Modelling clay is soft, pliable clay, used to make a variety of items. The clay, as the name implies, is easily used for modelling items such as sculpture and pottery. Modelling clay is made using a wide range of substances such as oil-based clay, paper clay, firing clay and polymer clay. Choose the type of clay depending on the desired outcome. If you are creating a functional bowl, for example, firing clay is an ideal type of clay to model the bowl. A small sculpture could be made in self-hardening polymer clay.
Clay is a wonderful material to make decorative beads due to its malleability and the ease of creating holes. There are many ways to create beads with clay. Simply rolling a small ball of clay and poking a hole is the most basic form of a clay bead. If created with firing clay, this type of bead can be glazed and fired. Coloured polymer clay can be used to create unique designs. Rolling small coils of different coloured clay, placing them together and rolling into a larger coil, then cutting into small flat beads creates an interesting design.
Modelling clay is ideal for making sculpture. The size, scale and use for the sculpture will affect which type of clay is best for the project. If the sculpture is larger than 30 cm (12 inches), it is advisable to use an armature. An armature is a basic or rough form that works to support the sculpture as it is being created. After creating the armature, place the clay on top and begin sculpting. Different types of clay change consistency and malleability through the drying process; firing clay, for example, becomes less malleable and is easy to carve rigid edges when the clay has slightly dried.
Pottery is perhaps the most common thing to make from clay. It has been used for hundreds of thousands of years to create functional devices to hold water and food. Pottery is commonly made from a variety of firing clays. Creating pottery can be achieved through hand building and wheel-thrown methods. Hand-built pottery is commonly created using a coil method, building the pot by layering and smoothing a coil of clay. Wheel-thrown pottery requires a pottery wheel and basic skill levels.