Monday, November 5, 2018

My Funniest Fail: Making A Mimbulus Mimbletonia

Our Hufflepuff Common Room needs a lot of plants, so John and I've been scouring local thrift stores for every $3 bunch of greenery we can find:

It's a jungle in here.

That's filler, though, since of course we also need more magical plants.

On that front I have one "bad" project and one good to show you, so let's start with the bad, since it's funnier. Making one of these:

Oh yes, it's that blasted Mimbulus Mimbletonia. This "quick" project has taken forever and failed on so many levels, but you guys claim you LIKE seeing my fails (a collective masochistic streak, I presume), so here, let me walk you through our many and varied screw-ups.

Screw Up The First:

This started as a great base of Styrofoam balls, but John should have started with it already in a pot, since it's nearly impossible to cram it in one after the fact. Didn't realize this 'til the very end. Oops.

The Problem #2

A crappy expanding foam job that I had to mostly carve off again. I'm kicking myself for not taking a before picture - it was quite funny - but here's the after:

 I later learned there IS a way to build spray foam up in little sections, which is what we should have done instead of letting loose all in one go. Again, oops.

Third Time's The Harm

Thinking, "how bad CAN it crack, really?" I covered the whole thing in air-dry clay. I wrapped it in a wet towel, since Internet People claim that helps prevent cracking.


Four Score & Many Tears Ago

Trying to salvage the clay layer, I carefully smeared on a coat of Crack Shot spackle paste, which doesn't shrink and remains somewhat flexible. (Why didn't I start with this instead of the clay to begin with? Your guess is as good as mine. ::siiiigh::) 

Fortunately Crack Shot smooths out beautifully with just a little water and a rough washcloth after it dries, so I was able to get an OK finish on it:

Suki approves... of the mess I'm making.


Thanks to the cracking clay underneath, though, the plaster coat was super fragile and would knock off at the slightest ding. I hastily painted it green and coated it with a spray lacquer to try to hold it all together.

Sweet Six-Green:  

After the clear coat I dry-brushed the whole thing a lighter shade of green to give it some dimension. I LOVE dry-brushing. It's up there with aging for the best "bang-for-your-buck," technique to amp up a paint job:

This was my favorite part of the whole thing.

If you've never done it before, dry-brushing is pretty much what it sounds like: blot off most of the paint from your brush & then lightly swipe over your project, so the paint only hits the peaks. This was a wetter dry brush than most, so the lighter green has a heavier coverage.

 At this point I was starting to feel hopeful again. Foolish, foolish Jen.

Unlucky Seven

To make the thorns I piped on plain brown caulking. Because I was impatient I used a cut-off ziploc bag to pipe with instead of a bag & tip, plus I think the caulk was cold from the garage, because it came out malformed and lumpy. I waited 'til they were mostly dry and tried to shape them better with my fingers, but that made them look a lot - no really, A LOT - like chocolate chips:

I never thought I could be so annoyed by the sight of chocolate.

 I went back and dry-brushed all the thorns with a darker brown, but that just made them look like dark chocolate. ARRRRG.

Then one of the thorns stuck to the wall where we set it to dry, and ripped off all the paint in that section, and after I set it outside to dry, the heat from the sun made 3 more giant cracks appear, which I had to go spackle and touch up again.

Around this point my struggle started getting funny. I'd passed the point of no return. THERE'S NO GOING BACK SO LET'S ENJOY THE RIDE.

The Hateful Eight:

Seeing my manic giggles and becoming concerned, John stepped in and helped me cram the base into a bent open plastic pot. He filled the pot with rocks first so it wouldn't be top-heavy, then hot glued the Mimbulus in place:

 Now we had giant gaps all around the base between the plant and the pot, though.




We carefully filled the gaps with little balls of more spray foam, which actually turned out kind of nice looking.

 I got the idea from Ranee over on FOE, who made her Mimbulus with built-up balls of spray foam:

Isn't it incredible? I love her spines, and I have serious ball envy. :D I can't tell you how much I want to start all over with mine, but I've sunk too much time in already and I've got to FINISH HIIIM, already, so moving on...

I painted and dry-brushed the spray foam to match:

 Then I added more piped-on thorns, which of course THIS time looked great:

 Why couldn't my thorns come out this nice the first time? Harrumph.

Then, as my final, last ditch effort to cancel out the chocolate chip look, I tipped all the thorns with a bright lime green paint.

Now they kind of look like chocolate-lime candy corns, but you know what, I'll take it.

