Space in this small booklet does not permit a detailed discussion of the many objects that may be modeled in clay, but some suggestions about the various kinds of clay that may be used and the methods of handling it may be helpful to playground directors and camp leaders.

If raw clay is available, the following procedure may be used to prepare it for modeling:

Allow the clay to dry. When it is in powder form, sift it through a 1/4-inch mesh into a pail half filled with clean water. Stir and let the mixture stand to allow sand and grit to settle to the bottom. Pour the mixture into another pail and allow it to stand. Repeat this procedure until the sand and waste materials have been removed. Then pour the mixture through a very fine mesh sieve. After it has been standing for several hours, the water that covers the clay may be removed with a cup or soaked up with a rag. To get the right consistency, stir the clay with a stick, allow it to settle again, and remove excess water.

Dry clay flour can be purchased in 5-pound cans. This is prepared by adding a pint of water, allowing it to stand a few minutes, and kneading well. The clay should be wrapped in a damp cloth or placed in a damp place overnight. A discarded refrigerator will serve very well.

Moist clay is ready for immediate use and should be kept in a damp place when not being worked.

There are several different kinds of prepared clay on the market. The [26] hardening prepared clay requires no preparation and is permanently plastic if kept in air-tight containers. It comes in many different colors that are pleasant to work with. The non-hardening clay is best for little children because it does not dry out or crack but adheres readily and can be used over and over again. There are other clays which harden upon exposure to air. These need not be fired but are better preserved and made waterproof when they are fired. Some clays can be fired in an ordinary oven. If possible, it is better to make your own kiln and fire your own pottery.

Mexican pottery clay comes as dry powder and is prepared as needed. The powder is put into a bowl and water is poured into it while stirring constantly. When the mixture is a thick paste, a little more powder is added and it is kneaded with the hands. The natural color is terra cotta. This preparation hardens when it is exposed for some time, depending on the size of the object modeled. When it is dry and hard, it may be painted with enamel, shellac or lacquer. This protects the surface but does not make it waterproof. Mexican pottery cannot be fired.


Very little equipment is needed for clay modeling. Any smooth surface can be used to work on-a glass or marble table or a thick board that will not warp. To cover a desk or table use wax paper or the rough side of oilcloth. Clay will stick to paper and moisten blotting paper.

Metal and wooden tools may be purchased, but these are hardly necessary for beginners. The fingers are the principal tools used to mould the forms and shape and smooth the objects. A wooden spatula with a flat end can easily be made and will be useful on sections that cannot be reached with the fingers. An orange stick and nail file are also handy to trace patterns and finish edges. A piece of wire is used to cut the clay, a sponge to smooth the surface, and a small brush to apply glaze or paint.

General Directions

Knead the clay well before starting to model it. Begin with simple objects such as fruits, vegetables, beads and animals, and progress to more difficult projects. When a piece of work is left unfinished, cover with a damp cloth and oilcloth. This will keep the clay moist. It is well to have shelves set aside where unfinished projects can be left untouched. Keep the clay in a damp place to preserve its plasticity. If it has dried, moisten with just enough water to form the consistency of putty. When the model has been entirely finished, allow it to dry naturally. Heat will cause it to dry too quickly and crack. Have the pottery fired to make it waterproof and to preserve it.