Not Mud-Plugging
“An “En-passant” Review of DAS Air-Drying Clay, Whilst Ostensibly Talking About Something Else”

Yesterday, I dragged the first years screaming and kicking off the computers and nailed their chairs to the floor around the gadget free break-out tables in the middle of the room. Said tables I then piled high with packets of air-drying clay, tubs of PVA adhesive, armature wire, chicken wire and ModRoc and told them it was time they started making something, instead of spending yet another day helping demolish the EU Pritt Stick mountain by gluing “research” into their sketchbooks.

After initial confusion, where a light-hearted remark made between Johny and myself led the class to believe we wanted them to build a fighting robot out of clay, wire and glue to take on one constructed by Johny and me from chainsaws and girders* everyone got down to work, trying to knock up some kind of rough prototype of the characters they are designing for the current project.

I think a good time was had by all and, as the snap above shows, by the end of the day we had produced a pretty good body of work –and a lot more relevant than another couple of yards worth of wikipedia glued into a sketchbook. So, well done all and long may this new-found work ethic continue!

*[Apparently some of the students foolishly misconstrued Johny’s and my cries of “Yay! Lets move all the tables out of the room and play Robot Wars with chainsaws!” as meaning we were going to move all the tables out of the room and play Robot Wars with chainsaws]

And finally, as promised, that in-depth review of DAS Air-Drying Clay:

Consensus of opinion seemed to be that it wasn’t the easiest stuff to work with. A couple of people found it a bit fibrous, though I didn’t notice that myself. We all felt that it starts to dry out far too quickly. It’s beginning to crack on the surface, almost as you are moulding it into your basic starting shape and it’s also quite reluctant to stick to itself. We all ended up keeping paper cups of water handy, to dunk our bits in [oo er!], or to rub on the surface of our models to try and keep them smooth. Unfortunately the clay doesn’t really soften and dissolve properly when you try to mix water into a small piece, to make a slip, which also makes it very hard to encourage pieces to stick together.

As regards how resilient it is, after having dried out, the jury’s still out on that one, as our collective works from yesterday are still on the window-sill bathing in the blazing heat of the Manchester winter sun, and not quite done yet.

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