How to Use Clay
Knowing how to use clay properly can ensure a real pottery finish, even without the need for a kiln to fire. This how-to will teach you how to use air-drying clay, made either from earth or paper, it dries solid, and yet allows additional clay to be added even after drying.
1- Traditional clay working or pottery techniques work perfectly when dealing with air-dry clay. Pinching, rolling and coiling traditional methods, as well as some non-traditional possibilities such as stamping impressions, or embedding beads and other objects allows for a wide variety of creative possibilities. Thin wire can be used to strengthen air dry clay figures. Once dry, the wire is undetectable but helps the figures to stand without a wide base.
2- Before beginning work on an air-dry clay project, make sure to knead the clay until its soft and easy to work with. With hands slightly wet, this clay will be easy to handle. If the clay starts to dry out, add a touch of water while modeling the clay. Make sure the clay is stored in an airtight container. If it starts to dry out in the packaging, add a little water and microwave it for just a few seconds until warm. Do not overheat it.
3- Work with a colour that suits your project. Most of the air-dry or paperclay comes in a variety of colors. Again, this allows for many possibilities. Mix new colors of clay by kneading colors together, make figures or projects using the colors available, or even paint or stain the clay after it is dry.
4- Standard pottery and clay working tools can also be used with air-dry clay. Some basic tools most beginners and professionals use include a potters rib, steel scraper, needle tool, loop, sponge, wire clay cutters and wood modeling tools. In much the same way as they are used with regular clay, they can be as effective with air-dry, creating the same effects depending on the project. Once dry, clay projects may be sanded, carved, drilled, painted, stained or shaded with chalk.
5- Air-dry clay can also be made at home easily. Mix together 1 cup cornstarch, 2 cups baking soda and 1 1/4 cup cold water in a saucepan. Heat on medium, stirring constantly until thick. Remove from heat and place on sheet of waxed paper. Allow to cool then knead for 5 minutes. Please note that this mixture will not dry as quickly as other brands available, taking anywhere from 48 hours to 1 week to dry.
Be sure to have a cleared surface which you don’t mind getting clay on, especially if doing clay work with your children! Once it’s dry it’s incredibly difficult to get off.