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How to get start with Clay art for beginners – Explained

An unconventional not so popular emerging hobby is clay art or clay modeling. In this article, we will talk about clay art an
An unconventional not so popular emerging hobby is clay art or clay modeling. In this article, we will talk about clay art and how to get started with it.


  1. Introduction
  2. What is clay?
  3. History of clay art
  4. Clay art modeling tools
  5. Tips for beginners
  6. Clay art ideas
  7. Benefits of clay art


With our busy lives, millennials have started indulging in stress-relieving hobbies. While meditation, yoga, and sports are the most popular among us, a new unconventional not so popular emerging hobby is clay art or clay modeling. In this article, we will talk about clay art.

What is Clay?

Clay is one of the most versatile and easy to handle materials for learning sculpting. A large block of clay is easy to mold and is used by beginners as well as professional sculptors to make beautiful models. Due to clay’s flexible nature, it is used by amateurs for sculpting and modeling.

The models formed by using clay are soft. They are heated in a furnace to get the final hard shape. Clay modeling is a type of stress reliever. Creating something on your own releases dopamine, which makes you happy. Also, clay modeling requires a lot of patience and hand coordination, which makes it a soothing and fun activity to pursue in your free time.

There are different types of clay used for modeling. Some sculptors prefer oil-based clays as they do not dry after the model is done. Some prefer water-based clays, but water-based clays are too soft to work with and needs firing for the shape to persist. The type of clay is selected by taking into account facts like, what the end material should look like, the experience of the sculptor, firing or nonfiring model, and cost.

Below are the types of clays used in modeling:

1. Plastilina

It is a wax and oil-based clay which is used for various purposes such as artistic modeling or prototype modeling. Plastilina is also known as Plasticine. Clay four is used as a binder for wax and oil to make plastilina clay. Plastilina clay can not be fired, which means that its consistency is the same forever. As oil does not evaporate, the clay always stays soft. Although high temperature can change the flexibility of the clay as the temperature changes the viscosity of the oil.

Plastilina is of three types, namely professional-grade, school grade, and industrial grade. The professional-grade plastilina is used by professional sculptors and contains more sulphur compared to other plastilinas for a smoother texture.

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2. Self Hardening clay

It is also known as air-dried clay, it is a non-firing clay and dried automatically if not kept damp with moisture. The clay does not need to be fired for a solid structure; instead, it is kept covered with a damp towel to stop it from drying. It has two types Boneware and Claystone. Boneware is used for direct modeling, and it supports its own structure, while Claystone needs the support of an armature.

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3. Ceramic/pottery clay:

Water-based clays differ from other sand or earth material due to their ability to retain its shape when in semi-solid form. This is known as the plasticity of the clay. When clay is mixed with the right amount of water, it can be used for modeling. There are different types of water-based clays

Earthen Clays, Porcelain, Terra cotta, Mid fire Stoneware, and High Fire stoneware. Earthen clays are being used from ancient times and contain impurities like iron, which makes it reach the optimum shape even at low-temperature firing. Stoneware clays are light gray in color when in a moist form. The product color after firing ranges from grey to brown and majorly depends on the type of firing used.

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4. Wax/Polymer based clay

Polymer clay is called clay although it does not contain any clay minerals. It is a firing clay and needs heating to reach an optimum form. Polymer clay is used by artists, kids, and in the animation industry. You can easily buy it from craft stores.

5. Paper-Based clay: Paper clay is clay in which a small amount of cellulose fiber is added to increase its strength. This fiber enables dry to dry and wet to dry joins of the paper clay. Paper clays are air-dry clays and do not need firing to stay firm.

History of Clay:

The use of clay to make firm shapes and objects did not start as an art. Clay was more of a necessity than a modeling material. In ancient times, clay was used to make utensils and daily use objects. The production of utensils using clay brought a revolution in our cooking methods. Clay utensils were used for cooking meals, meals were served in clay utensils, and the most important use of clay utensils was to hold water. With these revolutionary innovations during ancient times, humanity had an upgrade in the standard of living.

The method of shaping clay also changed; at first, clay was modeled by hand; there were some techniques where flat dried slabs of clay were joined together to form a container. Some ceramists then came up with the spinning wheel. The block of wet clay is placed at the center of the wheel, and it is rotated at high speed. The torque and hands help in modeling clay in its desired shape. Some ceramists used to pour liquid clay into molds to obtain the desired structure.

The use of clay expanded globally due to trade. The use of clay and style of models created using it differed regionally. As time passed, the clay structures were considered a part of the culture of that region. The utensils represented the culture of that region. Clay models, instead of being daily use items, slowly became artifacts as industrialization and use of metals grew. Now ceramics are one of the most popular artifacts uncovered by archeologists. The utensils are dated back to their time of use and are used to study the history of that region.

