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Air Dried Clay - 09-01-09 Eva's Insights on Air Dried Clay - 002: Some tips on working with Air Dried Clay

I asked Eva for permission to use her posts on my site and I shared that I have air dried clay unopened for years and was afraid it might not be usable.... NJ


Yes, of course you can. I'm not an expert in this stuff by any means but I'm happy to share whatever I've learned about it.

Your old clay might still be viable, as long as it doesn't have any holes in the packaging. Sometimes the packages get miniscule or unseen holes along the seams or on the edges, which is frustrating if you buy it in bulk and don't use it all right away. Air-dry clays can last quite a long time, as long as they're stored properly but they do get stiffer and harder to work with over time, as well. Water can help reconstitute them some but, if the clay is really old and stiff, they'll still be harder to work with than the fresh stuff, of course.

Karen at Clay Alley sells most brands of the various air-dry clays and her prices are good and her shipping is fabulous, of course :D Creative Paperclay can usually be found at Michael's or Hobby Lobby but if you find that you really like the stuff and want to get it in bulk, go directly to their website and check out their "wholesale club." ( Basically, you buy over $50 worth of clay and you get half off the retail price. So a pound of paperclay is $6 instead of being close to $12. You do have to pay for shipping, naturally, but that adds less than $2 to each pound, still making the price much cheaper than you can get it other places.

Creative also makes their "premium" version of Paperclay which they call Diamond. I don't see it on the wholesale page but I have ordered it that way before. It's supposed to be whiter and harder than regular paperclay. It actually reminds me of the LaDoll and Premix clays--kind of marshmallowy and very smooth. Definitely not quite as fibrous as the regular paperclay and whiter. Regular paperclay has a slight greyish tinge to it. Anyway, don't hesitate to call the company if you have any questions about their clays--they're very friendly and helpful. I chatted with one of their reps on the phone for probably half an hour or so before ever placing my first order. One thing I remember him telling me was to make sure you use coated wire, stainless steel or aluminum or some other wire that doesn't rust because rust will soak through the paperclay over time and discolor your sculpture (if you're using a metal armature underneath). The up side of air-dry clay is that you can use armatures that you wouldn't normally use for polymer clay, like styrofoam or newspaper wrapped in tape, etc.

Some more tips for working with air-dry clay:
  a.. Keep a bowl of water nearby and some paper towels :D
  b.. Knead the clay with just a bit of water before you start sculpting.
  c.. Don't pull out too much clay at one time. Take a small ball (I usually work with a 2- or 3-inch ball) of clay, pinch off what you need and wrap the rest of the ball in a wet paper towel. The clay will soften some as it sits in the paper towel but this keeps it from drying out and can help make it more pliable if it's a bit stiff. Make sure the package itself is sealed in a plastic tub or ziploc bag.
  d.. This stuff really does stick to just about anything but, obviously does better if there's some tooth on whatever you're attaching it to. So, if you want to sculpt onto something that's smooth, try putting a coat of gesso or wrapping some masking or floral tape around it first.
  e.. It is possible to keep your piece damp and workable in between sculpting session by wrapping it in damp paper towels and covering it lightly with plastic (or placing the whole, wrapped piece in a ziploc, if it fits) but it's not necessary. Air-dry clays will stick to dried clay pretty easily so you can let your piece dry between sculpting sessions and simply pick back up, adding fresh clay to the dried clay when you begin again. You can score the dried clay with a needle tool to add tooth and then just wet the dried clay before applying your fresh clay.
  f.. Periodically clean the dried clay/clay residue off of your hands.
  g.. I use all the same tools that I used for polymer clay but find myself relying on the metal tools more than the clay shapers. Both can be used, though, so you just have to find what works best for you. And remember to clean your tools off with water more regularly (dried clay bits stuck on a tool can make some serious gouges in wet clay).

It's really a fun medium to work with (all of the paperclays and the Apoxie Sculpt) and it opens you up to trying out new methods, new media, and techniques. Definitely worth at least playing around with for the experience. Plus, you can also add embellishments to air-dry and chemically-cured mediums that you wouldn't be able to use on polymer clay. Plastic buttons or acrylic elements--pretty much anything that might melt in the oven can be added in while you're sculpting. Attach the clothing or hair to the still damp clay and let it dry in place. I've tried some of this but still have lots of experiments to play around with. It takes a rather different mind set to sculpt a piece with the intention of adding the clothing or hair while the figure is still being sculpted.

And, yes, NJ you can add whatever info you'd like from this post to the page you've made, if you like :D



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