It’s also called Victorian Salt Clay, I even love the sound of it. The question was “ What if you want to make tiny dishes but don’t have paper clay?” I wondered if a homemade, air-dry clay could work and the answer is yes. It was a fun experiment plus I love the way it smells – I was immediately 11 again.
Salt is the main ingredient. It produces a clay that is a little more textured than paper clay. It takes a while to dry – a day or two. You shouldn’t bake it but you can put it someplace warm to speed up the process. My oven has a pilot so it’s always a little warm and I put my pieces in it overnight. The small things were dry but the larger pieces needed another day. It’s very hard when dry and can be sanded and painted – I have tips for that below. First let’s make the clay.
You will need:
1 cup of salt
⅓ cup water
½ cup cornstarch
¼ cup cold water
!. Mix 1 cup of table salt with ⅓ cup of water. Heat in a small pan over medium heat, stirring constantly for 4 minutes. Do not let it boil. Remove from heat.
2. Quickly stir the ½ cup cornstarch into ¼ cup cold water. It’s very important that you sprinkle the cornstarch a little at a time stirring constantly or it won’t mix properly.
3. Put the salt mixture back on low heat and add the cornstarch mixture stirring constantly. The mixture will begin to thicken. Keep stirring until it becomes dough like – this happens pretty quickly.
4. Scoop it out onto a plate and let it cool. When it’s cool enough to handle, knead it into a smooth ball. It’s ready to use – you can roll it like cookie dough or sculpt it. Left over clay can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container. I did find it a little crumbly when I took it out of the fridge the next day but after I kneaded it again it was sculpt-able.
I tried making some plates and cups from the tiny dish tutorial and got good results. When I formed it over things it was looser than the paper clay but it still worked. And in the plate tutorial I recommend letting it dry about halfway before cutting the shapes. With the salt clay you can’t do that – it becomes too brittle. It’s a pretty stiff clay though so easy to cut.
Over-all I was pleased with the results – not as fine as the paper clay but still charming and I definitely value heart over perfection in tiny dish making.
Plus it’s fun to make the clay!
I sanded the pieces and painted with watercolor, acrylic craft paint and finished some with nail-polish. Use quick multiple coats of paint. I found if I overworked the paint it would lift.
The handle on the tiny cast iron frying pan broke when I sanded it but I glued it back on and painted it with black nail polish. The teacup got painted with black nail polish too. The soup kettle was made by forming the clay over a handle – similar to the process for creating the teacup in the dish tutorial.
Parts for a little doll experiment showed up too. Such a funny little lady, I love her. I’ll post a photo when she’s finished.
And magic stones.
I made them, that’s how I know for sure they’re magic. They are painted with watercolor and acrylic and finished with a layer of nail polish. The clay and stones would be a fun project to do with little folks and a magic rock in your pocket can’t hurt.
I hope you make victorian salt clay!
Love this. Making some little ladies tomorrow for sure!
I remember making Christmas ornaments with salt dough as a kid. They were my Mom’s favorite keepsakes and are still on my tree every year. I thought we baked ours, but it might have been just for a bit in a very low oven. And we painted and varnished them also. Great craft and not just for kids, although it is safe and fun for them.
I too had (and I emphasize had) grandchildren’s Christmas ornaments made from salt clay which disintegrated … due to humidity? Someone suggested. So sad to lose the memories. Just a caution before you do too much work to find it spoiled. Love the idea, but I would need to be sure the clay lasted.
Just wondering if the doll head is solid or did you mold it over something ?
Would it be to heavy of solid. A tutorial on the doll would be awesome.
I used to make arms and legs from fimo for antique doll heads when originals were gone.
Hi Claudia – It’s solid but it’s also quite light. I’d like to make a tutorial for her – when she’s finished I’ll give it a shot.
I would love to know how to make the doll out of the salt clay. Do you have a pattern for her?
Hi Sandra – I don’t have a tutorial for her- she was a spontaneous occurrence while I was messing around with the clay. I might do a tutorial in the future though.
I love the way you create and play with your dolls! Your imagination is so inspiring! It brings back so many fun times in my childhood! Simpler times. I love your work!
Like Seanagh, I had an unfortunate experience with some salt clay Christmas ornaments my grand-children made. Although they were stored in a cardboard box in a dry area, I think the moisture somehow got to them, however, they were all white and not sealed with anything so I’m thinking that might make a difference. What do you think?
I also had an unfortunate experience with salt dough ornaments that I sold at craft fairs. I dried them in an air dryer for 24hrs., sealed them with nail polish, but they still fell apart after a year.
Paper clay is more reliable.
Love the doll forms!
Clay looks Fun as does everything you make. I have a friend who is making stones like that With her children, then leaving them somewhere on their daily walk for others to find. They call them their happiness stones. Thought you might like this idea
i loved reading your post…and thanks so much for the recipe, i will have to try some…love the teeny cups……sooo cute.
the doll features..ohh id love for you to make me one..lol with my ra my hands dont do details well
you know…i remember my mom making some sort of dough out of a slice of bread..no crust and white elmers glue….was many many years ago tho….so dont quote me.
have a wonderful day
big ladybug hugs
Hi there Ann,Thank you for the post , I’m looking forward to trying the salt clay, Just a question , how hard does the clay become. I’m a Teddy bear maker/ artist and was wondering if this clay will harden enough to be used as noses for my bears. Sending you good wishes from South Africa , Love and Light , Nicky Roberts
Im sure you can add a bit of olive oil for the brittleness. I use to make doll house food for my kids slyvainian families dolls houses. Its lovely to paint. Also chiristmas ornament but yes they turned to mush too. My miniture food was ok though! Maybe its a thickness thing? As for paper mache doll that was mentioned i had a papier mache book where the artist showed ypu how to make the most precious paper dolls( but its not as easy a surface to paint.
Thank you for your blog of ideas and inspirations much needed x
Be careful mixing this up if you’ve got even a small cut on your hands! All that salt will burn!
In 4th grade I made a map of Africa out of salt clay on a piece of plywood. I got an A+ for it! I wrapped it and put it away. About a year later I unwrapped it and it had weevils on it, eating the cornstarch, I guess. A year or two after that I made some “gingerbread” ornaments with clay made of fine sand and joint compound. Those have been very durable!
I’d love to know how to make clay out of joint compound and fine sand, if you have a link or ‘recipie’ to share!
Ann … YOU are magic… can’t wait to try this…want to come over and play… you are the ultimate play date!!!♥️!
This is NOT my grandma’s salt dough! I made this sometime in mid August and the leftover clay is still perfectly soft and useable now, more than two months later. I keep it in a ziplock in the refrigerator.
My Grammy used a mixture of flour and salt. It was pretty grainy and didn’t hold up too well. I’ve made several small dishes and accessories with this recipe, finishing them with a varnish I have for sealing paintings. They feel pretty sturdy to me. I’m looking forward to making more things with this clay.