Clay Crafts

Written by Pete Nicholls
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Most of us remember play dough, plasticine (or plasticene), and other materials that lent themselves to being squeezed and squished and reshaped into fantasy animals. And that smell was usually hard to get off our hands. It's odd how certain words bring back sharp memories.

Polymer clay today can be shaped and baked, so the kids' creations are for keeps. An adult needs to supervise, of course. And actually, adults can have just as much fun as the kids, creating slightly more sophisticated projects, if they want to. The clay is rolled to less than 1/8" in thickness for many flat items, like hearts or ovals for necklaces, or rectangles or circles for name tags. Before the clay is baked, a drinking straw can be used to punch out the right size hole for threading metallic cord.

Kits can be bought that contain different colors of clay, cutting and shaping tools, and push molds. Acrylic paints work well on clay that has been baked and cooled. The materials should be readily available at crafts stores in your area, or they can be ordered on the Web. Instructors caution that any decorations you push into the clay before baking should be the kind that won't melt. If they're unusual buttons, for instance, you might want to just make a hole with them, then glue them into the depression after the decoration is baked.

Plasticine Is Still Extremely Useful

Plasticine is still used for modeling purposes. It's non-toxic and doesn't harden, so can be used over and over. The smell is due to its being oil-based. Plasticine is sold in long blocks that appear to contain ridges and is now available in a couple dozen vibrant colors. It's used professionally in clay animation production. It's also used to seal edges or in other situations where a hardened clay would not work. Other types of clay include Das, which air-dries, and doesn't require baking to harden.

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