Not everyone has the luxury of a pottery wheel to work with, and some people just prefer going back to basics and using only their hands, a great clay, and a small number of tools to make some beautiful pieces.
To ensure that your handbuilding process goes according to plan, you need to ensure you are using the right clay. Not all clay is suited to be used for handbuilding, and there are different types with different qualities, so you really need to know which one would be best for your project.
Which is the best clay to use for handbuilding? The best clay for handbuilding is one that is smooth and easy to use. Self-hardening modeling clay is great for handbuilding, molding, and throwing, and can be left to dry overnight. Self-hardening clay that can air-dry is ideal when you don’t have the tools to fire clay.
When choosing the best clay for handbuilding, you should take your own preferences into account. How you like working, whether you like a harder clay are important to consider. Plus, you may care about how sticky a clay is, depending on your project and the forms you want to create.
Understanding what you want from a handbuilding clay will make the decision easier. Good thing we’ve got your back on this one! Keep reading for the best clays for handbuilding.
The 5 Best Clays For Handbuilding
To help you make the best decision on the right clay to use for handbuilding, we have found the best 5 to use.
|1.||Activa Blackjack Clay||Air-dries, all skill levels, good vertical strength|
|2.||Aurora Self-Hardening Clay||Self-hardening, quick-dry, non-toxic|
|3.||Das Air-Hardening Clay||Air-hardening, crack-free, dries white|
|4.||Amaco Darice Stonex Clay||Self-hardening, wet to repair, easy to use|
|5.||Bastex Pottery Clay||Kiln fires, air-dries semi-permanently|
These are all unique and have their own properties and characteristics, but all work wonderfully with the handbuilding technique and are suited for beginners and experienced potters alike.
1. Activa Blackjack Low Fire Clay
The Activa Blackjack Clay is a special blend of a few natural clays, which results in a silky smooth clay that has been created for optimum workability.
With this clay, you can create stunning handbuilding projects, using it also for wheel throwing, sculpting, and modeling. It is the perfect consistency to suit a wide range of clay projects and applications.
It is excellently suited for all skill levels, and you can use it from your beginner days and up until you are an expert at handbuilding.
What makes the clay even more attractive is that it can be air-dried or it can be fired at a low temperature in a kiln, so it does not matter what you have access to, you can create some unique and stunning pieces with this clay.
The clay has superior vertical side strength, which allows it to resist against sagging and falling, which makes it a great medium to use for free-form sculpture.
As it dries white, you can paint or decorate the clay with different colors and techniques which will really pop and look great on the finished piece. Once glazed, you will have a beautiful piece of pottery that will stand the test of time!
2. Aurora Self-Hardening Modeling Clay
This premium-quality self-hardening clay can be left to dry naturally overnight once you have finished sculpting out your desired piece.
The exceptional air-dry sculpting clay is ideal for throwing, coiling, molding, and is perfectly suited for handbuilding different pottery projects.
It is non-toxic and is safe for both kids and adults, and beginners and experienced potters and crafters. You do not have to wait days for the clay to dry, as it is a quick-drying clay that dries within one night.
The clay is easy to work with, and with its quick air-drying properties, you can have your project finished in next to no time at all. You do need to take the quick air-drying time into account when working with the clay!
3. DAS Air-Hardening Modeling Clay
DAS is a well-known clay brand, and you can be sure that their air-hardening modeling clay is one of the better options on the market. It is great for studio or home use and can be used by kids or adults. It fills many different clay-needs and applications!
The DAS Air-Hardening Clay hardens in 24 hours and once hardened, you can use any type of decorating medium to add as much color or embellishment as you want.
The clay is super pliable to handbuild with, but when hardened it creates a permanent piece of art, one which does not require oven baking.
While it might be intimidating to use air-drying clay as a beginner, the DAS Modeling Clay only dries within 24 hours, which allows you ample time to complete your project before it begins to harden.
Your work will dry free from-cracks, and with the clay drying white, you have complete control of the colors and finishes you decorate it with. Whether you use markers, watercolor paints, or brush pens, the clay will hold the color well, with even the smallest and thinnest of pieces hardening well!
4. Amaco Darice Stonex Clay
Prepared in a moist form, this self-hardening clay is ready to use to create some beautiful handbuilding pieces.
With many self-hardening clays, it is a race against the clock to finish up before the clay is too hard to use. However, you can add some water to the Amaco Darice Stonex Clay to extend its usage time further to hold off on the drying.
Once you have finished building and the clay is ready to be decorated, you can use almost any art supply to add color, such as school paints, acrylics, or even liquid crayons. This allows for so many different techniques and effects to be done on the finished piece.
For handbuilding, the clay maintains its malleability to be able to be easy to work with from start to finish, and you can use some wet clay to repair finished pieces as well.
As it is so easy to use, it is such a great clay for class projects for kids, or bigger, more complex projects for expert potters and adults. It is safe to use and is easy enough to clean up as well!
5. Bastex Low Fire Pottery Clay
If you are wanting a clay to handbuild that needs to be fired in a kiln, the Bastex Low Fire Pottery Clay would work well for you.
The terra cotta color of the clay is further accentuated once it has been fired in the kiln, and then it can be wonderfully finished off with a glaze.
The clay is organic and non-toxic and is suitable to be used for many different types of crafts and to build many types of pottery pieces. It is great for handbuilding, sculpting, throwing, and firing.
This 5-pound ball of clay will be more than enough to finish many projects at home or in your studio. You can let the clay air dry, and it will harden, but it will not be a permanent piece, and if it gets wet it can break.
Use this clay if you are wanting a clay to use for handbuilding, but one that requires firing in a kiln to harden. You will need to have access to a kiln for handbuilding with this clay, so it is better suited for more experienced potters or those who have easy access to a studio.
What is Handbuilding With Clay?
Clay pottery has been made for a very long time, and in ancient pottery-making, there weren’t always as many fancy tools like we use today. Handbuilding is an ancient pottery-making technique where forms are made without the use of a potter’s wheel.
The hands, fingers, and a few simple tools are used. One such technique for handbuilding is the slab technique. This is when smooth slabs of clay are formed around molds or are shaped by hands and worked with until they take finished form.
What Are the Three Methods of Handbuilding?
There are three basic techniques used for handbuilding. These include pinching, coiling, and slab constructions. The three basic techniques can either be used individually, or they can be combined together to suit your project.
Most beginners use the pinching technique to make a simple pinch pot, as this is generally the most intuitive technique to use when beginning to work with clay.
Which Clay is Best For Beginners?
Stoneware is considered the best clay for beginners, as it is plastic and therefore holds its shape well. It often has added grog which allows it to be even further strengthened, and when fired, it is tough and non-porous.
Stoneware can be used for handbuilding and on a pottery wheel, so beginners can practice different techniques.
The Best Clay For Handbuilding
Whether you are trying handbuilding for the first time, or you prefer to stick to classic techniques, you will need to choose a clay that is ideally suited for handbuilding. The clay will need to be easy to work with and malleable.
You can choose whether or not to use an air-drying clay or one that needs to be fired, depending on what access you have to different tools. The above 5 clays all have unique properties but are all ideal for handbuilding.
Up Next: Baking Polymer Clay On Aluminum Foil