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?

14 thoughts on “DIY pottery with air dry clay

  1. Hi, your work is so elegant. I use fine plastic gloves when smoothening out the clay on to a surface – like photo frames. This way I don’t leave my palm and finger imprints on the clay.

  2. Hey, amazing work!
    I have a couple of questions about the clay you used and its durability.
    First though, I think I should describe my project.
    I am working on a craft for my friends who smoke. I live in a nice gated apartment complex and I didn’t like seeing all the cigarette buds in the grass near my place, so I decided to make my own “smokers outpost”.
    A picture of a commercial one can be seen here: Common Commercial Smokers Outpost
    I used a large sangria bottle, fitted a spare plastic shelf tube that I lined it with aluminum foil to it, and used a large empty prescription bottle to make the the top.
    You can see a picture of its current state here: Homemade Smoker’s Outpost WIP
    As you can see, the top is kind of an eyesore and I would like to change that. I figured that using some type of clay to sculpt around it would be the best and it would have a cleaner look (I would like to leave the bottle there and use it as a base still). I would also like to create a small “tray” for the top of it where I plan to use my small rubber stamp set to write out “Narrow Pole. | Please Squish Your Bud.”

    OK, now the questions…
    Would the clay you used here be ideal for this type of project?
    Can it withstand high heat, freezing cold, terrible humidity, snow, ice, and rain?*
    Will any of the above cause it to crack or turn to mush after it has hardened?

    I have been reading about several air dry clays. It seems I made a mistake in buying the 2.5lb tub of Crayola White Air Dry Clay. Luckily I have not opened it and I plan to return it to Michael’s later today.

    ANY advice and/or tips for this would be great!
    Thank you! :)

    *I live in Missouri US and the Mid-West can be all sorts of extreme (Tornado Ally and what not). -_-

  3. Love this idea! Im thinking about giving this a go after seeing how lovely your pots turned out. I wasn’t sure about the air dry clay at first. Thanks Katie! (:

  4. Hi Katie! I found your page after a lengthy search and must say I was so glad to read about your pots ( since I needed a bit of a push to start on mine!) Now, at long last I also have the confidence to take my air dry clay and take the leap :)

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