November 20, 2015

A Sculpture Material for the Future: An Intro to Artist Air Dry Clays

A Sculpture Material for the Future: An Intro to Artist Air Dry Clays

Embracing Advances in Artist Materials 

Ceramics, alongside marble and bronze, have long been hailed as the original "noble" traditional sculpture materials. With a rich history, these mediums have held a special place in the hearts of artists and collectors alike.

As technology has progressed, so have the materials available to artists. Innovative clays are being developed that boast strength and archival qualities. With such an incredible variety to choose from, artists can now explore new techniques that were not possible before.

Modern air dry clays have emerged as strong contenders in the world of contemporary sculpture, offering unique possibilities and pushing artistic boundaries.

Chinese ceramic horse sculpture Tang dynasty
Tang Dynasty ceramic horse

The Journey to Discover the Perfect Material

I'll be honest – I am a ceramics enthusiast. I appreciate the natural feel of the material and the unpredictability it offers. However, I desired more control over the final product, and dealing with glazes and kilns can be quite challenging.

I began my journey with wood-glue-based paper mache, as it allowed me to create large sculptures. Despite being lightweight and strong, it was labour-intensive and cumbersome to work with.

My quest for the perfect air dry clay began – a material that would combine the best qualities of paper mache but be easy to handle and capture intricate details.

Paper mache foal sculpture covered in air dry clay

Covering an older paper mache sculpture in air dry clay

I explored cold porcelain, a homemade clay consisting of white glue and corn starch, known for its remarkable strength. However, it had a very short working time and became unmanageable once it started to harden. Softening it with water only resulted in a gluey mess.

I tried so 👏 many 👏 brands of clay, many just randomly selected from art supply store shelves, but none were close to my high expectations. It was discouraging. I found polymer clays were no better, leaving an unpleasant plastic residue on my hands.

Eventually, I discovered Creative Paperclay, and it has become my go-to medium. It checks all the boxes: strength, lightweight, and versatility for both large and small projects.

Air dry clay small horse sculpture

Horse sculpted from Creative Paperclay with Apoxie Sculpt ears

In upcoming blog posts, I will introduce you to the primary clays I use in my sculptures. There is limited information available on these materials apart from a few reviews, and I aim to showcase their properties and provide an inside look into the thrilling world of cutting-edge clays for artists. These include:

- Apoxie Sculpt

- Creative Paperclay

- La Doll Premix and Premier


My hope is that this information will help you find the ideal clay for your own artistic creations.

Stay Tuned!


What's Next?

Discover the top air dry clays for artists