5 Types of Clay for Three-Dimensional Art

The following excerpt comes from Mixed Media in Clay: Techniques for Clay, Plaster, Resin and More, an exciting new book by Darlene Olivia McElroy and Patricia Chapman. Read on to learn about five types of clay that you can use to make three-dimensional art–without an oven or kiln!

“In this book we delve into the possibilities of using traditional clay in nontraditional ways,” Darlene and Patricia say. “We’ve assembled a wide array of materials with clay-like properties that you can transform into anything from jewelry components to larger scale sculptures, or use as collage elements or textural backgrounds. This is the perfect way to add more ‘mix’ to your mixed-media art.

“Some of you may be asking, ‘What do plaster, resin, fiber paste and plastics have to do with clay?’ It’s our intention with this book to wander as far outside the traditional-clay box as we can. All of the mediums we explore have a couple of characteristics in common, though. None of them need to be baked or fired in a kiln, and each of them transforms from a malleable substance to a solid form. Some act exactly like clay while others have adhesive qualities or metallic properties. We show you some ways to explore the different clay alternatives, but we leave it up to you to make them your own.”

Read on for more! ~Cherie

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Dream Kiss (bird cut out from clay monoprint and glued on painting with soft gel) by Darlene Olivia McElroy

5 Types of Clay and Clay Alternatives for Three-Dimensional Art
from Mixed Media in Clay
Note: What these clay alternatives have in common with traditional clay is that they start out in a malleable form and end up solid.

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Bubbles (Stamped and painted critter clay slab, with molded and hand-modeled Critter Clay pieces) by Patricia Chapman

Traditional Clay: This is the natural earthen clay that is typically yellow, red or gray in color and can be purchased in blocks. Traditionally clay is shaped into forms using hand building by slab or coil, sculpting, slip casting or throwing on a potter’s wheel. It is then fired at a high temperature in a kiln that removes all moisture content and transforms the shaped clay body into a permanent structure. Unlike the premium air-dry clays, traditional clay is very brittle and fragile in its bone-dry, unfired state. Since Mixed Media in Clay is a “no kilns allowed” zone, we will show you how to utilize this most traditional and basic of materials in completely nontraditional ways.

Critter Clay: There are several different brands of air-dry clay on the market. What they all have in common is the fact that all you will need is time and air to transform them from their flexible to their solid forms. Unlike bisque-fired traditional clay, this self-hardening clay can be drilled or sanded after it cures. About the only disadvantage is that it isn’t waterproof and must be finished with a waterproof sealer if you want it to be waterproof. It accepts any kind of paint or finish beautifully.

Paperclay: This lightweight air-hardening material is an extremely versatile clay alternative. In its moist form, it can be molded, shaped and used to cover armatures. This nontoxic material, composed of all-natural ingredients, is great for creating dolls, vessels, jewelry, relief images or sculpture. It has good self-adhesive properties and once it has dried it can be painted with any type of paint or finish. And of course, like all the clays we use in this book, it needs no baking or firing.

Get your copy of Mixed Media in Clay: Techniques for Clay, Plaster, Resin and More here!

Epoxy Resin Clay: Two-part epoxy resin clay is becoming a more widely known mixed-media art and craft medium. It has several unique advantages in the world of clay alternatives. We are using Apoxie Sculpt made by Aves Studio, which comes in a variety of colors, but you can create your own custom colors either by mixing existing colors or by kneading acrylic paint into the clay. Sculpt will harden in a few hours but takes 24 hours to fully cure to its rock-hard, final state. After kneading together equal amounts of the two components of resin clay, you get a sticky, thick putty that will adhere itself to anything except a silicone or Teflon surface. Used just as an adhesive, resin clay is indispensable, but it can also be used with press molds, as a modeling and sculpting material, to create jewelry elements or collage and assemblage embellishments and as a base for bead or other small object mosaics.

Clayshay: Traditional clay can be purchased in a powdered form, but after you mix it with water to form a clay, it has none of the advantages of the powdered ClayShay made by Aves Studio. ClayShay is a powdered clay/paper mache hybrid. It can be mixed to a thin consistency to use as a casting medium. Mixed to a slightly thicker consistency, it can be spread over and will self-adhere to any slightly roughed, nonslick surface or armature. Mixed to a very thick claylike consistency, it can be shaped and molded. All this versatility comes with minimal shrinkage, maximal durability and the option to be drilled, sanded, carved and painted after it sets.

Visit the Interweave store today to get your copy of Mixed Media in Clay: Techniques for Clay, Plaster, Resin and More!

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2 thoughts on “5 Types of Clay for Three-Dimensional Art

  1. It is nice that each of these types of clay can be carved after they are set, but apart from fixing up minor mistakes, why would you bother with that when the material was malleable to start with?


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