What Is Paper Clay and Why Do Crafters Use It

Paper Clay

People into arts and crafts have no shortage of media with which to do their work. Their choices cover everything from wood to canvas and small pieces of foam. For some, clay is the best medium of all. More specifically, they have a genuine appreciation for paper clay.

Paper clay is a favorite among crafters because of its inherent properties. It is a great material for creating everything from tiny figurines to flowerpots and vases. Its secret ingredient are the paper fibers that give the material its name. The fibers add a bit of structural rigidity in the same way that rebar reinforces concrete.

Paper and Clay Mixed Together

There are lots of ways to make paper clay. As a general rule, it’s made by combining some sort of clay body with some sort of paper. The paper is soaked in liquid and agitated in order to break it up into smaller fibers. Those fibers are then added to the clay body to create the finished product.

Looking online for a homemade recipe gives a better understanding of exactly what paper clay is. One of the more popular recipes is made with:

  • toilet tissue
  • joint compound
  • white glue
  • white flour
  • mineral oil.

Despite so many ingredients, making paper clay isn’t hard to do. The entire process takes less than an hour if you know what you’re doing. The result is a tough and resilient clay that has enough structural integrity to support its own weight.

Why Crafters Love It

Whether homemade or purchased from a craft store, paper clay has some inherent properties that make it incredibly attractive. Simply put, crafters love it. Below are just some of the reasons explaining why.

It Is More Rigid

Working with traditional clay can be tricky when you are sculpting intricate pieces. One of the big difficulties with traditional clay is that smaller pieces have to be supported by larger pieces underneath. If you make smaller pieces too small, a lack of support could mean they collapse before the finished piece goes to firing.

Paper clay is more rigid. It does not need as much underlying support. Even better is the fact that it does not have to be fired. It can be fired like traditional clay, but it can also be finished as soon as it is dry. The reinforcement provided by the fibers keeps everything together.

It Is Easily Molded

Crafters appreciate paper clay because it is easily molded. For example, Lehi, Utah’s Jami Ray Vintage posted a project video in 2021 showing how they turned a modern picture frame into something that looks much older. They used paper clay to create decorative elements that they added to the frame. Creating the decorative elements was a matter of pressing paper clay into silicone molds, then popping them out and letting them dry.

It Dries Fairly Quickly

Finally, paper clay dries fairly quickly. And unlike traditional clay, you can help it along with some heat and not have to worry about harming the material or the finished product. In the previously mentioned Jami Ray Vintage video, their decorative elements dried quickly enough that they were able to attach them to the picture frame and paint the entire thing on the very same day.

Paper clay is an interesting medium to work with. It offers a lot of properties that crafters seem to appreciate. Best of all, those who have a thing for DIY can make their own paper clay out of common household products. It is amazing what can be done with such a simple material.