Flowarte Studio by Luisa

Clay in my hands

published11 months ago
3 min read

Hi there,


It's a word that was big in the past two years: slow Living, Slow eating. Slow everything, yet we never actually slowed down until a bug did it for us.

Even in the thick of lockdowns, we thought about productivity, and we were making the most of everything, even of slowing down.

Coffee and bathtubs are symbols par excellence of someone who is slowing down. Yet a coffee lasts less than 10 minutes and a bath in the tub maybe 20 before the water gets cold.

And like so many of us, I tried to be both productive and relaxed. But every time I saw the words self-care, I wanted to bite someone's head off.

And it was by this state of heightened anxiety that I put my paints to the side and bought a pack of DAS air dry clay on a whim.

And this slowed me down.

Process is crucial for each creative being. When we try to adopt someone else's process verbatim by taking a class, we neglect our own. So I decided I would use this material as intuitively as possible. I just looked up a couple of tutorials on YouTube to know how to paint it, and that was it to get started.

I did not want to make trinket dishes. Nor did I want to make planters or necklaces. So I decided to create small sculptures.

It hooked me immediately. The process was slow. Rrreeaallly slow. I understand ceramists and potters better now—nothing like working with your hands and being deeply concentrated on modelling a simple shape.

I dug out old drawings that could translate easily into limbs, head and body and went at it with a kid's joy.

"No one wants to stay a beginner. We all want to get better. But even as our skills improve, and our knowledge and experience grow, what I hope to encourage is the preservation, or even cultivation, of that spirit of the novice: the naive optimism, the hypervigilant alertness that comes with novelty and insecurity, the willingness to look foolish, and the permission to ask obvious questions – the unencumbered beginner's mind." The joys of being an absolute beginner – for life

This is how I felt, alert, fascinated, happy. Is happiness allowed these days?

Finally, after making a few little clay faces, a couple of figurines, a dish for my graphite. Testing paints and varnishes, I decided to look up another tutorial on YouTube. It's amazing how the best videos are usually the old kind, a very DYI, poorly lit and shaky, but they give you the goods!

The process, as I mentioned, is long.

Create an armature

Cover in masking tape

Layer on some gel medium

Add the clay.

Work it with your fingers, use the tools as needed,

smooth it out, little by little, spend time making sure you cover everything.

Remember to close your clay package

Wait 24 - 48 hours

Sand it.

Sand it some more

Add gesso

Let it dry for a good while


Paint some more

Mess it up by putting your fingers in the paint.


let it dry for another good while

Collage of my Rabbit Process

Of course, my overthinking self began its chatter: oh, air dry clay isn't real clay. You need to work in real clay to consider this "serious", you should take a class on how to sculpting, maybe you can buy a kiln, maybe mugs would be a good thing to make, should I work with polymer clay?

I put a hard stop to the chatter. Air Dry Clay is working for me just fine; I do not want to become a potter; I just want to dig my fingers into the goo, make it into a shape, let it dry, paint it and move to the next one while I listen to documentaries or watch reruns of my comfort movies.

This is my slow living—no need to make sourdough bread or take bubble baths or do thirty days of yoga. Give me chips, wine, a package of clay, and a small pot of water.

Clay has allowed me to stop judging my artwork. Is it creative enough? Is the colour palette accurate? Are my proportions right? and the question that kills creativity: will this sell?

My hands are working almost independently from my brain. I'm listening to my documentaries more than I am analyzing the result.

It's comforting,

Here's the list of materials I'm using:

  • DAS or La Doll air dry clay. (DAS is cheaper but not as smooth)
  • A set of basic tools
  • White Gesso (Any medium to high quality brand)
  • Gel Medium
  • Masking tape
  • Gloss Varnish
  • Acrylic Inks for the watercolour effect. Watercolour smears with the varnish.
  • Acrylic Rolling Pin

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Let me know how you if you slow down these days, what is the activity that puts you in the here and now?

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