Thursday, November 25, 2010

Brands I Prefer: Clay

For most sculptors, clay is an intensely personal and riveting topic. Or it is for me. Switching mediums is as dramatic a change as moving to different country. When trying out a new clay, it usually feels “wrong” because it doesn’t respond the way I’m used to.

I started working in polymer clay--wait, that’s not entirely true. The very first sculpture I submitted for judging was made from my preferred medium at the time: Play-Doh. It was a horse (shocking!)

I moved to polymer clays such as Fimo and Sculpey at a relatively young age (somewhere around 8 to 10) and stuck with it until I was 18. My high school art teacher pushed me to learn to use firing clay (meh.)

Still meh.

I moved into customizing when I was 13 and started experimenting with various putty epoxies* until settling on Gapoxio, the most popular hobby clay at the time. It got the job done and allowed me to work in greater detail.

*Epoxy is pronounced eh-POX-ee. I do know this, but if you’ve spoken with me about it you’ll notice I pronounce it EE-pox-ee (like E-mail, E-vite, etc.) to avoid confusion with apoxie. I am not dumb. Really.

However, the cons of Gapoxio are substantial. It’s mildly toxic and you really should only handle it with gloves. I tend to use the shape of fingers as often to sculpt as I do tools, so working in gloves is the equivalent of typing in mittens.


It’s durable, strong, and rigid, which is a two edge sword. Thin protrusions like wisps of mane and delicate ears are less likely to break if made with Gapoxio BUT it’s a massive pain in the butt to sand. If you’re not covering an entire body in clay, you’ll have a rough time trying to create a seamless transition to the original plastic. Long term, I suspect it is more prone to separating from the body, leading those vintage customs that so often need repair. However, I’m basing my conclusion on 90% hope. I don’t use Gapoxio anymore so I really, really want this to be true.

Moving on to what I use now: Aves Apoxie Sculpt.

I find Gapoxio and Apoxie tactilely very similar, so the transition was rather seamless. They both smooth out with water.**

**Aves sells a solvent you’re supposed to use instead and I’ve had rubbing alcohol recommended to me as the best product for this purpose. However, I don’t like the smell of rubbing alcohol and inhaling it isn’t healthy. I’m sure Aves’ solvent is effective but I’m extremely cheap. Rubbing alcohol and solvent do not come free through my kitchen tap.

I switched to Apoxie because it’s easy to sand. It’s a bit softer and a tiny bit more flexible than Gapoxio. And bonus: it’s non-toxic. You could eat the stuff--not recommending it, but it’s safe around pets and children. Aves advertises it as non-flammable, so it won’t spontaneously combust. Which I guess is a plus.

Apoxie remains workable for longer (2 to 3 hours instead of 1 hour for Gapoxio), helpful if you want to work on a larger area or don’t like to feel rushed.

I buy my Apoxie direct from Aves, which you can find here.

The hobby recently gained a new product--Amazing Sculpt--designed to compete with Apoxie. Hobbyist Debbie Lermond developed it with models horses in mind. Being my normal stubborn self, I have little compulsion to change. However, I got the chance to try it a few weeks ago when I didn’t have my usually Apoxie on hand.

I hate this clay with the fire of a thousand suns.

You can’t smooth it with water. You have to use their smooth agent and 16 oz will set you back $17.95 (plus shipping). That’s--what--roughly the size of a bottle of beer? And over a buck an ounce. 16oz of rubbing alcohol is only a buck for the whole bottle.

This is a deal breaker by itself, but my hate goes deeper. After the initial mix, I would describe the texture “mooshy.” More paste-like than clay, it reminds me of half dried tacky glue. The website doesn’t come out and say this directly, but it’s probably toxic. They highly recommend rubber or liquid gloves.

If this clay works for you, don’t let me ruin your enjoyment. However, I would discourage my fellow Apoxie enthusiasts from switching to this product.


MacKenzie said...

I just bought some of the Aves solvent and I have to say it is REALLY stinky. I went back to using water because I couldn't stand the smell. I did discover though that it is really good at cleaning sticky things - I managed to get uncured epoxy resin all over my new purse and this stuff was the only thing that cleaned it off!

Laura Skillern said...

I will keep that in mind. I'm always getting uncured apoxie everywhere.

Corrie McDermott Soboda said...

