Welcome to my FAQ post! I realize I am loooong overdue for this, but better late than never right?
What I Want All Budding Clayers To Know…
This is where I will answer as many questions as I can, for new and returning visitors…some are questions I’ve been asked and some are questions that I can easily anticipate. Either way, I hope this will be helpful to you and you will have a great head start on your sculpting journey.
Q: I really want to start sculpting, but I don’t know where to get started…any advice?
A: Just get started. The famous author Mark Twain once said “The secret to getting ahead is getting started”. Just get some clay …it doesn’t have to be a fancy brand – and experiment…Don’t worry about building something super ambitious, just play with it, work it, roll it, get a feel for it. You can’t really “hurt” clay, so just relax and have fun!
If you’re not sure about springing for some tools, get something simple like a plastic knife, which will let you do a little more with it. You’ll find that it can be almost therapeutic in a way…remember those “stress balls” you see people handing out at promotional giveaways? It’s like that…only it’s an artistic medium! That’s why I’m sold on it!
Q: Which kind of clay you do prefer and work with the most?
A: At the present I work with Sculpey the most – I like the “Super Sculpey” Ultra Light, and a few other offshoots. You can read more about my assessment of them here in this article. I used to work with air dry clay, Das is one of the better brands but I also worked with a couple others that came in a reddish-brown terra cotta color and also a light gray one. Sorry I can’t remember the brand name at the moment but will update if I find out.
Q: What’s the best place to shop for clay?
A: You know, I heard one clay artist say it’s better to buy online, rather than at local stores. Said it tended to be “fresher” Interesting perspective there. I don’t actually buy clay online as much, except in the case of a particular type that is popular and doesn’t get re-stocked quickly. It depends on what’s in your vicinity, I think.
Q: Does clay expire?
A: I wouldn’t say clay expires, per se, but certain kinds could be more prone to quality degradation than others.. How well you take care of and store your clay batch can definitely help it last longer after a period of time. You’ll find some tips here for good storage procedures. I don’t “stockpile” clay, I’ve had some that will last for a few years and some that will dry up in a few months. Some brands are also better than others. It’s best to buy smaller batches if you don’t anticipate using a lot of it at a stretch.
Q: I really like your site – how do I keep in touch?
A: First off-thank you! And the best thing to do is to sign up for my newsletter.which will give you easy access to more goodies. You can also follow me on Pinterest, Instagram and Flickr.
Q: When did you first start to work with clay…and what did you make out of it?
A: Well, I think I was in kindergarten at the time, and I got access to a non-hardening clay (probably was something like “Plastalina” but I didn’t know that at the time). It came in very basic colors-red, blue, green and yellow. I made a cute little mouse and a piece of cheese for him to “enjoy”.
I think I had a hard time forming the mouse’s tail though. Mice have little chubby bodies and roundish ears so pretty easy, and cheese, in a triangle, I just took a small round ball and squeezed it into a “pie slice” shape. Fun fun! I don’t count Play-doh, since that’s more of a kid’s toy than anything else.
For what it’s worth, here is one of my earliest projects made from Super Sculpey. This is just a diorama, so only the ark is made out of clay…It’s turned sideways so most of the details will show. You can see where I painted the background, I don’t remember what kind of paint I used at the time…it was the early 90s and glitter paint was all the rage….definitely not something professional, (it smelled funny) but hey I was just having a little fun.
Q: I don’t have access to a kiln, nor the wherewithall for something like that – any advice?
A: No problem! You’ll be happy to know that a lot of modern clays are designed with that in mind – there are self-hardening clays and there is also the kind that you can bake right there in your home oven! If you already have some experience working with clay you may have an easier time getting started with them.
The type of clay that must be kiln-fired -known as “ceramic clay” which is oil based and rather dense. If you really want to get into that the one thing I can suggest is to look into classes…maybe look into auditing a class at a local college if there is one nearby? You could get the full experience of working with ceramics in a contained environment. I know this is not within everyone’s realm of options, but I did want to mention it just in case.
Q: What subjects do you enjoy sculpting the most? And why?
A: In all honesty, figurines and miniatures. It’s a lot of fun and a satisfying challenge to capture the human form in action, or in period costume -something I used to do a lot more in the past.. I also get into “functional sculpting” too…try to see what I can make that could be used for a certain purpose. And …it’s the little things”. I saw somebody making these little bitty versions of miniature food (I think it was made for dollhouses) and I thought that is adorable…so that’s my “other” favorite thing to work on.
Here’s something I did about 5-10 years ago, using white polymer clay…it’s a miniature boombox inspired by 80s-90s pop culture. I grew up in that era, so I was influenced by the pop culture trends. Fuchsia pink was a really big 80s color so I painted it a pretty metallic hot pink. One thing I wish I could have done is given it an antennae, such as with a straight pin with a ball tip. I may still do that – one cool thing about this kind of clay is that you can drill into it.
Q: Are there any sculptural techniques you’d like to learn more about?
A: Glad you asked! I’d like to experiment a little with clay canes. I currently have a dearth of beads at my disposal and want to start making my own. I’ve always been impressed by the “millifiori” style, but I know I need to crawl before I walk…
Q: What’s the most fun/adventurous/unique thing you’ve ever made? What did you enjoy the most about it?
A: Well, one year I crafted a full little replica of Marie Antoinette out of Sculpey. I liked reading about her from the history books ( I also love history) the famous French queen of “let them eat cake” fame….She wore elaborate wide ball gowns in the pictures and I thought it would be fun to replicate that in clay. Best of all, with the girth of her dress she didn’t need any support to stand up on a tabletop, so I didn’t have to give her any feet or legs, LOL! If I come across it, I’ll take a picture and add it to my Portfolio page.