There are many types of clay to choose from, to make craft projects. What you are planning to create, will dictate what clay, you should use. Experience will make choosing, easier. Here is some advice, in case you are just starting out, and need a little guidance.
Store bought products, especially polymer clays, are much more durable than homemade types of clay. Refer to the Craft Recipes page, if you still wish to make your own.
There are craft projects throughout this site, using different modeling materials. Each, have their pros and cons, which I will try to address.
The clay most people are familiar with, is the kind that gets dug out of the ground. This kind of soil, is a huge annoyance to gardeners, but fun for artists! I remember as a little girl, digging up some really good clay from the ground, and building little dishes. Unfortunately, my dishes didn't last.
The natural clay from the earth, is used to make pottery. It must be fired in a kiln, at a very high temperature. This is not very convenient, since most people don't have access to a kiln. It also explains the demise of my darling little dishes!
There are types of clay, that can be cured at a low temperature, using an oven. No need to find a kiln to use! These are polymer clays. They have been around for many years, but became more readily available in the 70's.
I started using Sculpey®, in the late 80's, to make Santa dolls. Since then, there are different brands and types of polymer clay. There are also many, non polymer based, air dry products available.
Varieties of Sculpey brand:
It is softer than other clay.
Easy for kids to condition and work with. Works great for snowman craft ideas.
Quite inexpensive. Comes in large package.
Works fine for thicker projects.
Feels quite greasy.
Leaves residue on hands.
Quite brittle. Doesn't work well for thinner projects.
Used on Polymer clay Molds project.
Great for sculpting faces and hands. It comes in a skin tone color. (It doesn't require painting, when used for dolls.)
Only comes in semi-translucent Beige color.
Bake and Bend Sculpey:
Sounds like fun for kids.
This didn't turn out as flexible, as I thought it would be. Maybe,
I cooked it too much?
Is this three times better than the original sculpey? Not quite!
This is very soft and easy to condition.
Isn't greasy feeling, like the sculpey original.
Can be quite brittle. I have had some problems with breakage, on
pieces that are not very thick.
Use the Sculpey III to make the Frog Craft.
Soft and easy to work with.
When baked properly, it still has a bit of flex to it.
Variety of colors.
A bit more expensive.
In really hot weather, it becomes a bit too soft.
Not suitable for millefiori technique.
Premo Sculpey Accents:
Easy to condition.
Comes in metallic colors.
Works great for mica shift designs.
Quite soft and sticky in hot weather.
It is a lightweight polymer clay. The name sounds like it would be great fun! I haven't used this one, yet.
Claims are, Pluffy never dries out, and can be used over and over. When you finally decide you have the perfect masterpiece, it can then be baked and saved forever!
This is another, lightweight, oven bake clay. It seems like it would work well for jewelry, especially earrings.
I have now tried this product. It was just how the reviews had reported it.
Soft and easy to condition.
Lightweight. This is why I used this product to make the dishwasher tag.
This is VERY sticky.
It is messy and a bit difficult to work with.
The more you handle this, the stickier it becomes.
Once it is put down on a work surface, it is almost impossible to pick up. It distorts easily, because it is so soft and stretchy.
Marks easily, even after baking.
Only comes in white.
The last few years, there has been an explosion of different types of clay available. Out of all the Company brands, Sculpey®, seems to have the most variety. They are also, most readily available in stores. Michaels, Hobby Lobby, Joanns and even Walmart carry Sculpey. (Although, not all of the different kinds.)
Sculpey brand also has Ultralight, Glow in the Dark, Eraser clay, Souffle, Super Sculpey Firm, Super Sculpey Medium Blend, Liquid Sculpey and Living Doll. That is quite the selection!
Works well for millefiori projects.
Harder and has to be worked a lot more than sculpey,
to soften it. Once it is conditioned, it works well.
The original Fimo is not suitable for someone suffering from weakness in their hands. It will be too difficult for them to condition.
There are now different kinds of Fimo® available. Fimo soft, professional, Effects and Fimo Kids. These other types, I am not familiar with.
There is a fairly new brand of polymer clay, called Craft Smart®. It is available at Michaels. I haven't worked with this, but squeezing the package, it seemed very dry and hard.
It is probably the most difficult to work with, but I don't know this for sure. I don't plan on buying it, to try it because I don't think it would be worth it.
There are regular and premium versions of the craft smart brand.
Kato clay is one of the other types of clays. I haven't worked with this, but it is suppose to be used a lot by the pros.
Good for caning.
Strong smell. (This was enough to put me off from trying it.)
Difficult to condition because of the hardness.
These are the air dry, non polymer clays. The biggest problem with these types of clay is, they are not waterproof or weather resistant.
Das is an air dry clay. It is more like actual clay, but lighter in color.
Smooths down well, with no lumps.
No toaster oven required, since it dries in the air.
Can be prone to cracking.
Is quite heavy.
Comes in only white and terra cotta colors.
It also seems to take quite a while to dry, but doesn't stay workable for long, when left exposed. (If you need to take a break, cover the project with a piece of plastic wrap.)
Limited working time.
Make sure, after you open the package, to seal up any leftovers or it will harden into a block of useless material.
This is an airdry clay.
Short working time.
Will dry out if not covered.
FastMache is a quick drying, celluclay. I haven't used this product but the name suggests, it dries fast. Possibly too fast for some projects?
This is an air dry, paper mache clay. It comes dry in the package and is mixed with water.
Works well over newspaper mache, for adding details.
Dries quickly, as long as it isn't put on too thick.
Needs a form to build over. Anything that is solid celluclay, would take too long to dry.
Prone to cracking, if put on too thick.
The consistency can be a bit lumpy. Break it up as fine as possible, before adding water to it.
As with all air dry types of clay, this must be covered, if project is not completed in one sitting.
Apply to your craft project and smooth out, by dipping your fingers in water and rubbing it.
This was used for the face of the santa crafts project.
Polyform® Model Air:
Lightweight Air dry modeling clay.
I used this to make the scene, on the papermache beer stein.
Goes on very smooth.
Easy to work with.
Shows detail really well.
Can be used with a mold.
Easy to paint, including with watercolors.
Also comes in "porcelain".
Significant shrinkage, when dried.
Comes in only Terra Cotta and White.
Crayola Model Magic:
Lightweight, air dry product. Lightweight, spongy, marshmallow type consistency.
Comes in different colors.
No strong smell.
Does not work well for sculpting fine details.
Remember, pick the right type of clay for your projects! It will make things way easier, and you will have much better results.
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Kids are back to school! Time to sit down and do something relaxing.