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Clay, Creativity & Grieving

collection of small clay figures with raised arms

I had the distinct honor of presenting a collaborative workshop on Creativity and Grieving at the National Home Funeral Alliance conference in Minnesota in early October (2019). We considered the question of how creativity and Making helps us navigate grieving.

There are two video clips from the workshop at the bottom of this post.

I brought along some wire and beads and sticks and a home made air drying clay for people to experiment with and the clay was a real hit! This material, made mostly from glue and cornstarch, is an inexpensive way to bring tactile comfort and the possibility of creativity to people experiencing a grief journey. Lots of folks asked for the clay recipe so I am posting our experiment here, and links also. If you type 'cold porcelain' into a search engine you will see that there are lots of people making all sorts of things with it, from delicate floral arrangements to ferocious dragons.

Cold Porcelain Clay:

Cold porcelain is made from inexpensive, easy to find ingredients. It air dries so you don't have to bake it. I would not eat it but there is nothing more toxic than 'elmers' glue in it. In my experiments it can be made into surprisingly thin-walled delicate objects that are also surprisingly strong and resilient. There are tons of videos about this craft material on youtube and I recommend watching an assortment of them. There are all sorts of sticky situations one can encounter so I've posted below the recipe and procedure that finally worked for us. This person discussed some trouble shooting with her procedure that was super helpful. The recipe and process I settled on, after lots of youtube videos and a few sessions of stove top trial and error, is slightly different from the one she gives…

You will need cornstarch, glue (we used elmers), cold cream - not lotion (we used Nivea), glycerine (easy to get over the counter at a pharmacy), vinegar (or lemon juice), and baby oil or olive oil.

Cold porcelain recipe:

1 C glue

1 C corn starch

1 tsp each: glycerin, vinegar, baby oil

Microwave, stirring between each interval: PLEASE NOTE We have a wimpy microwave so you may want to start at 30 secs and adjust downward!!

40 sec (mix till smooth)

40 s (mix)

40 s (you catch the drift)

30 s (it gets clumpy - keep mixing)

30 s

20 s

Additional time if needed

Microwave until no longer shiny, can touch without being sticky. Use cold cream on your hands to keep from sticking. Knead little bits at a time with between fingers coated lightly in Nivea cold cream until homogenous and nice and add new kneaded bits to larger ball and then knead again to incorporate it into one log. Cover with plastic wrap coated lightly with Nivea and place in sealed plastic bag or an air tight container. It keeps well.

Here are links for cold porcelain tutorial we found very helpful:

Clay comparison, polymer v. cold porcelain with same cheery person:

Clip 1 - and some day I will learn how to say Om instead of Um when I am reaching deep for the next bit of flow ;-)

Clip 2

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