A simple, handcrafted clay tray can be the kind of handmade Christmas or birthday gift that your loved ones will never forget. Clay trays are elegant, appealing, and dead useful.
The good news is, this craft project is easy to make. You can find oodles of clay tray ideas online that will help jumpstart your imagination. The even better news? This post is here to help you with 15 amazing pieces of perfect inspiration.
This piece will detail what clay trays are and break down their history and different uses. We will also discuss some of the main reasons for using them, highlight various clay tray ideas, and answer several frequently asked questions. By the end of this post, you will know how to create these fun crafts for yourself. Better still, you can do it at home, for a low price, and with few supplies.
Ready to get started with a fun, easy project that’s perfect for kids and grownups alike? Read on.
What Are Clay Trays?
Clay trays are simply what they sound like: trays that are made out of various kinds of clay. The most common materials today include traditional clay, air dry versions, or polymer substances in white or different colors. For the purposes of this tutorial, you can include small trays, bowls and dishes that are mostly flat in the definition of “clay trays.”
Clay Tray Ideas Throughout History
Thinking clay trays are such a great idea isn’t a modern concept. Clay tray ideas go back thousands of years, from the first potters in Mesopotamia or the American Southwest. We have examples from Egypt and China, and many other places across the world.
Historically, humans used clay because it is such a versatile material. It molds easily, dries or bakes neatly, and lasts for years. We have thousands of them from various sites, as archeologists will tell you. And it does so without breaking a sweat, withstanding heat and cold, dirt and dust.
It’s no wonder people have always loved this miracle substance. Now the question becomes, why should you?
Why Make Clay Trays?
If you’re looking up clay tray ideas, chances are you’re already mostly sold on the idea of these handy little items. Clay trays are cute, classy and easy to make. They are fantastic gifts and an easy way to accent your home with something that makes you smile. The ingredients are very affordable, and – once you get great at it – you can even start a business selling these adorable little items online!
Amazing Clay Tray Ideas
It’s all well and good to understand what clay trays are and where they come from. But before you can get to the gift-giving, you’ve got to choose your inspiration and start crafting!
1. Celestial Tray
Celestial patterns make for fantastic clay tray ideas. They fit with many décor styles, from farmhouse to boho to midcentury modern. They look great on side tables, dressers and entryway stands, holding everything from earrings to keys. If you want to make a jewelry tray, make it smaller. Looking for something to hold car keys and wallets? Simply scale it up!
2. Marbled Clay Dish
If anyone has awesome clay tray ideas, it’s A Beautiful Mess. This classic blog redefined crafts, and their adorable marbled dishes are no different. With easy step-by-step instructions, you’ll have no trouble recreating these darling gems. Note that you can seal this dish with varnish or lacquer if you want, or you can leave it plain. Many people enjoy the matte finish and find it matches their décor better.
3. Raw Ceramic Dish
Raw ceramic is one of the best clay tray ideas for guys. Neutral and unassuming, these work well on dressers, nightstands and desks to hold keys, rings, small gifts and other items. Plus, they’re an easy and inexpensive craft to make with few tools – or none, if you prefer. They don’t even have to be baked in an oven, just molded and left to cure on a flat surface.
If you’re going to make ring dishes or trays out of raw ceramic, polymer or air dry clay, keep in mind that the original color will be on full display at the end. Make the most of shape and form!
4. Hand-Stamped Trays
Hand-stamped clay tray ideas abound, and these are some of the prettiest we’ve seen. You can use whatever colors you want that work for your purposes. However, these bold earth tones are just right for party favors, holiday gifts or bridal party presents.
5. Earth-Tone Jewelry Dish
More of an earth-tone person than a bold person? Here’s the perfect inspiration. These colors look like they could hail from Ancient Troy or the Indian subcontinent. They bring a beautiful natural vibe to the craft, still with the same inexpensive ingredients as with the other options.
6. Stamp-Patterned Bowls
Like stamps, but want more of them? You can update the simple stamping technique in Tray 4 with a stamp pattern, like this one. These beautiful clay tray ideas have an Islamic geometric flair. They will work in beachy homes, with tropical décor or in bright places. Choose whichever stamps you want, but keep in mind that something with a square pattern works best.
7. Rustic Floral Tray
A larger rustic tray is a good option for people who want to keep items that go along with clothing, such as brooches, cuff links, tie clips or belt buckles. These items are too big to fit into small ring dishes or jewelry trays, and so will benefit from larger catchalls.
If you’re creating this tray to celebrate a sweet friend, child or family member, consider choosing a flower motif that represents them. Ditto with your paint colors, which should coordinate with their room, jewelry or other items.
8. Hand-Molded Ring Dish
Here’s one of the easiest recipes in this whole post! To make this ring dish with a twist, you simply lay out your air dry clay, roll it flat and then cut it into a rough circle. There’s no need to use a guide since it’s rustic-looking, but if you prefer you may upend a small bowl to follow the rim.
