Air-dry clay is a simple and creative way to design and create Christmas ornaments that will become treasured family heirlooms, because they have been personally designed with loving hands. They are a perfect holiday project for children and families to work on together. Before beginning your project, be sure you have everything you need―the air-dry clay, a craft rolling pin, a sharp knife, a clean work surface, rubber stamps, and paint or inks to color the clay.
First, choose a work surface with plenty of room and a flat surface such as a table or countertop. Protect the work surface with a craft mat or clean newspapers. If you don't have a suitable rolling pin or tools to craft the clay once it's cut, don't worry―with a little imagination and ingenuity, you can work with a wide variety of household items to come up with makeshift tools that will work just as well. Air-dry clay is soft, malleable, and easy to work with, and it takes a long time to dry depending on the environment. So you don't need to work quickly; you can take your time to get the ornament just right.
Roll the clay out until it is the thickness you're looking for. Very thin clay may be very fragile and difficult to work with, but thick air-dry clay may take a really long time to dry out, so the drying time should be considered when you plan your project. Artists or experienced clay workers may intentionally choose to work with very thin or very thick clay, but for most people a thickness of approximately ¼ inch will be the ideal thickness for making Christmas ornaments.
Designs or patterns must be worked into the clay before you cut it into its final shape. When you choose to use rubber stamps to make a design, remember that stamps with bold, strong outlines or deep grooves make the best impressions in the soft clay. Carefully position the stamp over the clay and press down. Standing up to press the stamp into the clay will help to ensure that you apply even pressure to the entire design. Rubber stamps aren't your only option, though. Specially made modeling tools are useful for making impressions on the damp clay surface, and you can use them to make a wide variety of freehand marks and impressions. Objects such as kitchen or bathroom implements can be used in various ways to make good impression. Rubber stamps and other tools can be cleaned with water after you use them.
After your design is complete, use a sharp knife to carefully cut around the design in the shape you are looking for. Be sure to smooth out or neaten any rough edges or accidental nicks. Don't forget to make a small hole at the top of the ornament so you can hang it using ribbon or wire after it dries. Carefully move the ornament to a safe, protected place so it can dry without being damaged. Drying times vary among clays, so be sure to refer to the manufacturer's instructions for the specific brand of clay you used.
When the ornament is completely dry, you can color it using inks, paints, varnish, or makers. Experiment with glazes that will change color over the ridges left by rubber stamps. The sky is the limit when it comes to how you can decorate the dry clay. Use your imagination and draw on your inner artist to create an ornament that is uniquely yours, and you can enjoy it for years to come as part of your annual holiday tree-decorating tradition.