Why Does My Clay Dry Out?

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Clay Saving partially dried clay

Silver metal clay that is drying out


From my own experience and from my experiences of teaching metal-clay classes in person, I have discovered two main reasons why metal clay dries out quickly.

Hands

The first reason clay dries out too quickly has to do with hands. Some individuals' hands are dry, some folks have naturally moist hands. Clay will either draw moisture from your hands, keep its own moisture, or donate moisture to your hands. In other words, some hands suck the water out of clay. I noticed this in classes — some student’s clay went dry the minute they touched it. Other student’s clay remained moist no matter how many times they made or remade their creation. 

Clay Salvaging partially dried clay

Some days my hands are dry and suck the moisture from clay.
Some days my hands are moist. 
I can almost tell from the clay which day it is for my hands.


If you find that your clay is drying inordinately quickly, then try Glycerin or "Gloves in a Bottle,” which can be found in Walmart, Shopko, Walgreens and other places. 

Gloves in a Bottle is a shielding lotion for the outer-most layer of skin, locking in natural moisture and oils. It also locks out moisture, so hands cannot rob metal clay of its water.

Gloves in a Bottle is not the healthiest of lotions. Here are the ingredients. Purified Water, Dimethicone, Stearic Acid, Glycerin, Cetyl Alcohol, Isopropyl Myristate, Stearyl Alcohol, Triethanolamine, Xanthan Gum, Hydroxypropyl, Methylcellulose, VP/Eicosene Copolymer, Steareth 21, and Phenoxyethanol. There are a lot of alcohols, which are drying agents. 

If you are a purist and want none of those compounds in your system, plain o’ Glycerin or Glycerol would work just as well. Glycerol is found in all lipids known as triglycerides. It is widely used in the food industry as a sweetener and humectant (something that retains or preserves moisture) and in pharmaceutical formulations.


Too Much Air

The second reason clay dries out fast has to do with prolonged exposure to air. What happens is a person rolls and cuts his or her clay. Then his or her focus remains on what they are creating while the remainder of the clay sits out exposed to air, drying as if it were sitting under the hairdryer in a salon. Or sunbathing on a white-sand beach. Or, … you get the idea.

To this I say, “Sit on it!” You will see why.

Clay Storage Sit on It Dummy


First, my motto is always get your tools ready before you do anything with regard to making something of metal clay. If you are opening a new package of clay, great. Be sure to have supplies at the ready for putting it away again.

Clay PMC3

Do not even open it without the supplies for putting it away.


Clay SC Container adding PT

Tools are storage container, water mister, scraps of paper towel, plastic food wrap.


See the Tidbits & Tricks on Storing Clay Long Term, which works for short term as in hours or days or weeks.

Second, try to get in the habit of telling yourself your beautiful creation can wait ten seconds and nothing bad will happen to it.

Then third, in those ten seconds, take your clay and wrap it loosely in your plastic food wrap. Then tuck it under one cheek and sit on it. 

Clay Storage Sit On It jpg copy


What this does is compresses out the air between clay and plastic food wrap. Therefore, no hairdryer and no sunbathing. And sitting on it keeps the clay warm, which so far has been okay for my silver clay. Some non-silver metal clays need to be kept cool, so I usually put these underneath the pillow that I’m sitting on (keeping them once removed from my hot cheek).

This fast storage also allows you to work on your creation freely. And should you need more clay? It’s quite handy.

When you are finished working on your creation and ready to set it aside to dry, then put your clay away for a more long-term time.

I can’t tell you how many times I have gotten up to put my creation in the dehydrator, have returned to my chair, and thought, “Oh, there’s my clay! I better put it away.”

Clay in chair


For online courses in metal clay, go to I Love Silver, where you learn how to design and create your own silver creations.

© Kris A Kramer 2018