Then, instead of forming it into a neat bowl, simply grab each edge, then twist and pull until you have a nice organic shape. It makes for a cool piece of art and handy storage as well.
9. Clay Jewelry Bowl
These thick, sturdy clay jewelry bowls have a cute polka dot theme and a rustic edge. They’re one of the deeper clay tray ideas. If you’re a person who tends to bump into things, this might be a good option! These jewelry plates are also an excellent addition to your holiday gift list or teacher appreciation plan.
10. Animal Head Tray
Among the cutest of today’s clay tray ideas is this animal tray. Try a cow’s head like this one, or sub in a pig or chicken for adorable farmhouse flair.
An optional variation is to turn the tray inside out, with the animal head on the exterior of the clay object. Then make it deeper and put a few holes in the bottom. Just like that, you have cheap handmade planters that will thrill your recipients.
11. Mussel Shell Tray
This most natural-looking of clay tray ideas is a great way to bring the outdoors in! It’s impressive as an addition to a dining room table but also perfect for other areas of the house. Think a guest bedroom for visitors to keep their sundries in, or the hall table for keychains and other bits and bobs.
12. Clay Leaf Tray
Mother nature supplying clay tray ideas? Yes, indeed. This beautiful leaf tray uses actual fall leaves to create its all-natural vibes. Simply roll out some air dry clay, then press a large leaf into the surface. You want to press firmly enough to transfer all the vein patterns in the leaf to your tray.
Then, carefully cut around the leaf using a knife. Scissors also work if you are tidy about it. Once you’ve completed this step, cup the tray gently so that as it dries it will maintain its shape. If you need, use tinfoil on the bottom to support it. Then air dry, remove the leaf, wait a day and paint! It’s a gift anyone would adore receiving.
13. Hand-Painted Clay Trays
Speaking of painted clay tray ideas, here’s one of the prettiest ring dishes you’ll find anywhere on the internet. You can use the charming initial design as shown here or create something from your own imagination and a little acrylic paint. Ideas include:
- Botanical themes
- Gemstones or crystals
- Stars and moons
- A sunburst
- Tarot card motifs
This DIY tutorial offers step-by-step instructions so even a beginner can easily follow it. If you are new to clay modeling, though, make sure to read all the way through first!
14. Boho Trinket Trays
Boho vibes and clay tray ideas go hand in hand. This bohemian trinket tray provides ample inspiration for anyone doing this craft for the first time or the fiftieth. Deep earth tones, desert landscapes and outlined celestial bodies harken to the southwest. One can easily imagine it hanging next to tapestries, adorning tiled end tables or collecting olive pits on an Italian antipasto board.
Pro tip: If you want to make your dishes food safe, you’ll need to use actual pottery clay, then fire it. If you’re going to give it to someone to eat off of, it’s best to glaze it as well. That way they can put it in the dishwasher.
15. Sculpted Clay Dish
While this is one of the most tricky clay tray ideas, it’s also one of the most fun. Instead of leaving the tray flat in the center, you sculpt a design onto the surface. While the example here is mushrooms, you can update this style to match any occasion.
For instance, you might need a stunning gift for a specific time of year, a holiday such as Christmas or the birth flower of your recipient. Just don’t forget that you’ll need paint colors to match!
FAQs About Clay Tray Ideas
If you have lingering questions about the above craft projects, you may find some answers here.
Q: Are clay trays fragile?
A: Somewhat, but if you use high-quality air dry clay, they’re pretty sturdy. As long as you don’t drop them on the floor, they will withstand minor knocks and shocks.
Q: Is air dry clay more breakable than regular clay?
A: No. Pottery you make from air dry or polymer clay isn’t more delicate, and in many cases is actually sturdier than traditional clays.
Q: Does clay have to be baked?
A: No. Plenty of clay trays use air hardening clay. You simply leave it out for a few hours, et voilà: you have the perfect item for rings, trinkets, earrings and more.
Q: Do you need specialty supplies for these clay tray ideas?
A: No. While you can buy a specialized rolling pin, mold, or cutting device (among other accessories) for clay projects, you don’t have to. You can roll with a glass, for instance, and cut with a sharp knife. Choose one of the easier crafts for beginners above to start and go from there.
Q: Do these projects all come with directions?
A: Some do and some don’t. If you’re not sure, click the link and see if it’s a product or a tutorial. If you want a specific DIY and can’t find it here, we suggest doing a google search for “[clay tray idea] tutorial” and inserting the name of the specific kind of tray you want to make.
A Finishing Flourish
And that’s it! Whether you’ve decided to gift yourself or someone else, taking a little time to craft a one-of-a-kind hand-made clay tray will almost always be time well spent.
Hopefully this collection of ideas will spark some inspiration and help you take your imagination to the next level in every season.