Physical Space

Supplies for Special Projects (Ep. 038)

Last week, Cassie talked about all of her tips and tricks for basic supplies, along with a few recommendations. This week, she takes the discussion into what you need for more special projects. Listen as she discusses her favorite materials to order when teaching ceramics (3:00), clay alternatives like modeling clay and celluclay (6:00), and ideas for sewing and weaving (13:00). Full episode transcript below.


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Many years ago, way back when I still taught in Nashville, I had a cohort, another art teacher who was my neighbor in my building. Thankfully, we each had our own separate budgets. I say thankfully because one morning she came to my room very excited, with a huge box. Inside this huge box was an art supply that she informed me that she bought at the mall at a kiosk.

I don’t know if you guys have seen this video that’s going around right now on Facebook, but it’s of a woman who is very excitedly using this sponge device. She’s dipping it on what looks like tempera cakes and painting rainbow swirls with it. That’s what my cohort spent her entire, entire art budget on. These rainbow painting things. Which might have been really cool in theory, but hello, I just told you how to do it. You just get you some tempera cakes and maybe some makeup sponges.

Needless to say, she was pretty upset the rest of the year that she didn’t have any other money to purchase things with. Gotta be honest, I wasn’t really thrilled either, because then that meant I usually had to share. I’m not so great at sharing.

So, last week we talked about those items that you’ve got to purchase for your art room. Some of my faves and some of my faves if your budget allows. Well, I promised that this week we would talk about expanding on those things that one would need to purchase for their art room.

So this week, I’m going to share with you my favorite clays, glazes, printmaking supplies, sewing, crafts and more. All of which do not include purchasing things from a kiosk in the mall.

I’m Cassie Stevens, and this is Everyday Art Room.

Okay, so I am coming off of two weeks of working with clay with all of my students. I purchased 500 pounds of Amaco’s Low Fire Cone 06 clay for my 300 plus students and we have been elbows-deep in the stuff ever since. I actually managed to use every last drop of clay with my students. We had a blast. So, I have clay not only on my mind but under my nails, in my skin, in my pores, probably in my lungs, definitely all over my art room.

So, that being said I thought we would just start with clay. Now, I will tell you this, I’m just going to scratch the surface of what kind of clay, glazes and air-dry clays that I like the best, that I would recommend purchasing. If you want more information about both kiln-fire or air-dry clays, I’ve done a podcast on each of those. So, definitely take a listen if you’re curious about those kinds of clay, air-dry or kiln-fire.

So, I’ve ordered lots of clay. Lots of pounds of clay in my art teachering lifetime. I always order Cone 06. This is probably my second or third year to use Amaco, and I’m digging it. I like it. I haven’t had a bad experience with a clay brand, however I will say that I have ordered clay before where when I got it, it was hard like a rock.

If ever that happens to you, you purchase an art supply where it’s just not up to snuff, definitely contact who you’ve ordered the supply from. The times that I have done that, I have always gotten a replacement of that art supply. So, I’m just throwing that out there. Don’t ever accept something that you’ve gotten in the mail that wasn’t exactly what you had in mind when you ordered it. These companies want you to be happy, so I’m pretty sure that they would definitely help a girl out. Or a guy, art teachering person out when it comes to getting something that isn’t up to snuff for you.

So, that’s the kind of clay that I always order. Now let’s talk glazes. Oh, they’re so expensive. So, there’s tons of alternatives to glazing. Like I said in those other podcasts, I’ve addressed that. But if you’re interested in glazing with your students, because it is such a really cool experience, I have tried Mayco’s Stroke and Coat, and I’ve really liked it. This time around, I’m going to try Amaco’s Gloss Glaze, and I will keep you posted. But both of those glazes have a gloss in them, which removes the need to do any kind of under-glazing. So that’s why I love those kind of glazes that basically do two things for you at once. They give you beautiful color and a beautiful shine. So those are the kind of glazes that I often purchase for my students.

When it comes to, let’s switch gears, to air-dry clay. If you don’t have a kiln and you want to give your students a clay experience and it’s in your budget, I would strongly recommend Amaco’s Air Dry clay. It is the closest thing that I have found to feeling like actual clay. So it really gives your students that experience.

Crayola also makes a really good air-dry clay. It’s a little bit less messy. Let’s be honest, clay is just going to be messy, but I’m thinking of you teachers who are on a cart who still want to do clay with your students. Crayola’s Air Dry clay is great, like I said less mess.

So, those are the clays that I would recommend. Now let’s just talk about all the other clay alternatives, aside from just air-dry clay. That you could order if it’s in your budget. This is something new for me this year. I recently got on this modeling clay kick with my students. I created a lesson that you can find on my YouTube channel and on my blog, where my students made modeling clay portraits. Now I know what you’re thinking, “Stevens, modeling clay doesn’t dry.” I know y’all. That’s why you cover it with Crayola’s Gloss Glaze medium, which is kind of tricky to find, but a little Googling might help a person out. So, I really like modeling clay, my students loved it too. It’s really great to work with.

However, sometimes it’s a little bit hard, like a rock. When that happens, just have your kids hold it in their hot little hands and that will start to soften it up a bit.

Couple of other clay alternatives for you, especially if you’re kilnless or you just want to give your students a different kind of experience. ACTIVA Products makes some really fun clays that I like. Clay alternatives I should say. Now I do work quite a bit with ACTIVA, so take that with a grain of salt. Just throwing that out there. I really love Celluclay. If you search my blog for a hot minute you will see that I have done a ton, me personally, a ton of crafts and arts with Celluclay.

