Why is crafting with clay becoming so popular?
The latest trend has seen polymer clay and air dry clay transformed into quirky home decor and fashion accessories.
With social media networks giving creators a platform to showcase their creative artworks, making items out of clay has been trending among youths.
This is especially on TikTok, where users post videos in making some of these creations which have us mesmerized with their skill on clay.
Some forms of clay art uses polymer clay – a form of hardened modelling clay – to craft intricate earrings or colourful chunky rings while others make use of air dry clay to create trinket dishes and ashtrays for home decoration.
Crafters also make use of social media to start their own small business, putting their art pieces for others to purchase and enjoy.
But why is clay crafting so popular? I spoke to two youth clay art creators to find out what is so attractive about the medium.
Clay crafting is a good way to get creative
Crafting with clay is a good way to get your creative juices flowing.
“I simply love the idea of creating something out of nothing, bringing something from thought into tangible existence,” said 22-year-old Kaitlyn, who declined to give her surname. Kaitlyn runs @koot.poot on Instagram where she creates handmade trinket dishes made of air dry clay.
Kaitlyn always loved the arts and would frequently browse her Pinterest and Instagram Explore page to hunt for inspiration for her next project.
To create her clay pieces, Kaitlyn begins by conceptualising and illustrating her ideas on Adobe Illustrator. After the design is created, she would roll out the clay, mould it, dry and sand the pieces to paint before applying a coat of gloss to finish.
Having tried different craft mediums such as macrame and knitting, Kaitlyn felt that these mediums have a “fixed style” – macrame, for example, holds a Boho style. This is in contrast to clay art, which is more flexible.
“I love clay because it’s so versatile – anything could happen! On the other hand, clay pieces can be moulded and painted into anything funky, chic, minimalist, the list goes on,” explained Kaitlyn.
When asked about her preferred clay medium, Kaitlyn explained that she prefers to use air dry clay as her pieces are larger in size. This is in comparison to polymer clay which she felt was more suited for smaller creations. Polymer clay is also more expensive and requires baking.
Clay is easy to work with
Clay crafting is also easy for anyone without experience.
A block of clay is readily available at art supply stores and clay crafting typically requires little to no tools besides your hands. Carving tools can also be used to create textures or intricate details for complex designs.
Kaitlyn shared: “The tools I use are really my hands and a clay slicer which is basically a plastic knife. You can even use a metal ruler instead if you don’t want to buy one. You will also need a rolling pin but you can just use any smooth cylinder object laying around in your house!”
“Clay is easy to work with and they are very light as compared to other types of earrings,” said 23-year-old Shanice Hung, owner of @theclaymakers which specialises in intricate polymer clay earrings.
“Polymer clay is pretty much like a dough but a lighter version of it. There has been a misconception that polymer clay is heavy but in reality, it is super light,” Shanice said.
As an avid lover of floral prints, Shanice creates floral themed earrings which are inspired by the flowers she sees on the streets.
Clay crafting helps with mental wellbeing
Crafting is more than just an activity for personal expression. It can also help with our mental wellbeing as a break from our busy schedules.
“Clay crafting allows me to do something that I like aside from working and studying; it allows me to relieve stress,” Shanice said.
She also explained that working on her hobby makes her feel “comfortable and at ease” when crafting with clay.
Apart from clay, Kaitlyn also finds all art forms to be therapeutic for her.
She said: “I feel that creating is something innately human that many of us have lost touch with and being able to bring a conceptualised piece into tangible existence is something very beautiful.”
To Kaitlyn, clay crafting also teaches an individual to be patient as the process of moulding the clay forces an individual to “be in the moment” and requires a lot of focus.
Continuing popularity of the clay art trend
Clay is a medium which everyone can take creative liberty to create unique pieces for themselves or to sell.
Both clay creators agreed that the popularity of clay crafting will continue to grow in Singapore and we can anticipate new crafters or handmade businesses in the coming future.
Shanice said: “I believe that clay crafting will continue to be popular and many clay makers would start their mini online business since the items are made available to them easily which will make the industry more competitive.”
However, with the rising supply of clay earrings, she also expects slower sales for many of the shops in Singapore in the near future.
Kaitlyn thinks that the demand for polymer clay will not dwindle as the craft has been in existence for a while with various crafters having established themselves as “masters of their crafts” with a large following so far.
In comparison, she felt that the community of crafters who uses air dry clay, like herself, is much smaller since the trend is new.
However, with the increasing popularity of the medium on TikTok, she explained that she is not surprised if the trend continues to grow and more crafters join the community.
Advice for beginners to start clay crafting
For those who want to start their journey with clay, one can start by researching different mediums of clay crafting and finding out which style interests them the most.
When asked about her tips for beginners, Kaitlyn said: “There are no names to these learning techniques and neither did I employ any techniques when I started. I loved clay because it was just that intuitive, just do what you think should be the next step and it almost always works out.”
Besides using her hands and a clay slicer, Kaitlyn also suggests to readers to muster up lots of patience and focus especially when working on intricate pieces.
Before starting a clay project, Shanice recommends drafting and practising an idea on paper before working on clay.
She also suggested beginner-friendly tools including cutters, dotting tool sets, rollers and an earring do-it-yourself kit – for studs and hooks – which can be found online or in-stores.
When asked about her advice to readers, Shanice said: “Do not compare yourself with other makers as every other maker is special in their own way.”
Kaitlyn also encourages beginners to not be afraid to pick up the activity.
She said: “Just do it! Humans are really born creative. You just have to start exploring and making. The materials for clay are also inexpensive so don’t be afraid to fail because you can always start again.”