Friday, 11 February 2011

Baby Casting - (or how to turn little fists into handprints!)

You may (or may not!) know that when I'm not busy painting mdf, crocheting or running about like a headless chicken, I run the Little Impressions franchise for the South Staffs area. It is a professional baby casting service, making lovely keepsakes for parents and grandparents.

Having casts or prints of your little one's hands or feet is such a great way to preserve at least a bit of their 'babyness'. I've been trading since 2004 (oh my, is it really that long??) so have reached the stage where some of 'my' first babies are now at school, with little brothers or sisters too!

There is a huge variety of casting kits and services available to parents now, for all tastes and budgets - here are just a few:

DIY kits

This is a flat print - which can be done with paint or ink, and you can get 'inkless wipes' too, making it all much less messy! You can get paint prints put onto plates, mugs etc. at many local pottery studios.

This is the sort of thing you can buy on the High Street quite cheaply - you take the print in a white clay. The resulting print is indented into the clay. The quality can be quite variable, and the clay may need softening by kneading it. Make sure you read the instructions!

Professional Castings
These are for those that don't want to 'have a go', and want a good quality product without all the mess and stress!

These are clay impressions - notice they are indented into the clay - which are glazed and fired, and then framed. They are available from some pottery studios and also some large department stores.
Very sweet :)

These are '3D' casts - you can get them as DIY kits or have them professionally made in plaster and also metals like bronze, cast iron and also lead crystal (beautiful, but not cheap!)
These are lovely as a life-size, tactile reminder of those tiny fingers and toes.

Finally, here is a Little Impression (not one of mine, but off the website). We use clay to take the print, and then cast it in plaster - so the print sticks out giving a raised impression.
There are other processes involved in making them look so gorgeous, but I'm not allowed to divulge them :)

My Top Tips
If you're planning on trying to take some prints from your baby, either by yourself or by arranging to see a professional, there are a few tips I've picked up over the years.
  • A contented baby makes life easier - seems obvious, but if your baby is clean, well-fed and not over-tired the whole process will be much easier and enjoyable for all.
  • For very tiny babies (under 4 weeks) I find it easier to lay them on their backs and move their arms down to their sides to take the prints - rather than them being held and 'dangled' over the clay, which they find rather alarming!
  • For older babies (8 weeks to toddlers) - lots of eye contact and 'baby talk', lots of encouragement, and have some toys to hand in case you need to distract them. Singing songs sometimes works well too.
  • Toddlers (12-24 months) - good luck!! No, seriously I find this the hardest age group. If they don't want to do it, they just ain't gonna do it! You can try bribery, and sometimes they like to just mess about with the clay on their own first, to get used to the feel of it. You can also try counting their fingers while you take the prints.
  • Older children (age 2+) - generally not a problem unless they are tired, so avoid evenings or naptimes. As above, they might like to count with you whilst you take prints. Usually I find they're quite excited about the whole thing, and are keen to show Mummy/Daddy how clever they are!
I hope that you might find those tips useful. Of course, each child is different and what works for one doesn't work for another. Sometimes you just need to be patient, and other times just get on with it!
Hopefully, though, you'll eventually end up turning this:

Handprint in clay

in my case, into this!

Finished Little Impressions cast!


  1. HI
    I love your work! what type of clay do you use to do the impression?

    1. Thank you! It's just normal pottery clay :)


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