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Working With Low-Fire and Air Dry Clays

Working With Low-Fire and Air Dry Clays

  • Wednesday, 24 January 2024
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Working With Low-Fire and Air Dry Clays

When working with clay, especially low-fire or air dry clays, students need to use extra caution to avoid breaking their creations. These materials have a tendency to break easily and students should be encouraged to build armatures for their work. Armatures are particularly important for large projects, such as a human figure or animal. Armatures also help prevent thin additions such as fingers and ears from breaking off during drying.

Having a variety of tools on hand for working with dry clay is helpful as well. Students can use plastic modeling tools, which are inexpensive and durable, as well as wire for armatures and scoring tools. It is important to remind students that air dry clay does not harden as quickly as fired clay, and that it takes time for the pieces they make to fully dry.

When preparing the clay to use, students should first put on rubber gloves and knead it for several minutes until it becomes smooth and stretchy in texture. Adding cooking oil to the clay can help reduce stickiness when kneading. Once the clay is pliable it can be used as needed, but be sure to wrap any unused portions of the clay in plastic wrap.

To test the moisture of the clay, wet a small handful and see how well the particles stick to themselves. Clays that stick to the hands are more brittle and will be difficult to work with, while those with a "waxy" feel tend to perform well at the wheel and in coiling. A quick clay test is also useful: Roll a short coil and twist it around your finger, the more it breaks the less plastic the clay body is.

If you are using a clay formula that is not commercially available, it is a good idea to try it out on some test bars before purchasing large amounts of it. If possible, fire a half-length bar to at least cone 02 and record the results. This will provide an accurate indication of the firing potential of the clay, as well as a calculation for shrinkage during firing, known as LOI (Loss on Ignition): Fired weight - unfired weight / dry weight.

Air dry clays are incredibly versatile for many art projects, and can be used to create everything from flowers and bugs to starfish and dinosaurs. These clays can be baked to set them permanently, but they can also be dried slowly in a warm room, or in the sun. When using a commercial clay, it is important to read the directions carefully for baking duration and temperature.

When baking air dry clay, it is recommended to place the pieces on a baking tray so that they do not melt or burn. It is also a good idea to use a low oven setting, as the clay will dry more quickly than usual and may become hotter during the baking process. A baking time of about 20 minutes for small pieces and 30 to 40 minutes for larger ones will be sufficient.

Tags:air clay for adults

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