By Angeliz Venter
Like a lot of first-time moms, the moment I found out I was pregnant, I wanted to preserve every moment, every step, every milestone, literally everything!
One of the most important things for me to remember was my preggy belly at the end and although a lot of people suggested that I make a cast of my belly at around 36 weeks, it never really resonated with me because, what do you do with that cast afterwards? I will most likely put it away in a cupboard where it would eventually break, framing it was an option, but also not really my decorating style, so therefore I decided against it and just opted for taking an unrealistic number of pictures before we forget the magical moments of pregnancy! In the last few weeks of my pregnancy, I was scrolling mindlessly through Instagram and came across Belly Bowl, at first, I didn’t really grasp the concept (and that might be because of my short attention span and pregnancy brain), but after doing further research on their page and website, I knew that this is the special keepsake I was looking for!
Essentially what Belly Bowl offers, is a chance to remember your pregnancy and especially your belly when it is at it’s biggest, by taking a cast of your belly and transforming that into the most precious and customized ceramic bowl of your choice to display and keep forever! It is a keepsake and one of a kind artwork all in one! Starting at the beginning, Belly Bowl is owned and run by Emma Brokensha née Kielczynska, who is an exceptional artist with a vast array of experience behind her and a mother to her beautiful daughter Sadie. She grew up with her own mother making belly bowls for friends and family, with a more traditional method of clay, which took hours to dry. Emma decided to keep this special practice alive, by just adapting the method a bit. Emma uses plaster of Paris, which dries much faster, in just 15min! I ordered a DIY kit, which was sent out the same day I requested it (how is that for speedy service?). At this stage I was already well past the recommended 36 weeks to make the cast and I was really nervous about going into early labor without getting the kit in time, so this aspect of the journey was already a BIG plus for me! The kit arrived in a box with all the necessary elements to successfully complete your cast and the box is also big enough to send the mold back in and receive your ceramic bowl in, so there is no wastage and this makes the whole process so much more sustainable. And then the fun started… making the cast! It was in the middle of winter on the coldest weekend of the year so far, but we knew it was now or never as labor was fast approaching. We put a black plastic bag on the floor, as it gets a bit messy and wet. I put on some old leggings and sport bra, that by some miracle I still fitted in and covered that with a plastic bag as well. You start by first applying the Vaseline that they give you, onto your belly to ensure that the plaster doesn’t stick too much to your skin and hair. I made sure to use all the Vaseline provided because during my pregnancy I had a lot of hair growth especially on my belly. (We ended up adding the plaster past the section where the Vaseline stopped and let me tell you, removing the plaster was very painful, so rather apply as much as you can).
Thereafter, you take a small bowl of warm water and lightly dip or drag the plaster through it before laying it on your belly. As soon as the plaster is on you, smooth it out using your hands. Do this for 2 or 3 layers and then let it dry for 15min. I am not completely sure if it can dry faster and then come off by itself, but our baby probably didn’t like the cold of the plaster and he started kicking and moving a lot, which (I think), made the plaster/cast come loose before 15min. But it still kept its shape and didn’t disintegrate. After carefully taking it off, you have to let it dry in the sun for a few days, my cast took almost a week, but I think that is because of the time of year and as I’ve mentioned it was very cold that weekend and raining. As soon as it is dry, you send it back in the same box and Emma creates the perfect keepsake from your unique belly cast!
I decided to ask for a Earthenware, off white bowl, with a gold rim, gold mandala and natural round shape. Emma hand crafts and paints each bowl with the utmost care and this can be seen within the art piece itself! She also suggested that I add a wooden stand to the order to keep the bowl in place and prevent it from moving around and possibly breaking. I would definitely suggest this as one of the things that really bothered us is the fact that, IF it should break, our beautiful memory is shattered with the pieces of the bowl, but luckily Belly Bowl assured us that they keep all casts for incase it would break so that they can replicate the bowl again. For us that was so reassuring, because accidents do happen, especially with a little one around!
Emma sent me a picture of the bowl a few weeks after I gave birth and it was so special to see my cast realized into a perfect and unique ceramic bowl! When I received the bowl, it brought tears to my eye to think my pregnancy journey ended and the joys of motherhood only begun now. I think every time that I will look at it, it will transport me back to the magical time when my first born was inside of me and we were excitedly preparing for his arrival. This is exactly the emotions that a keepsake should evoke within you and I am so grateful for Emma who started this business to make this special time in our lives, live on in our homes through this stylish, classic and one-of-a-kind art piece and keepsake.
I would recommend doing the cast with your partner and the father of the child, if that is possible and preferable, as this is such a special time and making the cast together and having the physical interaction with your belly that you both know will soon be flat again and you will have your baby in your arms, just makes it so much more intimate and special.
I am so glad that I found Belly Bowl by chance and would recommend using them to create your magical keepsake, our ceramic bowl will forever remind me of my first pregnancy and my beautiful son! It is by far one of the most precious displays in our house that I wouldn’t exchange for the world! You can contact them on their website https://bellybowl.co.za/ or on Instagram, as they are super responsive and helpful over social media as well!