Wild Yoga

yoga and thought from Theo Wildcroft

How to make a 3D Sri Yantra

First, the caveats: this will not be the most accurate Sri Yantra you’ll ever see, but it is very impressive, and quite tiny – just 12cm across. It’s the perfect size for the really tiny murtis.

You can make this with any air-drying or oven-baked modeling clay. You can also make this as a cake topper, but I haven’t got around to that yet. Either way this is easier than it looks, but still not for the clumsy. This is a labour of love and devotion, and  I’d love to see photos of your versions. Obviously, adapt as you wish, but please, link to the original, and if you make anything to sell from this, I ask that you do so to benefit a charity of your choosing.

You’ll need print outs of the template files, a sharp knife, a little poking tool for getting in the edges, a ruler, and possibly a pin and a set of compasses, depending on your preference. It also helps to have a small board to work on, so you’re not picking up and putting down the yantra without support as you go. Also you will of course need your modeling medium of choice in a fabulous set of colours. A little glittery edible lustre or metallic paint works well at the end for highlights if you have it. Ready?

Template files

The template files are A4 size, portrait orientation. When you print them, make sure to select “Actual Size” in the print dialogue so they’re just right.

template file1 – reference Sri Yantra and base square (Step One)

template file2 – gates and lotus pool (Step Two and Step Three)

template file3 – triangles and petals (Step Four and Step Six)

Each of the photos on this page will take you to a full size version if you click on them, so you can see the detail better. Here we go…

Step one

Take the first two image templates. The first one is a guide to refer to. The second is a nice easy, big square. This is your ground level. I like to do this one in either earthy colours or grassy green. Roll out your base colour nice and even and to about 3mm thick. This is a good average for all layers, but if you can get thinner as you go, all the better. Cut out the big square and put it to one side.

Step 2

This is the trickiest cut of all. We’re going to make the ‘gates’ that hold the temple space open. Cut out the next image from the printed files. Roll out your next colour. Think of this either as a pathway, or water. You can do it in a sandy yellow or blue, accordingly. Place the template over the clay, and you have two possibilities. The easiest way is to use a knife to cut around it. The way of the confident is to prick through each and every corner of the template into the clay with a pin, remove the template and use a ruler and knife to cut out the shape. Whichever works for you. Straighten any wonky edges and carefully place the gates centrally over the base and gently press together. Don’t worry too much about slightly rough edges, we’ll be decorating those.

Step 3

Next you need the lotus pool. I recommend this one in green or blue. Roll out your clay and cut out the bigger circle. If you’re really confident, you can do this with compasses. Place this bigger circle carefully in the centre of the gates. Roll out another colour for the base under the triangles. I recommend something pale and neutral. White is fine. Cut out the smaller circle and again, centre over the bigger circle and the gates. This is a good time to check everything is gently stuck together and breathe for a moment.

Step 4

Choose two contrasting colours for the yantra triangles and roll them out really quite thin. 2mm would be great. I used yellow and red on my first, and cream and purple on my second yantra. Print out all the red and yellow triangles and cut them from your modelling material according to your two colours. Use the first image you printed as a guide – literally place the first, biggest triangle over the image in place, and the same with the second triangle on top. Gently press them together and then transfer them to your model base. They should just fit, but a millimetre or two over the edges won’t matter. Gently press them down, paying attention to the seams where one triangle overlaps the one below. Press those down a little more, so you can just see the outline of the triangle underneath.

Do the same with the next two triangles, and then the next.

Three to go, and you’ll have to use your eye to figure out exactly where the last three go. Don’t press anything too firmly until you’re sure they’re all about right. Trust me, this is still easier than drawing a Sri Yantra! When it looks about right, carefully press down all the triangles so you can see all the seams underneath. Take your time, and refer to the first image to be sure. Finally, take a tiny piece of your contrasting colour, roll it into a teeny ball, and press it right in the centre of the last triangle. This is the bindu or seed at the centre.

Step 5

Congratulations, from here on, it’s mostly decoration. First let’s cover those edges. Roll out 3mm sausages of two highlight colours in very similar shades. Imagine these are walls or ropes – bronzes and yellows work well. Continue to roll them gently, while twisting together. Don’t worry about getting them too even. You want to end up with a hint of twisted texture and a final rope that is just 2 or 3 mm thick.

Carefully place it all around the outer top edge of the gates. Just follow the lines. A small poking tool is useful to wrangle the rope into nice neat corner shapes. The twisted texture means it’s easier to cover up a join in the rope. Once you’ve done the outer gates, press gently in place, and then run more rope around the outside of the larger circle. It should fit snugly inside the gates.

Step 6

Next we need to make the lotus petals. Use the two petal shapes as a guide to roll and cut out eight wide and sixteen smaller petals. I like to use two complimenting colours: pinks and lilacs are nice. Take each petal and press all around the edge. This takes a little time, but it’s worth it. We’re going to start with the outer petals. Take a small petal. Line it up with the centre of one of the gates, base pointing out. Press it into place. Fold it back so the point meets the edge of the circle and gently press just the tip onto the rope circle. Shape the petal gently with your fingers so it’s a little more rounded. It’ll look a bit like a fortune cookie and hopefully a lot like a petal.

Continue in the same way with the petal opposite, and then the two at 90 degrees, so you have four evenly spaced petals in place.

Continue with all four remaining small petals evenly spaced between each of those. And then eight more petals evenly spaced between those. You should now have all sixteen smaller petals in place. The petals shouldn’t be too regular, and a little overlap is nice.

Step 7

Next we make the inner lotus petals. These are bigger, and there are only eight, remember? Line up the first petal with your first outer petal. This time you want the base of the petal to firmly press against and around the inner circle base. Then fold the petal back and shape in the same way as the outer petals.

Continue to the four directions, as before, so you have four evenly spaced petals in place. The final four petals should fill the gaps between them with maybe a little overlap to look more organic. Again, breathe, check everything is in place and admire your work. You’re nearly there.

Step 8

You can skip this step if it’s daunting, but it looks great. We’re going to add 8 tiny rosebuds to the gaps in the gates. Pick another colour – one you might find on a rose. Roll it out to another 3mm thick sausage and this time flatten it as thin as you can. Cut it into sections about 2.5cm long. You’ll need 8. Then roll out a leafy green colour and cut out tiny diamond shapes. They don’t need to be accurate. These ones for example are about 5mm on a side.

Take a 2.5mm section of the rose colour. Roll it firmly holding the base and leaving the top edge free. Pull or break off a few millimetres from the end so it is roughly rounded rather than a square cut. Then press the base of a green diamond to the base of your rose. Use your fingers to gently squeeze the top into a triangle shape.  Squeeze and pinch off the base. You can practice the whole of this step over and over if you need to, as it uses hardly any material. And the roses can be quite abstract: they’re just a little roll with a green point sticking out.

Once you have eight, you can breathe again. Use your poking tool to press each one into place. Don’t be afraid to squeeze it a little to make sure it sticks to the gaps in the gates.

Step 9

Bake, dry or otherwise set your model! Then here’s your optional shiny addition: thin down some metallic or glittery paint and brush it lightly over the model to add a little shine. If your model is a cake topper in fondant or marzipan, just brush on some edible lustre instead and pop it on top of that cake. Either way, you’re all done. If this is made from some sort of modelling clay, I strongly advise you to glue it to a solid base. The centre might be quite thick, but those edges are only 3mm thick.

Here’s the two I have made so far. Do please send photos! And cake!