Clay Bug Sculptures Made with Air Dry Clay
Create whimsical clay bug sculptures with air dry clay using this simple step by step tutorial! Air dry clay gives your child the experience and feel of real clay without needing to access a kiln. Because of their simple shapes and small sizes, clay bugs are a great introduction to clay sculpture! In addition to a tutorial, this post also includes inspirational resources such as books to read, an example from art history, and drawing warm ups.
Inspiration for clay bug sculptures
Lately my son has been intrigued by insects. Seems like wherever we go, there’s an insect he finds irresistible. So, we hit the library and got some books out about bugs. There’s a good
What kind of shapes do you see in that bug? Are some shapes bigger than others? What kids of lines do you see?
An example of insect art from art history you can share is this photo of Egyptian scarab beetles found at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Materials needed for Clay bug sculptures
You will need:
About a handful of air dry clay (can be found at your local craft store)
A toothbrush and a cup of water (used to make clay attachments secure)
craft wire or pipe cleaners cut into small pieces
tempera paint and small brushes
Mod Podge (if you want it shiny)
Optional: A glue gun is very handy to have on hand for any clay project to mend broken pieces. This is for adult use of course. I can’t tell you how many times the glue gun has saved the day in my classroom.
I have found that air dry clay is the most similar to clay fired in the kiln. Model magic, play dough, salt dough, etc. all have their benefits, but air dry clay handles and feels pretty similar to real clay. However, it is more fragile than fired clay when it is dry! Just handle gently!
Building the Clay Bug sculptures
First present the small clay ball pieces to your artist and demonstrate how to roll the ball between your hands or on the table to make a smooth ball. Then show how to change the shape by pinching it. Next, show how to attach the two pieces. Simply dip the toothbrush in some water and scratch the clay with the wet brush. Then attach the two pieces by pushing them together. We call this scratch and attach at school. Finally, show how to carve details with a pencil.
It’s great to give kids some technical pointers by showing them steps like we just did, but it is a wonderful thing to see them run with it in a totally unexpected way. I fully expected my kid to make simple little scarab beetles like we saw earlier. Instead, he attached many pieces for an elaborate caterpillar as well as a spider with a ridiculous amount of eyes. Kids will surprise you with their creativity!
However, I would stress the importance of scratch and attach. It the pieces aren’t attached well, they may fall off as they dry.
Small pieces of plastic coated wire or pipe cleaners can be used for antennae and legs. Just push them into the clay.
Painting the Clay Bug Sculptures
I have found that watercolor does not have the bright intensity of color on air dry clay like it does on fired clay. So, I definitely recommend tempera if you are going for bright color. I did not give much direction on painting here. I did point out that you could add a teeny tiny little dot for an eye. We painted the next day when the clay was dry. I painted a coat of Mod Podge on top of the paint as it dried for a shiny effect, but this part is optional.
It was fun planting these little buggy friends in various places around the house and in the garden. I would keep these creations out of the rain though. They also need to be handled carefully as air dry clay is a bit more fragile than fired clay. I explained that they must be handled gently, just like a real bug would be!
If you are making painted planters as gifts, these little sculptures would be a great bonus gift!