Clay art modeling tools

  1. Wire tipped tool: The wire is attached to a wooden stick. It is used to create wrinkles in the structure.
  2. Twisted wire rake: A pair of twisted wire is bent in a loop, and the loop is attached to a wooden holder.
  3. Guitar Loop: An old guitar string is used to make a loop, and the loop is attached to the wooden holder.
  4. Fine Lopp: A thin metal strip is bent to make a loop and attached to a wooden holder. It is used to bring out the fine details.
  5. Mini Wire brush: It’s a brush with metal bristles.
  6. Potter’s wheel for water-based clay: It is a wheel that spins fast to give the clay a nice shape.

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KiKi 11-Piece Set – Metal Tipped Sculpting Tools with Wood Handles, Pottery Tools Clay Sculpting Carving Tool Set Contains Most Essential Wooden Clay Tools for Potters

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3dRose Square Pottery Wheel and Clay Merrill Quilt (12 x 12-inch)

Tips for clay art beginners:

1. Select your clay carefully

All the beginners need to keep in mind which type of structure they want to create. Thorough research is necessary for clay selection. The temperature of the atmosphere, the availability of firing, the expected durability of the finished product. All these things should be considered before getting into clay art.

2. Plan your model:

You need to have a clear vision of what you want to make. Without a clear picture of what you want, as a result, the sculpting part will be really difficult. Clay art is a process that needs a clear definition of the expected result all the time. A well-planned model defined a definite path that the sculptor should follow.

3. Moisture/wetness of water-based clay:

If you’re working with wet clay, then you need to take care of the density and consistency of the mixture. If the clay is too wet, then it will not be able to take any shape; if the water is not sufficient, the clay will crack. To check the clay consistency, take a small clay block and flatten it, try to roll it into a cylinder if it rolls smoothly then the clay is perfect if it cracks add more water.

4. Work on your hand movements:

Practice your hand movements while handling the clay. Clay needs to be treated gently to obtain beautiful shapes. On the spinning wheel, certain finger movements change the chape, thickness, and length of the model, thus use your fingers carefully. Oil-based clays should be treated properly as temperature affects their plasticity.

5. Avoid Protruding shapes:

Beginners should take care of not including protruding shapes in their beginning models. Protruding shapes are difficult and complex to male. Incorporating these shapes increases the rate of failure of stricture balance; thus, protruding shapes should be incorporated in the model if you have some experience in handling clay.

6. Get professional help:

Clay Art is not easy, and sometimes it is good to get professional help. There are many art studios that train people in clay modeling, and attending these can do wonders. So enroll in your nearest art studio, it might help you achieve your goal faster.

Some clay art ideas for beginners

1. Plates

The basic thing to start with clay is making plates. Plates are easy to make with air-dried clay. It needs no firing and is easy to handle. You can add stickers to your plates for fun.

2. Leaf art

If you love plants and trees, you can preserve them most beautifully. Choose a leaf that you like and press it on a thin sheet of air-dried clay. Cut corners and wait for the clay to dry. You will get beautiful results. If you like painting you can paint your clay leaf with acrylics.

3. Succulent plant pot

Give your succulent pots a twist of clay. Wrap your plastic pot around with clay and print cool clay impressions. You can use acrylics paints to paint the pot.

4. Cute biscuits

Use colorful air dried clay to make cute colorful biscuits. To add shine, add paints, and sparkles to your treat.

5. Pet paw print

Everyone loves their pet. To preserve their cute paw impression forever with you, take a block of clay, press your pets impression in it. To make it more memorable, you can mark the date by using clay tools.

6. Photo frame

You will require two thin sheets of clay and some acrylic paint. Take the two sheets and fill cotton in between them to create space for the photo. Dry the structure and paint it according to it.

7. Cute Fruits

Fruits come in all shapes and sizes, so there is no right or wrong even. So let out your inner child and make some cute fruits for your dinner table. You can also make a clay basket for it.

Benefits of clay art:

1. Creativity

Clay art encourages creativity in a person. A creative person develops a different perspective about everything, which widens their vision. There is no bad clay art as a clay model can have multiple interpretations; thus, we see what we want to see in a clay model.

2. Hard work and patience

To achieve perfection in clay modeling, you need to have steady hands and patience. Clay modeling nourishes your patience and helps you indulge in a calm activity.

3. Aesthetic feel

Many times we can not find the perfect decoration piece for our house. We all want our home to represent our personality, with clay modeling, you can create art pieces that represent you.

4. Commercialize

Clay art is appreciated by many as it is close to nature. Clay is a part of the earth and reminds us of our environment. If you become good at clay art, you can create a market for yourself. In this digital age, commercializing art has become easier than ever.