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My kid likes to work with clay and I was wondering.....


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Since I am not at all artsy I of course am tasked with raising and educating an artsy child. This particular artsy child is obsessed with clay and Sculpey and similar substances. I've been in denial for years but clearly this is not a child who is going to suddenly put down the clay and develop an obsession with something I am better equipped to facilitate. Aside from buying her a lot of that sort of thing and one of everything of related to clay in the local Joann's, I appeal to the Hive to share any wisdom or suggestions for furthering my child's education in the art of clay-stuff. Any great books I should look into, video series, great artists not to be missed, or suggestions of any kind? We live in the boonies and have no local resources (not even a Starbucks). 

 

 

Thanks in advance for any suggestions!

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Your library will have books.  Just go to amazon, find books that might interest her on polymer clay sculpting, and then get them through ILL.  My dd never wanted those books.  We would look up artists and look at their work on their websites.  Some had stop motion video showing how things came together.  She learned to do wire armature, etc. that way.  

 

She did eventually move on btw.  She now sews avidly and cooks.  

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I led a Clay Play class and I loved using Magic Mud for sculpting.  You can get it at local craft stores or on-line.  

 

I also really love using beeswax modeling along with storytelling.  It needs to be warmed to work with, so while telling a story, you should have the child hold a ball of wax in her hands ("the oven") to warm.  By the time the story is through, or perhaps while you are still telling it, the wax will be warm enough and the child can form something from the story.  I've only ever used Stockmar beeswax; you can get it on-line.

 

For just playing around the house, I get a big bucket of crayola air dry clay and let the kids have at it.  They have made a lot of their own little play figures using clay.

 

For something that is sculptural, but not clay, you may want to try making wet-felted wool balls or beads.  My kids have enjoyed that.

 

I like the books The Great Clay Adventure and Children, Clay, and Sculpture.

 

 

 

 

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For really inexpensive modelling clay you can make your own salt dough (water, salt and flour). There are all kinds of ideas of what to make on-line. You can also google 'trolldeig' for additional images and ideas on Norwegian websites, as this is a very popular children's craft in Norway, though older teens and even adults love making Christmas decorations as well. It's easy to make and work with, you let it harden in the oven on low heat, then paint afterwards if desired. 

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My dd became really interested in making polymer clay miniatures around 13yo.  She made a DeviantArt account, and followed lots of other polymer clay artists, and read a lot of their tutorials.  She makes really, really amazing stuff now.  I have no idea how she does it.  I did nothing but buy her clay and any other supplies she asked for.

 

 

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Don't bother with the fake little potter's wheel kits at Joann's or Michael's.  They would drive anyone crazy, being so flimsy.

A good potter's wheel has some momentum to it, either via a very strong and steady electric motor, or a massive plaster wheel, maybe a yard or so in diameter, powered by kicking a parallel wheel underfoot, and heavy enough to keep turning even when you press hard on it.

 

Learning to work with real clay is best as an apprenticeship.  It has moisture content needs that vary depending on what you're making.  In that regard it is similar to working with pastry doughs and such--you kind of need to develop a 'feel' for it.  Whenever real clay is exposed to the air it is losing moisture, and the way that you can and can't work with it is shifting.  Also, working with it is one of the messiest of the arts, so a dedicated space is unusually helpful.

 

My advice is to stick with the Sculpey mostly for now--it is far more consistent to work with that clay.  But keep an eye out for a local ceramics class, and in the meantime maybe consider buying a good book or two on working with clay, to 'prelearn' techniques.

 

I know whereof I speak.  I have a relative who taught ceramics at the junior college level for quite a few years, and have taken a number of classes myself.

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For a change-up or extension of the clay work, she might find cake decorating interesting using fondant, candy clay, or gum paste as the skills are similar (just keep the tools for the food separate!). The Joann's might offer a Wilton course in some of this and she could transfer some of the skills to regular clay.

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