Air-dry clay is really easy to use and it can be hardened without a kiln. That´s also why air dry clay is so popular amongst hobby crafters. But there are some limitations when using air-dry clay and, unfortunately, some of the most interesting things that can be done with clay can´t be done with air-dry clay. In this article, we will take a closer look at whether air-dry clay can be used for pottery or not and why.
As a whole, air-dry clay can´t be used for making pottery. Air-dry clay can´t be fired and it can´t be made perfectly waterproof so it will never be able to hold water or any other liquid for very long. IT will also not be nearly as durable as fired and glazed clay.
If you only want to make decorative pottery that will never be used then using air-dry clay is just fine but if you plan on making a working mug, for example, then using air-dry clay is a really bad idea.
Firing Air Dry Clay
I have people ask me over and over again if they can make their air dry clay waterproof if they simply glaze and then fire it in a kiln. And it sounds like a great idea. Clay is clay after all right? Well, that isn´t really the case, unfortunately.
As a general rule, air-dry clay should never be fired in a kiln. Air-dry clay is not heat resistant so it should not be fired or baked in any way. Air-dry clay is a mixture of glue and clay that will air-dry. Exposing air-dry clay to heat will only destroy the clay sculpture.
So firing air-dry clay is pretty much out of the window which means you can´t really seal air dry clay this way to make it waterproof.
There are other ways to seal air-dry clay once it has hardened but even those will not make air-dry clay waterproof in the end.
Air Dry Clay is Not Waterproof
There are ways to make air dry clay waterproof but most of the time it is really easier to simply use regular clay and then look for someone who has a kiln and fire it at their place.
Air-dry clay can be made water-resistant by using some varnish to seal it. Simply apply some spray-on varnish directly to the air-dry clay sculpture and it will make the sculpture water-resistant.
Water-resistant does only mean that it can survive a little bit of contact with water. It is not waterproof!
Waterproofing air-dry clay is so much more complicated and also quite expensive to do. You will need to use liquid epoxy resin to coat your air-dry clay in order to make it properly waterproof.
But even then you might still crack the surface of the resin and once the water comes in contact with the air-dry clay the sculpture will simply deform and eventually break.
I have written an entire article on sealing air dry clay and how to make it water-resistant. YOu can read that article by following the link.
Air Dry Clay is not Durable Enough
Another thing that makes air-dry clay bad for pottery is its durability. Air-dry clay cracks and breaks way easier than regular clay.
That doesn´t mean that air-dry clay is not durable it just isn´t durable enough for most pottery projects.
If you want to know how durable air-dry clay really is then consider reading my article on the durability of air-dry clay where I explain exactly how durable it is and how durable it can be.
Air-dry clay can easily be used for decorative sculptures but it is just not durable enough for pottery.
Sealing Air Dry Clay
As I mentioned already, air dry clay can be sealed and made more water-resistant and more durable by sealing it properly. But even properly sealed air dry clay will be not nearly durable enough to be used as mugs or dishes.
But sealing air dry clay can be useful for some sculptures or other projects that need to be waterproof or that need to survive direct sunlight for example.
So if you really want to use air-dry clay for some more complicated projects that need some better protection then sealing your sculpture might be just enough and you don´t need to use clay and a kiln.
But when it comes to making pottery then the work that is involved in making air-dry clay durable enough is so much more than it is barely worth it.
You can read more about sealing air dry clay in another article of mine where I explain how and when to seal air dry clay.