Modeling with air-dry clay and polymer clay

Air-dry clay
Years ago, while I was still at college, I wasn’t much into puppet animation. Stop motion was too much of tedious work for me; my puppets broke easily and none of them survived the animation process for long. Needless to say, I haven’t done any puppet animation since my first year. Still, I liked the design and modeling part. So when I came across the clay section while shopping for art supplies a couple of weeks ago, I randomly picked up a pack each of air-dry clay and polymer clay, despite not being really sure what to do with them. Well, that’s why we have YouTube, right? 😀
I started with the air-dry clay first, thinking it was the easier clay to work with since it doesn’t need any baking for it to harden. While this is a great benefit, the downside is that you have to work quite fast or the unpacked clay will dry and crumble. Adding a little water from time to time helps to keep the clay moist for longer. It also left quite a mess similar to normal pottery clay. Also, I find it tricky to smooth out the surface on small objects, but it’s great for making plant pots and bigger stuff.

Some simple doodles

small pieces of clay
The clay is divided into smaller pieces and slowly shaped.

I used a manicure set to help me with the small parts.

rough dog miniature sanded miniature
Before and after sanding.

The miniature animal dried pretty fast. I sanded them to clean up small finger marks.

Painted with acrylic paint and varnished (I love his butt).

The paint is Daler-Rowney Simply acrylics. I normally don’t paint with acrylic, so I only bought a cheap 6 colors beginner set. Lots were written about varnish, but most of the recommended ones were not available in my place or were expensive fine art acrylic varnish, which I don’t have any other use for and don’t want to waste money on. I ended up with an interior wooden surface varnish from a local home supply shop; the varnish can also be used for wooden toys. I dipped some of the miniatures directly into the varnish, others were painted by brush. They both came out fine; no weird chemical reaction happened (yet).

Some other creations:
cat plant pot abstract pink plant pot

square plant pot square plant pot with bird

sardine plate sardine plate

P. S: I forgot to mention, air-dry clay shrinks while drying, sometimes a lot, so if you’re making a piece with a particular size, make it a bit bigger – about 1 cm or more depending on brand and how much water you added to it. Those pots and plates were originally made as plant pots, but they shrunk so much none of my plants could fit in anymore. 😀 It’s also not waterproof and of course should not be used as kitchenware – I would not pour hot soup into it even with 3 layers of food-safe varnish. 😀


Polymer clay
I was very much into enamel pins for a while, but they are not something everyone can make at home and to send it to a manufacturer, you usually have to order at least a pack of 100 units (it doesn’t make sense financially to make only 1 piece). I wanted to try it so much I designed one and had a local company make them for me. It came out really lovely and everyone liked it (I still do). So one was for me, some for friends, but then what the heck am I going to do with the other 90 and more pieces?
Sure, I have a shop and you can find it there if you want to help me out. 😀

cat in the hat enamel pin cat in the hat enamel pin

my shop here >> Cat in the hat enamel pin

But having to pay for 100 units every time is still a big hurdle for me. I wanted something affordable, flexible, long-lasting, something I can play with at home whenever I want. Fortunately, polymer clay is pretty much that.
The air-dry clay was nice to play with, but the material seems quite fragile once dry, even with the varnish on. Unlike the air-dry clay, polymer clay looks really durable after baking. The one I had is Cernit number one, just regular opaque white. They are hard at first but soften after kneeling and stay soft for a long time so you don’t have to worry about not working fast enough. Polymer clay doesn’t make such a mess as air-dry clay, but you can still feel a little oily film on your hands. It also takes on dust and fingerprints very well which you can clean later by sanding, but I find that a very boring part.

pins sketches
Some silly ideas

First, I roll out the clay to 2 mm thickness (I don’t have a roller so a big marker made it :D). Then I put the pin in the center, add another 2 mm of rolled out clay on top, with the pin going through. You can just bury the pin in the clay, but I find it easier to keep the surface nice and smooth this way – it works for me at least.

safety pin earrings pin
Safety pins for the bigger pieces and earrings pins for smaller one.

I used an X-ACTO knife to cut out the shapes after that.

baked polymer clay baked polymer clay
Freshly baked.

I usually make a whole bunch of pins to fill the tray and bake them all at once.

pins varnishing
Freshly painted. Varnishing is a tricky part 😀 (remember those weird yoga poses?)

Polymer clay doesn’t need varnishing, but I like how shiny and porcelain-like varnishing makes them look, so I gave them a coat anyway. I dropped the whole batch on the floor when they were still wet but they somehow survived, just a bit messed up. The paint and varnish are the same ones I used on the air-dry clay.

I enjoyed working with polymer clay a lot. It works great for small designs, with all the tiny details. The surface also looks smoother even without sanding. The only negative is that polymer clay is actually not clay at all, but polyvinylchloride (PVC), so practically it’s plastic 🙁

animal miniatures pins
All my pets and pins together 🙂 air-dry clay and polymer clay; they look similar when finished. 

I think I will keep playing with air-dry clay for a while to try out different brands and tools (besides just having fun :D). Let’s get our hand dirty!