From painting to knitting, it seems like everyone around me has taken up some sort of crafty activity to take their minds away from what seems like the quiet collapse of everything we know to be normal.
I, however, never really learned to sew or knit, no matter how much I tried as a kid, nor did I have much success with traditional art and drawing despite my prodigal discoveries as a kindergartener that a triangle could make a great dress for my stick figures. Instead of these art forms, I spent most of my sick days in elementary school with my grandmother bringing home a package of Model Magic from the Publix stationary aisle to prevent me from dying of boredom in the living room.
Now that we live in a months-long indefinite sick day, I decided now would be the time to rekindle my love of clay crafts, hopefully with a little more success than I had in my younger years. I am absolutely no artist, but my goal is for this to be a bit of a guide from one amautuer to another and maybe find some inspiration for your own projects.
STEP 1: Find Inspiration
When I bought my Model Magic and my case of Crayola Air Dry Clay, I wanted to start crafting, but couldn’t really find anything I could feasibly craft. As I have previously mentioned, I am an amatuer clay artist, so when I checked Pinterest for ideas, I realized that I probably should start a little simpler than the uncanny valley clay dolls and hyper-realistic fruit replicas. Now, if you look online it’s a little difficult to find a reference that will actually turn out okay, so I suggest thinking small, thinking cartoon-y, and thinking about some of the things you love. For my craft, I decided a stylized mushroom would be the cutest clay sculpture I could actually create.
STEP 2: Get your Materials
For my mushrooms, I used Model Magic to plan out the basic shapes. It is smart to figure out exactly how to make the different parts fit together before getting to work with the final medium. I also used Crayola’s white air dry clay, which would be rock solid by the time I was finished creating my mushroom. Beyond that, I would get a small cup to fill with water when you work on joining up the air drying clay pieces. I might just be messy, but when you work with the final product, wear clothes you wouldn’t mind getting a bit of wet clay on.
STEP 3: Planning the Mushroom Shape
For every mushroom, there are 2 main parts: the stem, which you would just roll out into a worm of varying thicknesses, and the cap, which is where the main variation can happen- even for a beginner. The cap can be any broadly round shape, whether its a real orb or a flattened circle. If you want to make a button mushroom, just make a shorter, fatter stem with a more sphere-like cap. If you want to make a fly agaric, maybe choose a longer, thinner stem with a flat cap. The important part is to have a small divot in the cap so that the stem and cap can join together with just a bit of water. This divot in the cap making process will make it so that the shape will remain as smooth and unbent as possible.
STEP 4: Sticking it All Together
STEP 5: What’s Next?
There seems to be no use for a weird clay mushroom, but you can take the mushroom as far as you want it to go. Want earrings or a pendant? Use a paperclip to create a small hole for a hook. Want to make a base and create a mushroom garden? Flatten out another piece of clay and build one up. Want a more colorful take? Grab some paint and decorate to your heart’s content. Maybe even try to add more detail and pizazz to your mushrooms, whether that be 3D dots on the cap or using a pencil to create a feathery fungal texture.
Once the base mushroom is done, you can start to really take it to the next level. Whether that’s with a more challenging craft or finding a way to make a mushroom really your own, this starter craft is a great way to warm up to more clay crafts. Even for me, an elementary level artist, this was super fun, and now I have a collection of small clay mushrooms at my desk. Their purpose? For now, it is yet to be discovered.