Ever since I was a little kid, I have been enchanted by modeling clay. I’ve always enjoyed working with the soft, squeezable texture and the possibility to make anything with a few shapes. A quick glance at the jewelry racks at stores like Icing and Claire’s reveals that cute and soft clay-molded critters and shapes are not just for preschoolers.
For this article, I used “Sculpty” clay, an easy-to-use brand of clay that comes in an assortment of shapes and colors, yet it costs less than $3 a block. You could also buy a starter pack with 10 to 12 pieces. “Sculpty” is a bake-set clay, which can be easily done in a toaster oven within 15 minutes.
Alternatively, you could use air-dried clay, although for ease of use bake clay is better since you can make it more of a leisurely project without the clay drying out.
Be sure to knead the clay thoroughly before shaping to make it pliable and soft. Wash your hands in-between using different colors, since the residue will come off onto the next color and make it muddy. Protect your work surface with wax or freezer paper, since the clay can stick to wood or other table surfaces. When you’re done with the clay, wrap it in plastic wrap tightly to keep it moist.
You’ll need a butter knife or a round and hard object like a small glass to use as a rolling pin. For $5, you can buy the Sculpty knife and roller set. If you find that you really enjoy working with clay, invest in some letter stamps, texture pads and cutters to make small, well-defined silhouettes.
Creatively speaking, clay is a whole world of fun possibilities. For holidays, pumpkins, candy corn, snowmen, Santa hats, ornaments, hearts and Easter eggs are obvious choices. Try to think about things you like that could be fun and unusual: cowboy boots, turtles, books (print a tiny picture of your favorite book cover and glue on after cooling), even just squares and circles with cool paint and rhinestones.
Remember when working with clay that the charm is in the slight imperfections. The idea is to make an art representation or suggestion, not a realistic image. If real leaves aren’t red and orange swirled or your apple earrings are not perfectly identical to each other, just practice and have fun.
On a side note, it’s a good idea to trim your nails down before working with the clay, as there’s not much more frustrating than getting a piece just right only to have a thumbnail carve a half-moon into your freshly made piece.
-Sculpty clay (assorted colors or white, as you can paint the pieces later if you wish)
-Butter knife or plastic clay cutter tool
-Small glass or clay rolling pin
-Earring hooks, jump rings, necklace chain, key chain, self-adhesive magnet tape
Knead clay until pliable and slightly warm. Shape into desired shape – suggested easy shapes are pumpkins, leaves, apples or acorns. Detail as much as you’d like, adding little clay stems, leaves or impressions like leaf veins into the soft clay. Use the toothpick to carefully poke a hole at the top of your design such as through a stem if you plan on making jewelry.
Twist the toothpick carefully several times to be sure the hole is large enough. If using bake clay, place pieces on a foil or parchment covered baking pan and bake according to package directions.
Watch carefully as the clay bakes, since it can brown and burn if overdone. When baking is done, let the pieces cool thoroughly, still on the pan, at least an hour. Attach magnet tape if you’re making a magnet.
To make jewelry: spread an open jump-ring wide enough apart to feed through the hole, using tweezers or a pair of small pliers. Thread the ring through your clay object but do not close the jump-ring.
For earrings: thread the lower hole of a hook earring through the jump-ring. Use tweezers or small pliers to close the ring. For bracelets, necklaces or key chains: close the jump-ring and thread onto your necklace, bracelet chain, or key ring.
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