These are some things I learned about air-dry clay when working on bunraku puppets for Iron Bridal Feast in 2014:
- DAS is a much denser clay than PAPERCLAY. For this reason, I use PAPERCLAY when I need something to be as light as possible. The clay works well for puppet heads, since they need to be light for easy mobility. Conversely, DAS clay can be used to give weight for things like puppet feet, which combined with a lightweight head creates a more natural line of gravity.
Another way to reduce weight in the head is in the armature. The best way is to use foam (e.g. styrofoam spheres from the craft store) as your base. But I think craft store foam is overpriced, so I tried to come up with an alternative. I scrunched up aluminium foil into a ball, then added interchanging layers of paper towels and foil. The paper towel is for providing extra padding, which otherwise would require far too much foil to reach the same sphere size. Alternating between layers of paper towel and foil helps keep the paper towel in place. Use tape to assist with the layering process. The last layer should be foil, since clay adheres to it better. The resulting sphere is firm enough to use as a base, but unlike styrofoam, it is also malleable enough for you to adjust its shape as you’re working clay onto it (which you may or may not like).
- Straight out of the bag, PAPERCLAY is much softer and malleable in comparison to DAS clay. Because of this, PAPERCLAY is considerably easier to use when sculpting details like facial features. However, since it is softer, PAPERCLAY can’t hold its shape as well as DAS clay when when crafting long, curved pieces (e.g. fingers).
- With its stickier consistency, PAPERCLAY is good for blending and smoothing out surfaces. It is definitely my go-to clay for patching up cracks after the drying process. On the other hand, DAS clay is a denser clay, so it works better when you want to build volume.
- DAS clay dries with a semi-“glossy” finish, whereas PAPERCLAY dries matte and has a more porous texture.