Air-Dry Clay for Pottery: Everything You Should Know

Since most of our civilizations throughout history have been made from clay, it comes as no surprise that pottery is still very popular today and has even become somewhat of a hobby. Pottery is an activity that people of all ages can enjoy, whether you’re a complete beginner or you simply want to know more about this fascinating art form.

The popularity of pottery has surged in recent years thanks to shows like The Block and MasterChef Australia. And now that many of the skills used in pot-making can be self-taught, it’s easier than ever to experiment with the art form. If you’re planning on making your first pot, you may be wondering how to air-dry clay for a pottery project. Dry clay allows you to build up layers and create beautiful details—but if the clay is wet, it’s difficult to get the desired effect. Here’s how to get the results you want using air-dry clay.

What is air-dry clay?

If you’re a fan of fantasy and sci-fi movies, you’ve probably seen or heard that materials used to create fantastical crafts are typically made of air-dry clay. In fact, air-dry clay was the original choice of material for many movies made before modern times, and it’s still used to make award-winning costumes today. This versatile sculpting medium is a type of polymer clay that, when cured in a low-temperature oven, becomes very hard and can be used to craft anything from tiny butterflies to full-size figures.

Is air-dry clay good for beginners?

One of the first things beginners (and professionals) think about when starting a ceramics studio is what they want to create. Many potters (and ceramics instructors) start their studio life by experimenting with various types of clay to determine what they prefer. One way of trying out different types of clay is by buying small quantities of air-dry clay to try out in your studio. Here you can find out which clay is right for your project and which clay isn’t.

First things first: air dry clay is clay without water. This clay can be dried in the sun or in a room heated to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. So, essentially, you can use air-dry clay like you would any other clay. However, while there are a variety of clays on the market, air dry clay is quite popular and is often sold in craft and hobby stores not as clay to bake with but as a sculpting medium.

Can I use air-dry clay for pottery?

Air-dry clay, also known as kiln-dried clay, is clay that’s been dried and cured in high heat. While you can use air-dry clay for pottery, be prepared to fire your clay at a kiln (either in a pottery kiln or at home) since most air-dry clays aren’t hardened enough to withstand intense heat. Air-dry clays also contain water when they’re made, so they’re typically not ideal for making sculptures since they’ll probably crumble over time.

Is air-dry clay good for use on a pottery wheel?

Air-dry clay is a great beginner’s material for practicing on a pottery wheel. It doesn’t require much water in the clay, which makes it easy to work with, and is easier to handle than thicker clays like stoneware. While you can use it to make pottery, air-dry clay is most commonly used to make molds or jewelry.

Art clay is a popular choice among beginner potters because it is relatively easy to work with, and the resulting pots are durable and lend themselves to being fired in a kiln. Art clay is also inexpensive, and you can find a large bag for under $30. However, most art clay isn’t appropriate for use on a pottery wheel.

How long does air-dry clay take to dry?

If you’re impatient and want to try air-dry clay before air-dry clay dries, you can try an air-dry clay kit. Although air-dry clay generally takes between 12 and 48 hours to dry, an air-dry clay kit can make drying and sculpting easy, with no clay smell, mess, or waiting for the clay to dry. Store your air-dry clay in a cool and dry place (it should ideally be stored in a sealed container). Make sure that the drying clay stays wet until you start sculpting.

Air-dry clay for pottery can be fun, but it requires patience. Watch how much water you add to the clay, or you could end up with a mess that feels nothing like clay. Moist clay can be used to make a pot, but shrinkage could cause it to break when it dries. This clay won’t shrink as much as moist clay, but it will take much longer to dry.

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