(Also I'd totally eat chocolate lime candy corn. Mmmm.)

There And Back To Ten:

I'm still waiting for the bottom thorns to dry so I can paint them, but here's my mostly finished Mimbulus Mimbletonia:

It looks... fine. 

There are still lots of little cracks and the whole thing could fall apart with a sudden jostle, not to mention I spent about a billion hours on a thing I can't wait to throw away, but it's (mostly) done and will probably look cute in the dim light of the party. SO THERE.

Oh, and I'm planning to wrap some little colored lights around it, for a festive and extra distracting touch. :D

This has mostly been a tutorial in what NOT to do, but if I were to try again - which someday I hope to - here's what I would do:

- Start with the pot and work your way up

- Make the Styrofoam ball structure again, but this time build up around it with smaller sections of spray foam, letting it dry in stages

- If necessary, smooth out the whole thing with Crack Shot spackle. NO CLAY.

- Paint & dry brush the same way

- Use an actual piping tip and bag when piping on the caulking thorns

- Also mix in a darker brown paint with the caulking first

- Add "spines" like Ranee did, probably using clear fishing line. (I didn't add any on ours because I'm afraid the cats would chew on it - but it really adds to the final look!)

I hope this made you laugh, gang - so I have a little something extra to show for all this pain and frustration, hah. Also, for you Fail Fans: please note I have craft fails like this all the dang time. I just usually give up and throw them away before I get so far in. If John and I make something look easy, please know it's because we have at least one trashed experiment for every successful tutorial or project, and we're forever trying and failing at new things. 

Next time I'll show you a much more successful project that I had a blast making, though, so stay tuned!


  1. Edison said he never failed, he just found a thousand ways that didnt work.. Or something like that.For what its worth, I really like it, and may attempt something similar soon for my own masochistic purposes, you know, cuz we all need MORE projects.

  2. Hey, look on the bright side. Your "thorns" didn't end up looking like poo so nobody can send in pics to CakeWrecks!
    If you decide to try making chocolate lime candy corn, I volunteer to be your taste tester! Maybe add some salt flakes to the finished product.

  3. On the bright side, there is a hidden Mickey.

  4. Thank you for the great laugh! I think it turned out great! - definitely needed the distraction from all the political stuff today - lets hope this is the only "disaster" to come out of the day!

  5. Mmmm...I would also totally eat lime chocolate candy corn!

    Your finished product looks great Jen! I think it will be a fun addition to your party.

  6. I forgot to add...I was wondering what your neighbors might think if they looked out and saw the unfinished product in your back yard. "What's that gal up to NOW? What on earth IS that thing?"

    1. We live to keep our neighbors guessing. Although after the time we carried the life-sized thestral across the street, I'm not sure much will faze them. :p

  7. My first thought on seeing the Mimbulus Mimbletonia image was that you might be able to make an (admittedly temporary and probably smaller) one out of marshmallows. I have no idea if it would actually work. ^^

    1. Ooh! For larger blobs you could use those Snoball treats, then use other marshmallows for smaller blobs, and you could hold everything together with either fluff & cold spray or white chocolate, then just paint with food coloring! Then you can make your thorns out of various candies/sprinkles! That's a great idea, Anonymous!

  8. Thanks for being willing to share your not-successes! It's wonderful seeing that even you can have things not turn out right. :)

  9. Mmmmmmmm, chocolate! ;)

    I think the end result looks great. Sorry it was such a headache, though! Thanks for letting everyone know what worked and what didn't and making life easier for other makers. You guy are the best!


    1. guys, not guy


    2. I'm in the middle of my biggest project to date, building kitchen cabinets. The boxes were easy but I'm on my THIRD set of doors.i built a couple of cabinets before and used pocket holes for the doors. This time I decided to use the router because I went back and looked at an old laundry room redo post and "someone" said that it was really easy to do doors that way. just kidding, the reason I decided to dive into this is to improve my skills so I'm determined to learn to do these the right way.

  10. This made me laugh and feel a lot better about my own crafting projects that just haven't worked AT ALL. Of course, I've had this on my list to try for a while. I also want to make a waving plant, like Devil's Snare. Still working on how to make that happen.

  11. It seems to me that this whole experience serves as a nice illustration of how difficult it would likely be to work with the "actual" plant. :)

  12. I don't know the reference material (I'm sorry, but I'm just not a Harry Potter fan!), but I think it looks pretty good! Sometimes you just have to remember that this one is just temporary, and if you want something that will last longer, now you know what not to do!

