Uses and Types of Clay

You will be surprised to know that something as simple as clay not only enjoys a broad range of uses, but also comes in a range of variations. The choice obviously depends on the use, so pick accordingly.

The simple and malleable clay is the ideal modeling material for amateurs as well as veteran sculptors. The ease of working and extreme versatility makes clay a popular choice that gives other sophisticated materials like rubbers and resins a run for their money!

Indeed, the use of clay modeling extends across genres – from basic ceramics and pottery to making molds and sculptures to masks, prototypes, special effects and even clay animation.

Different variations of clay are available – there is oil and water-based clay, sulfur and sulfur-free clay and hardening as well as non-drying clay. The choice depends as much on the texture and hardness of the different materials as the potential reproductions of the finished piece. The personal dexterity and preference of the artist also matters here.

For instance, the water-based clays are much softer than the oil ones. But the latter do not dry out or shrink as easily. In fact, the high grade ones are even permanently pliable and can be used over and over again.

The most common uses of clay are sculpting and pottery. Here, the artist usually uses the water-based clays and they are not bothered about the drying as the finished piece will be fired in a kiln to harden it permanently.

However, when an artist is making an initial model for a prop, prototype or prosthetic, they may prefer the oil-based or non-hardening varieties. This allows them a longer window to mold the clay as it will not harden on exposure to air. What’s more, they can even reuse the same clay many times after the casting is done. There is a varying choice of hardness as well to suit different applications.

Most of the clay options contain sulfur and this does not affect the sculpture, mask, prop or prototype as such. The only hindrance is that the sulfur can inhibit the setting of various silicone rubbers. As such, when an artist plans to cast the clay mold in silicone rubber, he has to consider sulfur-free clays.

Apart from these, there is a special type of ballistic clay that is surprisingly handy for testing body armor. This clay simulates animal muscle tissue and can be used as backing for ballistic vests to test the deformations from varying bullet shots.

When it comes to which clay to purchase, the oil-based Roma Plastilina is the first choice of seasoned sculptors for clay modeling. Del Milano plasticine clay is another good variant of the same class, yet less heavy on the pocket. For prototyping and automotive design usage, Chavant offers top quality industrial plasticine clay in both sulfur and sulfur-free variants. Roma Platilina’s ballistic clay is the government-designated backing material for terminal ballistics testing. And if you need moist and self-hardening clays for pottery and ceramics, there are quality offerings from Dresden, Artware and Boneware.

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