If you've read our ‘About’ page, the Beast Boutique started, almost by accident, thanks to air dry clay. (I honestly don’t remember how we decided to try clay.) I want to start this blog where we started, so this post is just going to be a short and sweet run-down of the clays we tried within our first year, and what our initial impressions of them were. (I hope to do more in-depth reviews of each one later.)
DAS Modeling Clay was our first clay, and we chose it for its price. It was our primary medium for a long time. Later on in 2016 we also tried two other self-hardening clays, Activ-Clay and Paper Clay Creative.
DAS is a stiff clay that needs to be thoroughly conditioned before sculpting. As it dries, it forms a kind of skin on the surface, which is a little weird but not bad, per se. The most obvious downer with DAS is the perpetual smell. We got used to it, but it’s not a nice smell.
Reviews we read before purchasing our first bag also said it was prone to cracking, but it’s easy to touch up any small cracks that do form after it’s dry. It’s easy to make additions to your work after parts have already dried, because wet to dry bonding works so well with DAS.
There are a lot of reasons to like this clay, especially if you’re just starting out. It definitely has its drawbacks, but it was a solid starting point for us. You can buy it here if you're interested in trying it out!
Creative Paperclay was our next clay, recommended to us by my aunt. It’s a smooth, buttery clay that’s very lightweight when dry. It rehydrates well, but gets sticky and pasty if it gets too wet. It dries out fast though, so it works out. There is a slight odor to the wet clay, like glue, but it’s not an overwhelming smell.
If dried slowly, cracks aren’t a big issue, except maybe in bigger chunks. Creative bonds to itself very easily and well, and it’s easy to blend out.
It’s not the most durable, but it’s a nice-feeling clay, especially if you have a little extra cash to invest in your material. If you try this clay, we recommend the 16 oz blocks - at the time of writing, it's cheaper by ounce to buy the 16 oz block instead of the 8 oz one.
Activ-clay is the clay we used the least. We were given a small bag as a gift, but didn't buy more because of the price, so it only got used for a few of our sculptures. It has a medium firmness and quite a different texture than the other two, more like ceramic than paper. It needs moderate conditioning before you start working with it, and if it gets a little dry during that, it takes water well. It has a high shrink rate, and it's very fragile in its semi-dry state. When we used it, however, we felt it was pretty strong when dry, and could be sanded to a smooth, luxurious finish.
It's more expensive than the other clays we used, at least on Amazon, but if you try it, let us know what you think! I’d love to buy another bag of it at some point to give it a more in-depth look for a review.
While there are a lot of reasons to like air dry clay, it’s worth mentioning that none of these clays are food-safe, or aquarium-safe. They won’t survive being left in the elements either. Air-dry clay is best (and safest) when used for indoor, decorative pieces.