Camp Ask Holly Week 3: Clay Reliefs

clay reliefs

Clay Reliefs, or “fossilizes” as my son’s playmate aptly named these impressions, are a great craft for kids. Get the clay now and do the craft on a super hot or rainy day. Use them for gift tags, holiday ornaments or let your child make their own faux fossil for their rock collection etc.

Making clay reliefs dates back to my childhood when the only kind of clay we had was that crappy grey stuff that took about seven years to dry. Of all the different clays available today,  I like the results from the polymer clays best. We had so much fun marbling  the clay to make  little dog cutouts, they’re my go-to clay. Polymer clays are generally cleaner with faster results.

clay reliefsPre-Game Activity: The Impression Game

Getting my six year old interested in a project is like pulling teeth from a rabid shark, but this game worked like a charm. First, I asked him if he knew what a reflection was, he did. Then I asked him if he knew what an impression was, he looked confused, so I took the clay in my hand and pressed a shell into the clay. When I pulled it out he got it. We spent time seeing what household objects made good impressions and this game was created.

While your child is not looking, take the clay and press it into a non-porous object in you house such as a doorknob, vase, something with writing etc. Show the impression to your children and have them guess what it is. Let them hold the impression in their hands and give them clues. Then it’s their turn! This game is a great lesson before we started the craft.

Clay Reliefs:

  • Polymer or self drying clay if you don’t have an oven available (I used white, but use whatever color you would like)
  • A glass jar for rolling
  • Shells, strong leaves, evergreen needles, rubber stamps etc.
  • A small glass or round biscuit cutter
  • A chopstick or something to make a hole
  • A nail file
  • Twine, raffia, ribbon or string
  • A paint brush
  • Flat or glossy acrylic paint in your choice of colors
  • Gloss finish (optional)

Step One: Warm the clay in your hands by mushing it around. Then roll the clay out with your jar on a flat work surface to 1/4″- 1/2″ thick.

clay reliefsStep Two: Press an object into the clay, roll it over with the jar and slowly pull off. If the leaf or other object is too thin and doesn’t  give the desired imprint, try putting it on the your work surface, place the clay over the top and then roll your jar over the clay. Flip it over and pull off the object. FOR SHELLS—Try holding the rolled clay in the palm of your hand and then pressing the shell into the clay. Remove the shell and lightly press the clay into a flat shape.

Step Three: Using your glass or biscuit cutter, press into the clay trying to stay in the shape of your impression. Smooth the edges down as much as possible (they are easy to sand down later). Poke  a hole in the top of your impression.

Step Four: Bake according to the manufacturer’s directions on a cookie sheet lined with foil. With polymer clay this is about 10-20 minutes at 375°. Let cool and remove from the tray. Use a nail file to sand down edges.

clay reliefs

Step Five: Using a dry brush paint the impression. You can use a darker shade for the impression and then rub with a paper towel or rag. This makes the impression stand out. Encourage your child to use different colors of paint, if they don’t like the results, have them wash the impression and start over.When dry, if desired, coat with a gloss finish and tie with your string, raffia, etc.

The best object for clay relief impressions:
Evergreen leaves and needles, small shells, rose leaves, home objects such as cut glass vases, ceramics etc.

Clay, ribbon or raffia available at A.C. Moore  and  Michaels

Summer craft questions? Ask Holly in comments.

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