotta colors may vary and it can be glazed to provide extra color and durability.

Today, when crafters think of terra cotta as a surface, they think of flower pots of all sizes and shapes.  It is a fabulous surface for a variety of art forms including simple all the way up to fine art painting, stenciling, decoupage and mixed media. Terra cotta pots are smooth, offering the perfect surface for all ages!

Terra cotta pots

Surface preparation – Let’s talk about “new” terra cotta.  Terra cotta pots found in craft stores, garden shops, and DIY home improvement stores are unglazed and porous, not waterproof.  Unglazed or unsealed terra cotta will draw the moisture from the plant and soil keeping the pot moist.  Extra moisture may affect the external decoration allowing the paint to blister if not properly sealed.

The first step in preparing new terra cotta pots is to wipe away dust or dirt.  The second step is to carefully seal both the inside and outside.  Not only will this help your decorated design on the outside of the terra cotta pot resist blistering, it will also help the interior to keep moisture in the soil.  I recommend two terra cotta sealing techniques:

  1. Spray seal the entire pot, inside and out with a couple coats of No. 6072 Clay Pot Sealer.  Allow each application to dry before applying the next. This one-of-a-kind sealer lets you water your plants and not your floor!  Simply spray terra cotta flower pots, saucer, and planters. It is available as a 12 oz aerosol and can be located in many craft stores or at plaidonline.com.
  2. The second method I recommend is to apply FolkArt Outdoor Sealerover the entire terra cotta surface. For extra protection, apply a second coat on the interior walls of your pot to help create a waterproof barrier to protect your exterior decoration.This polyurethane based sealer will provide the maximum durability for outdoor projects.  It is available as a brush-on sealer in three finishes:  Matte, Satin, and Gloss and can be found in craft stores as well as at plaidonline.com.

Now comes the fun part, right?  You have many choices as to how to decorate your pot.  There are always simple polka dots and stripes, florals and leaves, swirls, patriotic themes, you name it!  Once you decide, I recommend using FolkArt Outdoor Paint on terra cotta pots that will be used outdoors.  This paint delivers rich color, high-hide and is very creamy in consistency. I love it because it was tested for UV protection and is weather resistant. It is available in a wide variety of artists’ colors, dries to a satin finish and is cured within 48 hours.  Plus, it is made in America!

Surfaces such as terra cotta, metal, wood, concrete, and galvanized tin all are compatible with FolkArt Outdoor Paint.  There is no need to apply a sealer or varnish over the completed design because the paint is self-sealing.  However, if you would like to give your artwork an extra layer of protection to keep it mar or scratch resistant, you can apply a coat of FolkArt Outdoor Sealer.  I promise you that you will love the performance level of FolkArt Outdoor Paints!

FolkArt Outdoor Acrylic Paints

Let me now share with you a few terra cotta inspiration projects that can be found on Plaidonline.com.  This first project was created as a beginner project. The ribbon was the inspiration for both color palette and design.

Ladybug Flower pot by Chris Williams

These next two projects are good examples of how you can use terra cotta pots indoors as storage containers.  The Girls Flower Pot  and Boys Love Creepy Crawly Things were both painted with FolkArt Acrylics.   They are awesome storage containers for the cute kiddos in your life!

One more terra cotta project I would love to share uses FolkArt Chalkboard Paint combined with FolkArt Acrylic Colors!  When using Chalkboard Paint, almost any surface becomes a chalkboard.  Again terra cotta pots become another interesting indoor storage container.  This project was created by Plaid designer, Sherrie Ragsdale.

These inspirations used “new” terra cotta. If you would like to repurpose “old or used” terra cotta pots, be sure to carefully clean them before sealing and decorating. Completely remove dirt and salt residue. If needed scrub the surface with a wire brush. Once clean, soak used terra cotta in a solution – 9 parts water to 1 part bleach – for 24 hours. This will kill lingering bacteria. Rinse thoroughly with clean water after soaking and allow to completely dry. Follow by sealing your terra cotta pot before decorating.

I hope you have enjoyed this little terra cotta 101 jam fest.  Do try decorating some terra cotta pots filled with gorgeous flowers for your porches and gardens.  You will thank me for it!

5 Responses to “Terra Cotta as a Crafting Surface”

  1. love these ideas, keep’em coming!! 😀

  2. Thank you so much for the post. It was exactly what I was looking for. I bought clay pots to paint for my daughters bridal shower tables and I am putting plants in them and wanted to know how to prepare the pots correctly. Now I have additional ideas for my God Child’s Christmas present, as well as others.


  3. so disappointed as I thought the article was about the cute lady bug featured. nice information but not what I was looking for.


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