Air dry clays are easy to use and model, are fine grained, and best of all, don't need a kiln to fire. They literally air dry. Made either from earth or paper, it dries solid, and yet allows additional clay to be added even after drying. Here some tips on using this incredibly fun type of clay.
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. In the Garden bug and Bunny shown, I rolled out the clay for the arms, legs, head and body, and then cut from a thin sheet of clay the hat and wings. I also embedded beads for the eyes, and cut into the clay before it dried for the mouth.
To assist in strengthening the figures, I added thin wire to the arms and when connecting the head to the body and the arms and legs to the animals. Once dry, the wire is undetectable but helps the figures to stand without a wide base.
Before beginning work on your air-dry clay project, make sure you knead the clay until its soft and easy to work with. Keeping your hands slightly wet, you'll find this clay easy to handle. If the clay starts to dry out before you are ready, add a touch of water to it, as you would with regular clay. Make sure the clay is sealed in a plastic or airtight container when you are not working with it. 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.
Most of the air-dry or paperclay comes in a variety of colours. Again, this allows for many possibilities. You are able to mix colours of clay by kneading them together, make figures or projects using the colours available, or even paint or stain the clay after it is dry. In the picture provided, I combined colours until I reached the brown I wanted for the moose's body, then used black for his hooves. The antlers were made from a cream coloured clay.
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 modelling 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 you wish to complete.
Once dry, clay projects may be sanded, carved or drilled. They can also be painted, stained or shaded with chalk.
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.