DIY pottery with air dry clay

Oh god. I have another craft crush. Making pots with air dry clay!

I decided to give this a go after taking a fabulous beginner pottery class with The Amazings right here in Stoke Newington. I’ll share a bit more about the class once I’ve got my handiwork back – it’s being glazed and fired at Lesley’s workshop right now – but it really gave me the pottery bug.

Traditional pottery isn’t exactly an accessible do-at-home hobby: you need lots of make-a-mess space, a wheel and a kiln to do the proper stuff. But then I remembered you can buy air dry clay which doesn’t need a to be fired in a kiln – it just hardens in the air. It’s kind of a hybrid between sculpting clay like Fimo and real kiln-fired clay. I picked up a kilo brick of white Das brand stuff from Cass Art for a fiver – Amazon has it too. You can reseal the packet so you don’t need to use it all at once – although I kind of got carried away and used it all over one weekend. Make all the pots!

I found that working with the air dry clay has both pros and cons over traditional clay. On the bad side, the surface more readily picked up unwanted textures from my rolling cloth and fingers, so it was hard to get a really smooth surface. I found that rolling out on a smooth wooden board got much better results than on a cloth tea towel. It didn’t seem to respond to water in the same way as earthen clay, so you can’t just smooth out any flaws with a damp sponge. It can develop cracks easily too since it begins drying as soon as it’s exposed to air, so you’ll want to keep your excess clay sealed as you work.

Having said that, it’s pretty pliable and easy to work with generally, and does keep moist for quite a while so you don’t have to rush. For me the biggest pro is it’s easier than terracotta clay to keep clean while working, and no special kit is needed: I used tools I had lying around like a wooden rolling pin, knitting needle and plastic ruler.

For my first go, I made some simple column pots decorated with embossed textures and cut-out shapes. I used the technique I learned in the the Amazings class of using a cardboard tube wrapped in paper to mould the clay, then attaching a circular base. The pots then need to dry out for 24-48 hours: you can tell they’re fully dry when they have turned paler in colour and no longer feel cold to the touch. You can then use a fine sandpaper to smooth the edges, and apply acrylic paints and varnishes.

I was going for a sort of pastel-glazed ceramic effect, so used a few layers of paint mixed with acrylic varnish. I don’t think it was 100% successful but never mind – I’ll still use my wibbly-wobbly pots as candle holders and vases.

Four unique new pots for a fiver, not bad eh? Would you give air dry clay a go?