Looking at all the clay supplies available at art stores and online can make it tough for the beginning sculptor to figure out exactly what's needed to begin learning the art of sculpting and working with clay. To help you navigate your way through the sea of modeling clay supplies you may encounter, here is a list of a few essentials to get you started.
The first thing you will need is something to sculpt. While it may seem simple enough to just pick up a block of clay, there are actually quite a few choices out there for sculptors. Many artists prefer natural clay, while others swear by plasticine clays. There are many colors and textures of clays available. You may want to experiment with a few different types of clay, until you discover what feels best to you, and what works for the type of sculptures you are making.
Wire Clay Cutter
This is one of the first modeling clay tools you'll need. A cutter is a long piece of wire with two handles on either end, used to cut a piece of clay from a large block. These cutters are, by far, the most efficient way to cut through clay cleanly, quickly and easily. Potters also use them to remove a finished piece from the wheel.
A loop tool is a wooden handle with a metal loop on the end. It is used for cutting and sculpting clay. They come in a wide variety of sizes; the sizes you choose will depend on the amount of detail you use in your work. Many beginning students find it useful to have at least one larger loop tool and a smaller one for detail work.
Wood or Plastic Knife
There are many sizes and shapes of knives, used for sculpting and shaping clay. Every sculptor should at least have a basic knife-shaped tool, and choose additional tools depending on the type of sculpting. Wooden tools are popular for their feel and durability, but they can be pricey. Plastic tools are sometimes a bit flimsy, but they are usually less expensive.
For sculpting figures, you will need to purchase armature wire, which is used to build the framework for figures. These are the "bones" of your figure, so to speak. The thickness of wire you choose will depend on the size of your sculptures. Larger, heavier pieces will require a sturdier framework, while smaller figures need less support.
In addition to these specialty tools, you can also look around your kitchen or garage for any other types of tools that could be used for shaping and sculpting clay. Things like kitchen knives, nails and screwdrivers can all be used to shape your sculptures and add interesting textures.
As you become more proficient in the art of sculpting, you may wish to expand on your tool kit, but for now, these basic tools should be sufficient while you're learning.
Polymer clay is generally safe to use. If you're concerned about letting your children handle it, understanding how it's tested and labeled could put your mind at ease.
Modeling clay can be made into almost anything, and hardening varieties allow you to create functional or decorative objects for your home.
Clay art projects are great for kids, because they can get their hands dirty making something creative.