Clay has been said to be the primordial material from which humans were moulded. Almost every ancient property had clay in it. Till date, clay is in use everywhere. With the proliferation of modern housing and designs, it seems clay has come to stay for good. From porcelain sinks and tubs to china plate sets, from the statue of liberty to the water fountains, this material is ubiquitous. This goes to show just how much clay is important. However, all these edifices and utilities aren’t made from just one rough mix of clay.

When building/sculpting, modeling clay is any mouldable material used. The material may be composed of different things entirely and this difference in composition even slightly makes for variations in clay types.

When the subject of clay is brought up, a number of artists/artisans are considered including potters, sculptors, ceramic makers etc. There are so many ways clay can be manipulated and combined with other materials to produce various materials.

Modeling clay for various materials

  1. For ceramics: Clay for ceramics is made from a mixture of clay minerals (hydrous aluminum phyllosilicates), some other raw materials and water. The mixtureis then heated at very high temperatures to give variants of ceramics like stoneware, earthenware and porcelain. The process of heating at high temperatures is known as FIRING.
  2. Paper clay: art students will recall with fondness the homework they did on paper Mache when learning about clay. It involved making a mixture of completely soaked paper and starch or cellulose fibre and using it to make simple sculptures. This kind of modelling does not require firing. Paper clay can be made by anyone who decides to and is guided properly. It is a softer and less stressful kind of modelling
  3. Plasticine: this is also known as oil-based clay. Different waxes, oils are mixed with clay minerals to make this kind of clay. Clays like this do not dry completely or solidify like the cays that have water as their base. Furthermore, they also cannot be heated or “fired” because of the oil else the model would melt like wax. The great thing about this clay type is that it is not toxic, it can be used again and comes in various colours. Theseare some of the reasons artists make use of them as animation models. They are super malleable and can be used to make sculptures with intricate details.
  4. Polymer clay: this is what comes out when some raw materials are fired from 129º-135ºC. this kind of clay is different because it does not contain clay minerals. Call it a synthetic mix if you will. This type of clay is perfect for those who model as a hobby. It is also ideal or children and for artists who are into animations.

Disadvantages of clay modeling

Did you know that there are health risks associated with the use of clay? Especially when certain chemicals are added to the mix.

  • Polymer clay should not be used to make dishes for food.
  • Contained in Polymer clay is a mixture of polyvinyl chloride and phthalates which have been found to have adverse effects on the reproductive and nervous systems.
  • When clay is undergoing firing or curing at extremely high temperatures, the fumes released are not healthy for inhalation and continuous exposure can lead to serious health complications.

The use of clay cannot be avoided but it should be used when necessary and following proper guidance.