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Natalie's Notes

Painting with Nature - Literally!

This is a demo article on how to make a paintbrush from a yucca plant.  You can use any yucca plant. I happen to have access to a Red Yucca plant.  It doesn't matter how big or small the frond you cut off is. You can cut it to any shape. 

I prefer a sharp diagonal shape.  The more a yucca brush is used, the softer the shape becomes.  This makes for a unique brush, but eventually you will have to cut and reform the edge.  Every brush is different which makes for unique brush strokes, which makes for very unique beads, well you get the picture.

This Red Yucca frond is lovely to use because it is firm and easy to hold. I typically cut the pencil length but you can make them longer or shorter.  The most important thing is to easily hold it in your hand. So make it a comfortable length for you. 
Next stick the frond in a glass of water to soften. I let mine sit about 24 hours. 

How long does a yucca brush last?  I don't know. I use them for a day or so and then I stick them on a shelf meaning to reuse them.  But six months or more may go by before I feel the urge to use one and by that time it is very dry and shriveled up, completely unusable.

Just go cut another one.  Yuccas can be 'harvested' any time of the year.
The yucca plant is made up of soft plant fibers.  After 24 hours simply use your fingernails to pull at the end, scraping off the green pulp.

If you don't have fingernails (like many potters and bead artists), do the best you can. If your nails are extremely short, you can try using the edge of a spoon or fork or knife.  Experiment.

This is the stroke that the paintbrush above left on my bead. A nice straight line. I just dabbed on the underglaze.

The yucca paintbrush holds lots of paint. You would load it the same way you would a watercolor or oil brush.  You will be surprised at how long one stroke can last.

You would pay a lot of money for such a nice paintbrush but the best thing about yucca paintbrushes is that they are free. 

Free is good.

Here is the same bead with a clear coat of glaze.  I fired this one to cone 1.

To finish this bead, I added some of my original hand drawn iron oxide decals and refired to cone 05.

Thanks for following along and if you make your own yucca brush, post the results so we can see your own unique bead creations. :)


  1. Wonderful post Natalie! What a unique idea. Love the pics and your beads.

  2. I've read that native Americans use plants for paint brushes. I'll have to see if they have any yucca plants growing there in florida, maybe palm fronds will work?

  3. This is a long time traditional way to paint. Glad to see you trying.

  4. So cool Natalie! I really never put much thought towards plants being used as brushes. Have always just passed it off as hair of some sort. What an awesome thing to know about - Thanks for sharing!

  5. Thanks everyone! I wish I could remember the name of the book that I read that explained about how the Native Americans formed their brushes. It was a great book. I lent it out and never got it back.


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