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Even though we’re no-grain there’s a jar of white flour in the cupboard. It’s a vital part of a lot of my crafting, mostly in flour glue for papier mâché. What I forgot that it’s great for, until recently, was salt dough.

Woo, salt dough.

I used to sculpt a lot, with polymer clay. I still have a good bunch of polymer clay, but most of it is old and pretty much useless (the problem with an attic being your studio, there’s a lot of extreme temperatures). So when I got the bug to sculpt some things some months ago, conditioning clay that had a 50% chance of turning into a texture I liked wasn’t really something I wanted to do. So I checked the proportions (1 part salt to 2 parts flour, enough water to make it a “dough”) and made a batch.

Making salt dough.

It’s fabulous stuff to work with, silky but with a good body, sticks to itself with water, the only draw back is how it takes FOREVER to dry, in or out of the oven. From some of the feedback my snaps on Instagram got I gathered that a lot of folks must have played with it growing up.

One of the reasons I got into papier mâché was that it was a media that didn’t cost anything. I needed to make “art” for school, there are copious free weeklies around a campus and I was baking bread so there was always flour (which is stupid cheap in bulk, anyway). I’ve spent maybe 15 years just collecting junk to make things with, the home craft media of papier mâché and salt dough fit perfectly into my world-view of making things out of what you’ve got (sewing is where this breaks down for me, ohhhh fabrics and notions, you dirty temptresses).

I miss sculpture a lot, it’s what I relate most media to, from sewing to painting. Which, I guess that’s obvious in how a lot of my sculpts turn out. I pretty rarely start with a plan, it’s all enjoying the process of making something.

There is a plan.

Anyway, my point is this. I’ve never seen anyone waste their time playing with clay. I’ve seen fabulously ugly beasts formed lovingly, shapes built and destroyed in endless cycles, the surprising genesis of something amazing. But always there’s something, never nothing, even if you junk it all at the end.

If you’ve got a free evening and a bit of flour and salt on hand (ideally at least a quarter cup of flour), give it a try. The worst thing that could happen is you add too much water and end up with soup. But if you only add a little water at a time you’ll be fine. I mean, if you’re doing this in your home, nobody will see the stupid stuff you make. You don’t have to prove skills to anyone, just let yourself play.