While working on projects this week, I realized how often I use a few items in the studio that weren't tools to begin with.

My mom was a saver and re-user of many things, including plastic bags, rubber bands, and the like.  She never bought plastic containers, just reused ice cream buckets and yogurt containers; used envelopes became scratch paper, and I wore lots of re-made hand-me-down clothes as a kid.

Since as a teen, I hated having to wash and dry plastic bread bags, I've not gone to such conservative lengths as Mom, but I do save a lot of things because I look at them with different eyes.  I look at what I can do with things in the studio before I throw them out...

Repurposed Household Items as Clay Tools

Here are a couple of my most often used "trash tools":

I keep a few burned out lightbulbs of every shape I've ever used for different contours and forms.  I love the little mini round bulbs (usually 40 watt) from appliances or ceiling fans.  They are smaller than standard and most of the surface is convex except for the stem.  This size is great for forming cut clay circles into domes for two halves of a lentil bead.

The standard size bulb is good for larger lentils, but the depth of the contour is not as great as the little bulbs.

I also use medium and large flood bulbs for a gentle curve for things like brooches or pendants.

10 years ago, I made my living room window treatments using a large flood bulb as the base for a clay piece that was attached on the back to a cabinet knob.  Here's an old page from my designer portfolio:

Finally, the long bulb is useful for creating a tube or half cylinder shape in a clay.  And the small, christmas type bulbs are useful for their curves and as armature for sculptures.

My other often used trash item is the paper backing from a roll of stamps.  It is a great thing to have on hand for wrapping around a form which will be covered with clay, such as a wooden cylinder, can, or shape cutter.

Yes, that is a polymer clay stamp holder that sits on my desk.  Two closed ended cylinders each with a slit in the side nest and hold my stamps at the ready.  When I get 6 to 8 inches of empty paper strip, I roll it up and tuck it into an empty film canister that sits on my work table (another saved trash item, but I don't use film anymore, so that shows you how long I've been doing this!)

Anyway, you can use plain paper as a release layer between clay and a form or two layers, but I like the stamp paper best because with the smooth, plastic-y surface on one side, the clay sticks to it better than plain paper.  It is usually necessary to have the clay adhere tightly to whatever you are doing before baking.  And it peels of easily after baking.

What trash tools do you use in your clay work?

Happy Claying!

Patti Kimle