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Reusable Practice Clay For Transition Into Fired Ceramics?

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Not sure if this is the proper forum to be asking, but I'm a newbie looking for recommendations on reusable or non hardening clay (always pliable) that I can practice making multiple forms with before I even worry about firing any finalized pieces. I don't wanna waste any material (and consequently money) so I'm hoping to start with maybe 5 pounds of modeling/sculpting clay that I can just break down whatever figure/form I've made and start over on something new. Like a step up from play doh I suppose, but hopefully something that mimics the handling characteristics of ceramic/pottery clay that will be fired into a finished product.

 

I've always been more into drawing/sketching and other flat forms of art, and recently have been thinking about trying sculpting/modeling, but I've never handled any type of clay, and I'm not sure where to start with there being so many choices. I also just wanna get a feel for whether I'm even capable of working in 3d without ordering a 50 pound block of something that's gonna dry up on me or be the wrong material entirely.

 

My ultimate goal is to make my own bonsai pots that also combine elements of figurine making and sculpture. For example, maybe a four legged animal form that has the potted area for the bonsai tree built into its back, or a wooden ship, a car, maybe even small landscape scenes. Anything that has the necessary space for a bonsai tree to sit in with drainage holes at the bottom that isn't just a traditional round or rectangular pot, if that makes sense.

 

I don't know the first thing about sculpting or figurine making, though, let alone the differences between all the materials such as stoneware, earthenware, ceramic, porcelain, china, terra cotta, etc. In the past few days I've been researching I've found there are polymer clays, oil based clays, water based clays; WED clay, plastilina, plasticine. Not to mention so many different brands; Sculpey, Van Aken, Amaco, Laguna, Sargent Art, Monster Clay, PRANG, Apoxy. It's a little overwhelming.

 

From what little I've read, plastilina seems like a good reusable modeling clay to practice with. Does it really never dry out/harden like they claim? Does that depend on how it's stored? I'd also be satisfied with something that can be brought back to pliability with a little work, like heating/cooling or dampening.

 

The best value I've found so far seems to be 5 pound bars of Sargent Art plastilina for $16.60 on Amazon. I've also seen 4.5 pound pound bars of Van Aken plastilina for just over $18 on Amazon. Is it worth the premium for the slightly more well known Van Aken brand? Does anyone know of any online retailers that can beat the above prices including shipping?

 

And for anyone that has experience working with plastilina, can I expect it to handle similarly to clay that's meant to be fired for a finished piece? Or will it be like working with a whole new material? When I feel ready to start working on a final ceramic product, what type of clay should I be looking for? Some type of earthenware or stoneware clay? What's the most commonly used material for finished figurines etc. like those seen in the member gallery here?

 

I think there may even be hybrid clays that stay pliable until baked that might suit all of my needs? On Amazon I see "Original Sculpey" which claims to stay soft until baked. It's a bit pricey at $22 for 3 pounds, though. I also see "Magic Mud" which is much cheaper, $30 for 25 pounds and claims to be air-drying, but reusable by adding water, and also can be kiln fired. Anyone have experience with these sort of general purpose clays? Are there disadvantages to them when firing, like maybe more shrinkage/warping, or not as durable when fired as traditional pottery or stoneware clay?

 

Sorry to have so many questions in one post, but hoping to draw from the expertise of people that have worked with all these various clays so I can make better purchasing decisions. Thanks.

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I think I'd want to practice with the sort of clay I planned to use eventually.  Even different "real" clays have different working qualities, as well as drying qualities.  Things you could get away with when using plasticine will cause real clay to crack.  Real clay can be rehydrated and reused as many times as you want.

 

Buy some real clay.   You'll learn a lot more useful stuff about working with clay,

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echo that.  real clay is not expensive and if you keep it inside a closed container it will stay pliable for years.  just add water when it needs it.  your local library has, or can get, basic books which can help educate you.

 

there is no way that a product called clay but made of something else will give you the same kind of experience.  get a bucket with a tight fitting lid.  buy 25 pounds of an earthenware clay and start working.  if you have to pay for the bucket and clay you might spend as much as $25.  i said earthenware because maybe you will make something you actually want to fire (not bake) and keep forever.  you can find a place to fire earthenware more easily than higher firing clays.  

 

5 pounds of real clay is about the size of a softball.

 

can you really imagine making something that you can keep out of one of those other materials?

