Model Air Drying Clay by Blackwattle Pottery
MAD Clay is an air dry clay which hardens without firing or baking. Similar to DAS air dry clay, which I have used over the years but certainly not fallen in love with. Though I'll admit that I haven't used DAS anytime recently, and would interested to see if it has changed.
MAD Clay is produced in Australia by Blackwattle Pottery and comes packaged in 1,2 and 5kg conveniently resealable bags. I have used it several projects, and have mostly been pleasantly surprised by the results.
A white non-toxic clay with a lovely smooth texture that feels wonderful in your hands. Not too wet or sticky and not too dry - just right as Goldilocks would put it. Unlike DAS which I always found to be rapidly drying out on the table as I worked. Or rock hard in the packet no matter how well I re-wrapped it. With a bit of common sense, MAD Clay stays workable and ready to go.
Mad Clay is described by Blackwattle Pottery as being a medium of choice for school projects, home and hobbies. I think it is also a compelling choice for professional artists who lack kiln access. But the product does have it's limits which must be kept in mind.
Trouble Shooting Air Drying Clay
When creating my EchidnoCactus sculpture, I found that the thinner spine pieces where very fragile after drying. These unfortunately broke quite easily.
Generally I would add strength to a sculpture by building over an armature. However some of my MAD Clay sculptures did suffer considerable cracking due to shrinkage as it dried. This took me by some surprise, as my first three sculpts did not crack at all.
These issues can be addressed and avoided, still making MAD Clay an economical and practical material of choice;
- Finer inclusions can be created from a stronger polymer clay, baked, and set into the air drying clay while still wet. Perfect for large sculptural projects that would cost a small fortune to build purely from polymer clay alone.
- Adding a loose layer of newspaper around your armature secured with tape will allow the clay more room for shrinkage. This will minimise, if not eliminating any cracking. If some small cracks do still occur, these can be filled with a slurry mix of clay and water or polyfilla. Limiting the amount of water you add to the air dry clay will also help reduce cracking as it evaporates and dries.
Despite running into a couple of technical issues while getting to know the properties of MAD Clay, I do really enjoy using the product. I will certainly continue to use it in future art projects.
It is very reasonably priced (around $10 for a 2kg bag) and a lot of fun to play with. MAD Clay is soft enough to sculpt with your hands, add details with tools or imprint with textures. Try it out for yourself and see what you can do!
Rachel continues to actively and passionately participate in a range of exhibitions, prizes, collaborations and community projects. She resides in her hometown of Geraldton, Western Australia with her partner, two dogs, two cats and carnivorous plant collection.