Something a lot of people don't know about me is that my parents are potters and I've spent my entire life around clay. Growing up, my mom and dad ran a successful pottery business from home means I was playing with clay long before I discovered painting! In the weeks and months ahead I have a series of pottery posts in the works that I can't wait to share with you and I am kicking this series off today with a fun clay project. I've had a creative idea floating around in my head (what else is new?) to create some whimsical clay bookends that resembled bronze.
While you could use clay that gets fired in a kiln, I thought it would be fun to tackle this project with air dry clay. While air dry clay is much more delicate after it dries, it is readily available at most craft stores and easy to use (no need for a kiln). Once it is dry, it can be painted and even sealed which means there are all kinds of ways to get really creative with it.
My idea was to create a whimsical "bust like" statue so I got busy molding and shaping my clay. I used a variety of everyday things for tools (toothpicks, paint brushes, chopsticks) to add details, smooth out the surface and shape and mold the head. The process of tackling a face takes a little time and practice but the best part of working with clay is that you can change things over and over again. I worked and reworked my lump of clay. Here is what the process looked like:
After a couple of hours and lots of changes, I achieved what I wanted- a whimsical head with a little bit of soul and a lot of texture. Then I let it dry. Air dry clay actually dries pretty quickly- a couple of days for my clay (it was warm and dry here) which sped up the process.
Once it was completely dry, it was time to paint! This was the idea that I had all along- to transform the clay into something that resembled bronze or metal. I used a "hammered bronze" spray paint. Once it was painted all that texture that I tried to hold onto, details, marks and my finger impressions really POPPED which is exactly what I wanted!
Using some heavy duty glue, I mounted the head to the top of a piece of scrap wood. I also created a simple bronze heart. I am thrilled with the results and had so much fun getting my hands back into clay!
A few TIPS for using air dry clay:
Air dry clay can be used with all the traditional pottery techniques- pinching, coiling, rolling stamping, etc.
Before you get started, knead your clay until it softens up. If it fees dry or crumbly, add a little bit of water.
When attaching pieces or joining two pieces together, use a pin tool (or even a toothpick) to score or roughen up the clay then apply water mixed with a little clay (this is called slip) to the pieces and then press firmly together.
Once the clay is dry you can go back and carve with tools.
Store air dry clay in an airtight container to keep from drying out.