The new amazing sculpt can be smoothed with denatured alcohol which can be found in the paint department at Walmart, Loews, Home Depot etc. It's only about $5 and works great. The downside of Amazing sculpt is that you need to use gloves, but I have found I've done better detail with it then Apoxie. I also found it worked great for filling. I haven't had any issues with it being mushier than Apoxie.

Laura Skillern said...

I can see that it would be better for filling than apoxie. Apoxie (and gapoxio to a greater degree) doesn't have enough "give" for me to use easily as a filler.

Natalie said...

Thanks for the article! I ordered some Amazing Sculpt (I'm a clay virgin) and decided that, yes, I do need to work with my fingers and hands as well, not in those gloves, and this post is what got me to buy some Apoxie Sculpt. I've ordered it and it's on the way, I'm excited to try it!

Laura Skillern said...

Maybe I should start asking Aves for kickbacks. ;) A free pound of clay for every referral?

Anonymous said...

I also tried amazing sculpt and I hate it as much as you do.. its so dam droopy.. the only nice thing I did like is its a dream to sand but I have no idea how the heck she sculpts with it..I know debbie told me to let it sit.. and there is no way in hell to mix it wearing the gloves.. no way.. I hate wearing gloves anyways.. but even with letting it sit I still hate it.. I she also told me all the epoxies are somewhat toxic they just dont tell you and its why she stopped using Aves. or one reason why.. because its toxic and they lied to her about it.. so.. I was actually working on one of her resins for someone remaking it ( it had no head so to speak when I got it so she waned it redone all over) and I was adding more belly to it and I had just run out of magic sculpt so I had some of her stuff around and only use it if i run out of my regular I had sanded the resin first so it wasn't all shiny and smooth. it had some tooth to it...and that dam stuff just slid all over the place.. it would get big air pockets under it when I was smoothing it down.. oh and her solvent.. that epoxy of her sucks it up is why you need so much! I got a small bottle for free when I bought it and it was driving me nuts trying to smooth it out with that stuff! Id stick my finger in it try and smooth the surface of the epoxy and it would just stuck it right up! .. but..I do use the aves safety solvent and I love the stuff. I can get such smooth blending with it.. so I tried it with her amazing sculpt and it didn't suck that up like it does her solution.. I think it must have glycerin in it.. I just got another bottle I cant sculpt without it.. really if you use it right it will last a long time! .. .. the way I use it ( I dip the tip of my tool in it then blend the epoxy with my tool end or move it around..and putting the tip of my finger in it and blend the edges into the reins or plastic. if you buy the largest bottle it will last you a year or so.. depending on how many pieces you do.. just be careful with it as to how much you use when you use your finger.. too much makes it too soft.. but it will also soften up epoxy that is getting too stiff too...It will also take epoxy off your hands too.. another thing.. I don't use any of the epoxies you mention I use magic sculpt and I love it.. ( I have tried every epoxy except for green stuff including pro sculpt I think its called.. its more like rubber kind of.) oh I do have a new one I haven't tired yet from japan. its alot of money though.. anyways. magic sculpt is more firm like clay to me and not as sticky at all..... and has a 2 hour or more set up time... I love it.. and I use the safety solution with it and I love the combo of the 2... ... it also comes in alot of sizes so you can get a really small amount to try out. plus comes in colors like black white yellow..I use the natural..I think as with debbies stuff.. if its white it has titanium in it and hat makes it more sticky and I don't care about color so use the natural.. just my 2 cents
Rebecca Turner

Unknown said...

You ALL MUST try and switch to Amazing Sculpt-

It's well... really AMAZING! It's better than anything else on the market! HANDS DOWN! And Deb just ade it better, how so? Go to her website and find out!
It's all I will ever use in the future!

Unknown said...

Sorry for the Amazing sculpt plug, I didn't read your whole blog post before posting my 2 cents. Again, apologies.

Laura Skillern said...

No sweat. Everybody has their own preferences. :)

Erika Baird said...

I used apoxie for a while but didn't particularly care for how sticky it was, but I've found you can use it as a three part epoxy with an equal part of super sculpey and it prolongs the working life, and makes it a bit less sticky.
(an old post covering this more in detail: )

I haven't tried smoothing it with water, but the one little bottle of the aves solvent seems to go a long way.