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I think I'd want to practice with the sort of clay I planned to use eventually.  Even different "real" clays have different working qualities, as well as drying qualities.  Things you could get away with when using plasticine will cause real clay to crack.  Real clay can be rehydrated and reused as many times as you want.

 

Buy some real clay.   You'll learn a lot more useful stuff about working with clay,

 

As long as it can be rehydrated to 100% pliability almost like dough based clay I guess I wouldn't mind starting with a small 4-5 pound block of real clay. Unfortunately, being so new, I'm not even sure what I should be searching for in regards to terms. If I were to shop around on Amazon for example, what should I look for? "Pottery Clay" or "Stoneware Clay"? Does it have to be a water-based clay like WED in order to be rehydrated back to out-of-the-box pliability?

 

Do you have any recommendations? Thanks.

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Thanks for all the replies, right now I'm looking at "Amaco No. 25 white art clay" and "Amaco No. 20 versa clay". Both are low firing. It's $25-30 shipped for 50 pounds (2x25 blocks) on Amazon depending on the formula.

 

I kind of like the description of #20 versa clay

 

"Can be used to hand-form delicate flowers paper-thin without cracking"

"Versa Clay can be reworked and shaped much longer than other clays and can be pressed into molds"

 

But only #25 white art clay specifies

 

"Always mix dry clay in a closed polyethylene bag. Combine one pound of dry clay with four to five ounces of water or 28% water by weight. Expel air in the bag and tie opening securely with string. Knead until clay and water are mixed thoroughly. Aging 24 hours or longer improves plasticity."

 

Is there any reason to assume that #20 can't be rehydrated to pliability like #25? Or is it likely that they both can be reconstituted, but only #25 is sold in a dry state, and therefore has instructions on reconstitution?

 

50 pounds is a lot of clay... but the dollar per pound cost makes it the most reasonable purchase I guess. I'm just not sure what I would do with all of it if I found I didn't like working in 3d, or didn't like the properties of the clay itself.

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Try the major ceramic suppliers instead of Amazon--many offer 25 lb bags. The shipping costs are horrible on anything less than 100+ pounds anyway, so why get more than you will use if you will not be using it? 

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You can recycle clay. Once you have made a sculpture, dry it out and smash it up and then cover in water. Read up about clay dust when working with clay.

Once it has 'slaked down' is the term I use. Gone mushy. Mix up and either leave and let some more water evaporate out or pour onto a plaster batt. The plaster draws the water out so you can mix into a usable consistency.

 

You can see what happens in this video :D buy some clay and recycle away.

 

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buy wet clay.  mixing powdered clay is dangerous for anyone without any knowledge of its properties.  

 

why do you want to work with clay?  many of us have been in love with the substance since childhood and have moved heaven and earth to be able to work with it.  it sounds as though this is just a slightly interesting thing that you might like but maybe not.  there have been many posts in the past few weeks for beginners.  try looking at some of the answers we have been giving to basic questions that other people have asked.  if you are sincerely interested in clay, you will find out more by reading old posts here, watching youtube if you know which potters to watch, visiting your local library, checking your area for suppliers and looking for someone in your locality (wherever it is) who is a potter.

 

 i have been told that the real bonsai experts use only the plain kind of container.  they are interested in the tree, not the container.

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High bridge pottery, thanks for your videos. Enjoyed seeing your work. Cute critters and lovely glazes. Do you make a lot of your own glazes? Love the different greens with contrasted beiges.

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I use the Amaco #25 White Art Clay for throwing and carving. It is a very nice clay to mold and sculpt and stays pliable for a very long time as long as you keep it sealed. It comes already prepared as wet clay. You don't have to mix anything. It costs $29 with shipping and tax to NYC for a 50lb box from Amazon. If you are near a store that sells clay that Amaco 25 is usually about the same base price of about $20 and you can save on the shipping. You should start with a regular firing clay if that's what your ultimate goal is

and not transition from a practice clay. It won't be the same.

Paul

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High bridge pottery, thanks for your videos. Enjoyed seeing your work. Cute critters and lovely glazes. Do you make a lot of your own glazes? Love the different greens with contrasted beiges.

 

Thank you bhunt7 but I am confused on what critters and glazes you are talking about, green and beige critters? I tried out pre-mixed glaze, I tried out most recipes in the books that I liked the look of, none of them ever truly worked. Now I am on some strange journey finding out what my raw materials can actually do. I love making glazes. I see it as this complicated fluid dance between each oxide, different ratios producing different moves.

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