Penguin Planter (or, Penguin Gets a Hairdo)

This is one of those weird projects that, while not the most beautiful, has sentimental meaning. Years ago, I sculpted a giant penguin in my college ceramics class. My penguin is slightly crooked (maker’s error), not exactly proportional to the actual penguin anatomy, and as a result of moving him from home to home, one apartment to the next, for the past ten years, he was also missing a beak and bits of his flippers. See?

Since we moved into this home five years ago, he sat in the hallway – then the bedroom corner – with his (most) broken flipper facing the wall. I could never bear to part with him, and with every new crack (largely due to vacuum cleaner bumps), I saved the pieces, knowing I’d eventually glue them back on.

Scott has never asked me to get rid of it, rather, he knew it held special memories (friends, college, and days upon days in the studio), so I finally asked him to help me give it new life. After a mini brainstorming session, he suggested we turn it into a planter – yes, a planter! I thought. (I mean, this is logical, right?) And with spring right around the corner in Chicago, we were craving a little greenery, and my penguin was the ticket.

The penguin is hollow, but its still a beast. It’s so, so heavy, and with a lot of patience, Scott used this tile bit and his Dremel to carve an opening on his hump-back. We covered the soon-to-be opening with painters tape, thinking it would cut down on the dust – but as it turned out, this was not the case.

We approximated the size for a 4″ planter (with a plant we’d already picked out at the hardware store), and an afternoon later – and a very, very worn down Dremel bit – we had an opening! (Eeks, look at all that dust!)

Once we knew operation-penguin-surgery was a success, I used gobs of super glue to piece him back together…

… then sprayed him with a coat of Krylon primer and Montana brand spray paint in the color “Hope.” (Funny, it’s sort of fitting!) We also re-potted our plant in a deeper plastic cup (we picked up a Slushee tumbler from 7-11 and drilled drainage holes in the bottom), but before doing so, I sprayed the rim of the cup in the same color. (Our penguin already had a “drainage” hole in the bottom; this was necessary for the firing process when he was first made.)

This was our first time using Montana paint, and we are fans. It’s super thick, completely weatherproof (it’s actual intent is for graffiti artists!) and went on with just one coat – but the extra-cautious side of me applied a second one for good measure. Once everything was good and dry (we waited overnight), I squeezed the plant cup into the opening, and voila! Penguin planter! Or, you know, Penguin gets a hairdo.

From the back, you can see the rim of our make-shift Slushee planter, but from the front, it’s mostly seamless. Most importantly, my penguin is fixed! It has a new life! There was hope for him after all (har-har)!

Our mini project found us rolling out the patio rug and putting our table and chairs back in place – the first time this year after packing it up before the holidays. For now, he’s sitting on the outdoor table, soaking in the rays, and we’re crossing our fingers we don’t get another frost before spring finally rolls into town.

It made my heart ridiculously happy to put an old, old college day project to use (as opposed to the boxes of prints and negatives hiding in our storage unit!), and here’s hoping he’ll be around for another ten years. Aw, nostalgia.

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  • Hannah K - April 24, 2013 - 7:55 AM

    So sweet! I actually was just looking at aminal shaped platers on Etsy last week! We are ridiculously excited to be getting some warmer weather our way and have been looking forward to sprucing up our patio!ReplyCancel

  • Marti - April 24, 2013 - 9:07 AM

    I also use plastic cups from 7-Eleven as makeshift planters! They’re perfect when you need something tall and on the narrow side.ReplyCancel

  • Blair @ the fox and she - April 24, 2013 - 9:26 AM

    What a fun way to up cycle a special piece. He looks great and I love the colors you chose! I’m sure you’ll enjoy him over the upcoming sunny weekend (hooray for warm weather!)ReplyCancel

  • Jessica@CapeofDreams - April 24, 2013 - 9:28 AM

    He looks so much better now that he has all his bits back. I’m sure he is as happy as you to be outside.ReplyCancel

  • Kim - April 24, 2013 - 9:34 AM

    Marti, when we were stumped thinking, “where will we find a tall, skinny planter for CHEAP?”, we almost just stuck with the shallow guy our plant came in. But when Scott suggested the plastic to-go cups, I thought, GENIUS! We’ll definitely be putting that tip to use in the future again.

    Thanks, ladies!ReplyCancel

  • Courtney Out Loud - April 24, 2013 - 9:42 AM

    I love this! The planter is super cute and the fact it has meaning is even better. But the best is the slushing cup!ReplyCancel

  • Ashley@AttemptsAtDomestication - April 24, 2013 - 8:49 PM

    That looks so great! And it’s awesome that you were able to reuse something so sentimental in a practical, fun way!ReplyCancel

  • Barb @ FL Mom's Blog - April 24, 2013 - 9:04 PM

    I love what you did with the penguin! And the color is so spring! At least it didn’t get thrown out, and was able to be repurposed!ReplyCancel

  • Emily @ Our Waldo Bungie - April 25, 2013 - 10:33 AM

    You are so stinking talented… seriously, it’s ridiculous.ReplyCancel

  • Amanda - April 25, 2013 - 11:21 AM

    This is a lovely project. I love it because it’s nostalgic to you and those are usually the best kind of project.

    Plus that Hope colour is gorgeous!ReplyCancel

  • Tina S. - May 1, 2013 - 10:19 PM

    He looks like a wise old penguin who walks the streets with a backpack, sharing his wisdom among those who know him.

    Love it.ReplyCancel

  • Kelly - May 8, 2013 - 2:03 PM

    Ahhh memories LOL!!! This is genius though!! Love it :)ReplyCancel

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