Paperclay Recipe (Air Dry Clay)





Introduction: Paperclay Recipe (Air Dry Clay)

Intro: Paperclay Recipe (Air Dry Clay)

Paper and clay on their own lack strength. But when they are put together in this air-dry paper clay recipe, you can do amazing things. (Even artificial bones!)

What is so great is that it requires few items to make this air-dry clay, cost hardly anything and recycles waste paper.
It is easier to model than clay on its own and dries fairly quickly. You can sculpt thinner and use an armature for support you can let your creativity free. (Its also possibleto attach pieces of different drying stages though keep the additional pieces covered to dry slowly to prevent cracking.) And another advantage is single firings with glaze on greenware or leaving completely unfired works its now possible to save time and money.

Watch the one minute run-down of this instructable here

Step 1: Things You Need for Air-Dry Paper Clay

Paper (newspaper or office paper)
Hydrated Lime
Clay (stoneware looks so pristine, but terracotta will fire at lower temperatures)
Optional: About sodium silicate "Magic Water" to join coils and fix cracks (a low temperature fire may be sufficient)
Fine mesh fabric such as muslin

The clay can be dug up from your backyard or bought rock and debris free. I chose the latter type of clay to use.

There's a simple method of preparing your own dug up clays that I found interesting. (Watch the master potters of San Marcoshere!)

Step 2: Blending Paper

Rip paper into tiny squares. Follow the natural grain and the paper can tear into thin shreds easity. (Try it while watching tv!)

You may use any kind of clean paper for your air dry paper clay. I found newspaper began to disintegrate quickly once soaked in water and you do not need to soak the paper for a week. A few minutes will do.

If you do not have a blender - blenders are so easy to disfunction when blending too much paper at once - try the laundry scrubbing method.

I found it quick and simple to use the back of a floor tile and a bit of fabric and scrub the paper into tiny shreds.  Fine toilet paper and newspaper are rather flimsy once wet so this process won't take long. The clay body is a lot smoother to sculpt if using finer papers.

Step 3: Drying the Paper Pulp

Some potters like to leave the pulp to dry before mixing it into the clay. However, I accidentally came across a faster method of drying the pulp without having to dry in the sun for hours before using it

Use the fine muslin cloth (any fine fabric will do, I found a surgical mask was perfect) and pour a bit of the pulp through it. All the water will drain through leaving the finely mushed paper intact. Twist all excess water out.

Step 4: Mix Pulp and Clay

Place the slightly moist paper pulp and clay in a bucket.  Knead thoroughly.  A ratio of 20% paper pulp or less to 80% clay will produce a strong body of clay when fired.

No kiln? No worries. There's always the BBQ! Steps to grilling your greenware on the BBQ here.

Professional Japanese potter Akira Yoshida, fires his pots in a tabletop grill (normally used to grill a Japanese meal) -  called a Shichirin. It reaches to 1400 degrees celsius, perfect for stoneware clays. Take care with firing, as pieces may shatter if heated too quickly.

Step 5: Tandoor Oven - Firing Paperclay Tips

(There are two excellent videos showing the following process step by step:  One in Uzbek and the other in Nepal)

I found out how the enormous underground Tandoor Ovens are fired from by a book by Ranjit Rai entitled "Tandoor - Great Indian Barbeque". I've included pictures which pretty much describe the building process using a type of woolly-looking grass and clay.

Before using the tandoor, it needs to be cured. The process is described here "A certain amount of curing is necessary before the tandoor is fired for the first tie. A good new tandoor should be smototh from the inside. Green leaves, usually spinach are used to coat the inside walls. After a day, a mixture of buttermilk or khatti lassi, oil and salt is rubbed all over the inner walls and left overnight. This curing prevents the rotis and other breads from sticking to the walls of the tandoor when being cooked.

An expert's tip - a coating of molasses will serve the purpose just as well as the above ingredients.

After curing, the tandoor should be lit on low heat on the first and second day for a short duration of about half an hour each day. On the third day it is ready to be used. To keep your tandoor in good order, coat the inner walls with the paste of greens or molasses at least once every two weeks." (page 48 Curing - Tandoor Oven)

I wonder if the low temp firings over several days helps the clay body reach a bisque state eventually - like a simmering stew in a 'crock pot' (slow-cooker). This low temp firing technique seems to protect the huge tandoors from thermal shock or cracking. Also additions of grog made from wild grasses and other things help strengthen the tandoor. Sounds like a cob recipe!

"Magic Water" or "Magic Mud" will mend cracks for a super strong structure
.  Magic water is a made of sodium silicate, sodium carbonate (for washing clothes) and water. These fluxes react with the lime in the clay and bond into a super strong structure.

Step 6: Paperclay Sculpture - for Stop-Motion Animation

Paperclay is so easy to sculpt with for figurines. Here are some pictures of steps I took to make a figurine. 

1. First I started bending an armature from wire.
2. Then I padded the armature with paper.
3. Next secured the padding with sticky tape.
4. Then modelled the clay over the skeleton.
5. Finally made the clothes from paper and coloured the clay with pastels and nail polish.

Here's a short clip of making the whole puppet. (The figurine is from a Korean animation I found online. I did not make the animation.)

Allen and Patty Eckman have managed to push paperclay to its limits with their incredible American Indian sculptures.



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    how long do you fire this paper clay and at what temp.--for a conventional oven?? thanks for all advice, this will be my first time ever using this sort of clay

    2 replies

    you might like to refer to this recipe by PAPEIRMACHE Lady who has written several books. Her recipe uses other materials which do not require firing and result much stronger. I did not need to fire my recipe in a kiln but air dried.
    Here's her YOUTUBE link and here is her recipe
    Her blog has more information on making a good recipe!

    all the best with that!

    thanks so much :) have a great day


    A paper shredder will make this much faster.

    could you do the same think with air drying clay? to make air drying paper clay?

    8 replies

    Yes, this is actually air-drying clay. The art shop I got the clay from informed me of this! (That the little packets of air dry clay have meshed paper in them, so its more economical to make your own)

    Oh good! I didn;t know it was air drying clay :) I should try and make some then since I can't find Paperclay in my area :) How long does paperclay last? since it's got paper it can get moldy.

    You might like to use bleach -  I prefer nutmeg oil which kills 95% of bacteria.

    I know cold porcelain people use vinegar... Nutmeg oil must smell much nicer though... i should try and find some thanks :)

    Some people mentioned the reason why there's mold in cold porcelain clay is because of the cornstarch which is also in toilet paper!

    So its preferable to use newspaper in a 1:3 (70 % clay and 30% paper) mix with blender water and paper and a slurry of clay.

    With this his method the whole batch needs to be dried on slabs in the sun for awhile before using.

    The pulp is not compressed or strained to keep the paper fine rather than lumpy when dry.

    So far the lumpy texture is working great for me with modelling puppets.

    What do you use hydrated lime for? Its there in your list, but I could not find which step it was used in.

    Also, does paper pulp (before mixing with clay) gets as smooth as the clay?

    I simply stirred everything in together at the mixing stage.

    You could probably leave the lime out - recently I trying another mixture with plaster paris, clay and grass fibres. It will dry quickly and you might not need to fire it. Video soon about how to use bbq as a kiln.

    The paper pulp tends to be rather lumpy. If you blended it finely it would be less rough.

    I also saw a method that used toilet paper (not used LOL) and it makes a finer pulp... cheap brands can be used I think they also used the roll in the mix.

    I like it very much. I've done papier mache in the past but never thought about mixing it with clay, will try.

    This is really great. I think a main image with some objects you've made with the paper clay would help inspire people to make their own!