Directions on Modeling Terracotta Clay

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Directions on Modeling Terracotta Clay
Terracotta clay has been used for thousands of years to create art. (terracotta suns image by Sean Wallace-Jones from

Terracotta is widely used in architecture, pottery and decoration. The natural colour ranges from red to brown and is caused by iron oxide. Traditionally it was hardened by firing, but today it is common to find terracotta modelling clays that are hardened in the microwave or air dried. There are also oil-based, pliable versions that will not dry out. Terracotta clay is affordable and easy to mould, making it an excellent choice for beginners and professional artisans alike.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Terracotta modelling clay
  • Tools
  • Flat work surface
  • Spray bottle
  • Damp rag
  • Sandpaper

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  1. 1

    Choose the kind of terracotta clay that you would like to use. Oil-based modelling clays, sometimes referred to as plasticine, are frequently used in animation because they will not harden and come in a variety of colours. Terracotta modelling clays that harden in the microwave or air dry are readily available and easy to use for people of all ages.

  2. 2

    Make, find or buy tools for modelling your clay. Specialised sculpture tool sets are available at art supply stores but typical household items work just as well. Wire, kitchen utensils, toothpicks and pieces of fabric can be used to carve, shape and texture your project.

  3. 3

    Set up a project area on a flat table or counter top away from mischievous pets. Have your supply of clay and collection of tools readily available. If you are using clay that may dry out, have a spray bottle full of water to keep it wet and malleable.

  4. 4

    Shape your clay into whatever form you desire. The possibilities are endless, but some potential ideas include figurines of people or animals, plants, landscapes, picture frames or candle holders. Create shapes by adding clay or carving it off. You may want to begin with a small project because larger projects become increasingly difficult and may require internal support. Use a damp rag to help smooth and shape your piece, and remember that it is easy to start over if you make a mistake.

  5. 5

    Harden your finished project. Allow the clay to dry for 24 hours if you are using air drying terracotta modelling clay. Follow the package directions for clay that hardens in the microwave; it should only take about 10 minutes.

  6. 6

    Sand your completed project after it has dried in order to get a smooth finish. Terracotta clay accepts most finishes like paint and varnish to achieve a variety of looks.

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