Air Dry Clay Projects
Updated: Dec 18, 2020
We were thinking of things to put in our Picnic Cooler Box gifts for friends and family this year (post to follow). Trolling through Pinterest I came across the idea of making air dry clay coasters, something Emily could help with. It has progressed a bit, as you will soon see. This is an awesome kids holiday project, and we've done the trial and error for you so you don't have to run around buying things you don't really need.
You will need :
White Air Dry Clay - find this at Builder's Warehouse, or any local art store
Watercolour paints & brushes
Permanent markers in various colours - I found a relatively inexpensive kids pack at a local art store, and also had coloured Sharpies I bought online
Sharp craft knife, or any sharp knife will do
Rolling pin and board
Clingwrap (for storing clay)
Modge Podge - available at most craft stores and Builder's Warehouse, or you can make your own. It is white craft glue watered down.
Optional : Water based art sealer - available at Builders Warehouse or any local art store
There are several projects you can try, and I'll go through a couple.
Firstly, Pinterest is your best friend here. If you are like me without an ounce of artistic talent, scour Pinterest for cool vectors or drawings that you can interpret on to your own pieces.
We decided to start with animal shaped bowls, and Emily chose a Llama. First we drew the rough outline of a llama onto a piece of paper and cut it out. Then smooshed up the clay and rolled it out onto our smooth boards.
*Tip : air dry clay can be a bit brittle to work with, and show up cracks and lines. Keep a bowl of cold water close by to dip your fingers in to squish in and loosen and smooth the clay as you go.
Place the animal shape on top of the rolled out clay, and cut around the shape. Leave a few millimetres from the edge of the paper to allow for the walls of the piece.
Lift the cut-out piece off the board and place a piece of baking paper underneath. Helps prevent the piece sticking at the end.
Keep your fingers wet, slowly push over the edges of the clay a bit at a time to create little walls, and keep shaping and smoothing. I lift from the back and fold a bit forward, smoothing as I go. When you are absolutely satisfied place the piece in a warm place and leave to dry.
*Tip : keep going back to check the piece is flat on the paper or board. As the clay dries there is shrinkage. Also you may notice cracks. These are easily fixable by mixing clay with a tiny bit of water and turning it into a slurry. Use this to patch up cracks and smooth again with wet fingers. I also run over a wet sponge now and again to smooth.
Once dry, the fun begins! If you'd like you can use very fine sandpaper to smooth off rough edges. Be gentle, the piece is still quite fragile.
Emily used her markers to draw on the dry clay, which is absolutely perfect. Some sealant issues, but will get to that in a sec
I used a combination of watercolour & marker which held up just a touch better.
I used Modge Podge, which is basically watered down craft glue, and that worked great as it also helped strengthen the piece. The downside is it is sticky, even when dried out for a long time. Emily hated that.
After a bit of research I bought some Water Based Art Sealant (matte) and tried it on its own, as well as over the modge finish. The former not so good - it peeled off after a couple of days. The latter much better, and left a lovely matte finish as well as took care of the stickiness.
Pitfall - when you try paint your modge onto your piece, there is a chance it will make the paint/ink smear. Best is to make sure the paint/ink has a long time to dry, then dab on quite a bit, before smoothing it with a brush. One layer of modge is all that is needed if you're using the sealant, but otherwise add on two for good measure.
Also, rest your newly sealed piece on top of a shot glass or a small bowl, so it dries elevated.
Next on to the small bowls, which are a little easier. Find something around the house that can act as a mould for your bowls. I used the base of one of my Le Creuset planters as it was completely smooth on the inside, and large enough to make a trinket bowl.
Roll out your clay to your desired thickness. I aimed for about 3 - 5mm. Line your 'mould' with clingwrap, and then lay in your clay. Take your time and slowly (with wet fingers) push the clay all around the mould so it sits firmly. Trim the edges to make it uniform, and leave out to dry. After you can see the edges starting to dry out take it out of the mould and let dry through completely. At this point I run a wet sponge around the bottom to smooth it out a bit more.
When dry you can use sandpaper to smooth off the edges before you decorate. I had some rough nail files that did the job just fine! If doing this step wipe away the dust with a clean wet sponge, and leave to dry before you start to decorate.
For our bowls we painted animal faces in watercolour, filling in details with markers. Then sealed, and voila!
This is a great project for a weekend, and Pinterest has some smashing ideas for air dry clay.