Clay has recently made a comeback as a popular medium to craft with. Working with clay is so simple as it has a number of highly versatile qualities, making it an ideal choice for both modelling beginners and experts.

Working with clay

Your choice of clay is dependent on what you want your end result to be. How do you want your make to feel? What do you want the texture to be like? How hard do you want the material to be?

There are two main clays that are generally used in clay craft. Polymer clay and air-dry clay.

What is Polymer Clay?

Polymer clay is a modelling clay with a PVC base. It will stay soft at room temperature (uncured) and hardened when baked in the oven. The manufacturer should state the temperature it needs baking at.

What is Air Dry Clay?

Air dry clay is a newer form of clay. Just as it says in the name, the clay dries out in room temperature within 24 hours (or a few days dependent on how warm it is in your home country, size and thickness of the model.)

Tools for sculpting with clay

There are a number of things that you will need to gather when using any type of clay. There are some specifics if you choose to use Polymer Clay – these are highlighted below everything else.

  • Craft knife or biscuit cutters – you will need something to cut out your clay into the shape you want it to be. A sharp craft knife should do the job, but if there’s a specific shape you require, and you can get this in the form of a biscuit cutter, we’d recommend using these for ease.
  • Leaves, textured materials, toothbrushes, rubber stamps, beads - clay is great for picking up textures or creating imprints – all of which you can use this list of materials to do!
  • Paper towels and baby wipes – these are primarily to ensure your work surface and hands are clean and free of any excess clay or oils.
  • Scrap paper – use scraps of paper to put your clay on to avoid it sticking to your work surface.
  • Sealable sandwich bags – these are to store the clay you aren’t using away ensuring they are dust free and won’t dry out.
  • Toothpicks – not only are these great for adding texture, you can also use toothpicks to sculpt your clay models and to mix paints for decorating them.

Specific things you will need when using Polymer Clay

  • Home oven – you will of course need an oven to bake your polymer clay in order to ensure it’s hardened.
  • Travel spray bottles - these are great for storing water that can be sprayed onto your hands, work surface and the clay to add moisture when required.
  • Foil wrap – polymer clay can brown when being baked so it’s a good idea to wrap your model in foil to protect it.
  • Oven temperature gauge – one of these is only required if you intend on doing a lot of clay baking. You may want to purchase a thermometer to ensure your oven is reaching the exact temperature required to bake your clay

How can I decorate clay?

For decorating your clay, it is totally dependent on what you feel best fits the look you are going for.

One option could be pushing buttons or sequins into the clay surface before hardening, and then once the clay has dried, a hot glue gun can be used to stick on additional embellishments to a painted or varnished surface.

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 as it will need additional drying time (up to an hour) before you apply a second coat. If you’re using white air dry clay Watercolour paints can also be used.

You can also use decoupage papers and Mod Podge to embellish and varnish your project.

Additional Resources For Beginners

This video from Creative Rachy offers 20 Tips & Tricks For Beginners using polymer clay!