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What can I make with air dry clay?

Air drying clay is an incredibly versatile medium, and can be used to model almost anything, from slab pots, clay tiles, badges and fridge magnets to ceramic Christmas decorations without the need for a specialist kiln or pottery wheel. Air drying clay can also be used to fix damaged items and fill in cracks. Air Drying clay is not food safe or waterproof, but applying a varnish will help prevent your finished item from cracking if it is going to be used outside. Visit our blog for more air drying clay ideas and inspiration.

How much will it cost to get started?

Prices start from only £4 for air drying clay from Hobbycraft.Air dry clay is an accessible and exciting craft to try at home.

How fast does the clay dry out?

Air dry clay begins hardening as soon as it’s exposed to air. The clay is easy to work with and does keep moist for quite a while so you don’t have to rush, but make sure any leftover clay is wrapped and stored in an airtight container if you want to use it again. Air drying clay does not react with water in the same was as kiln firing clay and once it has hardened it cannot be returned to a workable state.
Clay needs to be left to dry completely before painting, the length of time it takes will depend on the size and thickness of your project, usually between 24-72 hours. Try not to speed up the drying process by heating the clay, as this will lead to cracks forming in the surface.

How do I use Air Dry Clay?

Air drying clay is so easy to use - knead the clay before you start modelling to make it more pliable and easier to shape. You can use water and clay to create a slip to adhere clay pieces together. Try not to use too much water to the clay to avoid cracks forming as the clay dries.
If you are working on a porous surface like a wooden table, make sure you protect your working area as it can be difficult to remove hardened clay from any cracks. Laying out a roll of kraft paper or a plastic placemat will make cleaning up much quicker.

Do I need any tools or equipment?

There is a great range of modelling tools available, but almost anything can be used to make patterns and designs in the clay’s surface. Air dry clay is great for picking up textures, perfect for creating imprints with found objects – leaves or woven fabrics such as lace and hessian work really well. Old cookie cutters can also be used to cut out shapes, ideal for creating Christmas decorations or gift tags. Remember that any items that are used with clay should not be used to prepare food afterwards – this includes rolling pins, cookie cutters and other tools.

Can air dry clay be used for model making?

To create small figurines, antlers and models, you can use wire to create something called an ‘armature’, which holds your clay in place. These can be shaped into whatever you please and will require wire or side cutters to maintain. The wire doesn’t have to be perfect, but needs to be of a strong, thick gauge and not at liberty to move much once you start applying your clay.
You can use rolling pins to flatten out your clay, making it easy to cut out and embellish with a craft knife. Additionally, you can use items such as a Drill and Smoothing tool to create holes and smooth out rough bumps and edges. The Clay Shaper tool adds in small details and lets you create small patterns and craters using the chisel tool attached. The Needle and V-Tool cuts and sculpts your clay into different shapes and manageable sizes.

How clay much will I need for my project?

Try to figure out the size of your project before getting started – doodle a small sketch and use a small portion of clay to create a ‘miniature’ version to practice first. Try not to open more clay than you will use in each session. For large blocks of clay, use wire to easily slice through the clay and store blocks in a freezer bag when you are not using them. If you need to cut identical size blocks, weigh out the clay using kitchen scales.

How do I decorate clay?

Add detail by rolling out your clay onto textured surfaces and add colour experimenting with different paints already in your craft box - watercolour or acrylic paints can all be used and applied directly to the clay.Once your clay is completely dry, you can apply paint directly to the surface. Acrylic paints work really well, but try not to apply too much in one go – it will need additional drying time (up to an hour) before you apply a second coat.If you are using white self-hardening clay Watercolour paints can also be used.
You can also use decoupage papers and Mod Podge to embellish and varnish your project. Buttons or sequins look great pushed directly into the clay surface before hardening, once the clay has dried, a hot glue gun can be used to stick on additional embellishments to a painted or varnished surface.

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