    It's also comforting to see that others have fails - I'm in the middle of repainting/refinishing some thrift store frames for display boards (this blog has been most inspirational!) and while 3 have turned out great, the 4th....well, I was downstairs this morning trying to figure out what can be done because the new finish just doesn't work. So thank you again for your help, even if you didn't know you were giving it!

  13. I haven't seen chocolate lime candy corn, but this past Sunday one of the guys in the RPG group brought chocolate mint candy corn (leftover from Halloween). I wouldn't go out of my way to find the stuff, it tasted like fake flavorings.

  14. You and that poor Mimbletonia have been through so much together! (and yes, it was clear fishing line!)

  15. I was going to give you the Edison quote, but I see someone beat me to it. I admire your determination. I Think I’d just buy the funniest looking cactus at our Country Boys and call it good.

  16. Fastmache might be a good clay substitute - it's powdered paper machete - just add water and sculpt!

  17. In photo 9 (from the top) there is a distinct Tigger-like face in the middle. Does anyone else see that? And then a sort of hidden Mickey at the top?

    Jen, I'm sorry you had such a headache with this, but thanks for sharing it. As someone who frequently fails the first time at craft projects, it's comforting to know I'm not the only one.

  18. I empathized with this story deeply! I'm a children's librarian, and positively encouraged to make things at work, which still amazes me. Often I can take bits and bobs of nothing and make something quite nice, and it will end up looking remarkably like the first rough sketch I made, or even better. But sometimes...

    This week I was making a Mary Poppins wall display (inspired by finally seeing "Saving Mr. Banks" and then reading the first few Poppins books, plus the new movie's coming out soon). I found a silhouette I liked, I learned how to project it, I picked out posterboard that would fit our laminator and positioned it correctly vis a vis the enlarger. Cut out the three pieces (Umbrella, head and upper body, and skirt and legs), glued amazing vintage paillettes on one side for a super shiny shading effect, and even saved a few to have on the wall, trailing Mary as she flies away. So far, so good.

    Then I ran the decorated pieces through the laminator, where my only worry was that the paillettes might somehow melt or warp with the heat. No, but one of Mary's arms got way jammed up, so she ended up all crinkled in one shoulder and wouldn't hang flat! I ended up trimming off her shoulder and hacking her at the upper arm, and making poor Mary a Frankenshoulder. Which I made by ripping the paillettes off her crumpled shoulder, gluing them on fresh posterboard, then GLUING LAMINATING MATERIAL OVER TO PRETEND IT WAS LAMINATED TOO.

    Not one of my best efforts, with a 5 piece FrankenPoppins rather than the elegant 3 piece one, which would have been practically perfect in every way. But she's done, dammit.

  19. I'm so inspired by you! We continue to make silly costumes and wear them in public because of you!

    We have a mantra in our household: "The first time you do something, it'll probably be rubbish". We proudly display our rubbish crafts, on the grounds that nobody else knows exactly what it was supposed to look like in the first place. But there is much private wailing and gnashing of teeth.

  20. Thank you so much for sharing your real life experiences with us. I know it encourages me so much to hear that you have a failed craft for each successful one and that you stubbornly cling to a craft waaaayyy beyond the point it deserves (I do that ALL the time). I have a tendency to set aside half done crafts that I think I can’t complete well “to come back to in the future”, but dang it I’m going to dig them out and give them the old Epcot try!

  21. I have a solution for the air-dry clay cracking problem! Crayola air-dry clay + shredded cotton balls! Mix the clay with the cotton balls & a little water, and dry under cling film. Cracking reduced by 95%, & the dried clay was MUCH stronger than before!

    I was able to make a huge piece for my living room wall this way!

    1. Oh wow, I've never heard this before! I'll put it on the list of things to try, thanks!

  22. Hey, I think everyone learns more from shared project fails than from just a list of do's and don'ts, so yay for educational content? :P I have confidence this thing will look great at the party.

  23. I would embrace the cracks and give it a wash of dark green paint to add depth and make those cracks a feature. Black Magic Crafts has a pretty good recipe for washes (though his are in black and brown versus green)

  24. I'm attempting to make a baby groot for a christmas present out of air dry clay. Through similar trial and error, I've found that making a 'slurry' from clay and water (think pancake batter consistency) and painted a layer of that all over my groot when the clay was beginning to dry, and that's dramatically reduced the amount of cracks I've had. I think because the wet layer soaks into the drying clay? But that's just a guess.

    I love the finished product! It looks so good! And it's nice to be reminded that you are also human.


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