Also, Rigid Wrap is something that I like personally as an alternative to paper mâché. It requires a lot less layers, in fact just one strip would be great. My students this year used Rigid Wrap to create pencil sculptures, crayon sculptures, sculptures of glue bottles. Anything that we could think of. We were on an art supply sculpture kick. So we used Rigid Wrap like crazy and loved it.

Model Magic is another clay alternative that I don’t love. It’s made by Crayola and I don’t love it simply because it’s like sculpting with a marshmallow. Whatever you kind of sculpt into it, it just kind of grows back. It is fun though if you’re going to make things like beads and teach your students about color mixing, since they do make primary color packs, which I’ll be doing this week with my kindergartners.

Then, polymer clay is like an all-time favorite for me personally to share with my students, because I’ve always loved polymer clay. My students really do too. That’s another kind of clay, it’s expensive, that we use when we’re making beads. If we’re making something like a plaque that’s going to be hung up we will usually make beads to decorate the wire that we use to hang the plaque.

Okay, so I think that covers my fave clays that if it’s in your budget I would recommend kind of purchasing. Oh, also when it comes to kiln-fire clay, backing up a little bit here. When it comes to kiln-fire clay, I noticed in the art supply catalogs, there are a ton of tools that are available for you to purchase for your students. None of which are really all that necessary. I mean, unless you’re teaching middle or high school and it’s a ceramics class. But if you’re like me, and you’re doing two weeks of clay once a year with your students, you don’t want to overwhelm them with all of these options, when really it’s all about just digging your hands into the clay and making something great.

So, for me, the old standbys when it comes to working with clay are these tools. Skewer sticks, the wooden skewer sticks you can purchase at the grocery store. Textures for pressing into the clay. My favorites are fabric, burlap, doilies from the craft store or the thrift store, lace, old cable knit sweaters. My students just pound their clay into those textures, peel the clay off like a fruit roll-up and voila. They have some really cool textures for their clay. And a toothbrush with a cup of water. That’s how we do slipping and scoring.

Again, if you’re like, “Say what now?” Go and listen to those podcasts about clay. I think that’ll help answer some questions you might have.

Moving on. Let’s talk about one of my favorite things to teach. Sewing, weaving, all things fiber arts. I think that I could quite possibly, if it weren’t for my love for clay, teach fiber arts all day, every day. So let me share with you some things that I would order, if I were you, and happen to have money in my budget to teach something like sewing and weaving.

It doesn’t need to break the bank by the way. I almost always order burlap, but I’m going to be honest, I hate burlap. I hate the texture of burlap and I’m not even like a sensitive to texture kind of person. I just don’t love it. It feels hairy. I hate it when, speaking of hairy, I feel like the little hairs of the burlap get in my nose. It just gets everywhere and I have a feeling that there might be an allergy there so I don’t love it. Although it really is great for teaching kids how to sew.

So, the great thing about burlap is, is that now you can find it in your art supply catalogs in a bunch of different colors. So that’s one kind of surface you could give your students. It’s perfect for teaching something like, embroidery.

Felt sheets is also a great thing to purchase. I like to get them in the bulk pack that the art supply catalogs now sell. However, my students were using felt this year to make giant pizza pillows. When I did the math, which is like rocket science for me, it actually worked out to be cheaper for me to purchase felt by the bolt, since they were going for a tannish color for the crust of their pizza. So definitely consider buying things more in bulk because you’ll often find them to be cheaper that way.

Speaking of, muslin is a wonderful surface for students to learn how to sew and embroider on. If you’re going to purchase muslin, definitely purchase that by the bolt. If you’re curious as to, where do I get a bolt of fabric? Or where do I get a bolt of muslin? Your craft supply stores, like a JoAnn’s, Michaels, doesn’t sell fabric, scratch that, Hobby Lobby, those places would sell it by the bolt. Definitely wait until you have a fistful of coupons and take your teacher ID. It never hurts to ask.

Smart-Fab is also something that we’ve used quite a bit for sewing projects in my room. I like it because when we sew the needle goes through it pretty easily. Granted it has to be a sharp needle, not a tapestry. But I do like it. It’s also easy for my students to cut. So those are my recommendations when it comes to sewing.

Now, if you’re going to be purchasing yarn, let’s say for your sewing projects, or weaving which we’ll touch on in just a second. Yarn, it’s so tricky in the art supply catalogs because I feel like it’s really limited. Tratex has a lot of yarn, but it’s not my favorite yarn for my students to work with. I find that it tends to split a little bit as they’re stitching. So I usually will purchase yarn when it’s on sale at the craft stores.

I love the Red Heart yarn, because it’s inexpensive and at the craft stores I can find it in a ton of colors. Definitely though, send out a school-wide email or even to the parents, asking for yarn donations because there’s always that someone out there who thought they were going to be a knitter for life, has a ton of yarn and has decided to give it up. So, you might want to consider that.

Now let’s talk about when you’re going to be teaching sewing. Like I was saying, my students did those pizza pillows. When you’re teaching sewing, instead of buying thread, which is very small, I would recommend getting crochet thread. But get the smallest crochet thread you can find. So, I don’t know the number, what that would be because I’m not a crocheter. But it looks a lot like thread, but I don’t love using something like an embroidery floss because it splits. So, look for that crochet thread at your store.

So now let’s talk weaving. If you’re going to be teaching weaving to your students, I hate making looms or having kids make looms. Sorry, I cannot do it. So I always purchase the pre-notched looms. I love them, they make them out of this really thick cardboard, and they work great, and they last. That again is in your art supply catalog.

When it comes to sewing and weaving, I always purchase a variety of needles. Here’s what I would recommend. For weaving, I always purchase the six inch plastic needles. They’re great for having your students go over and under all of those warp threads very easily just by lifting up the needle.

When it comes to sewing on something like burlap, or my third graders this year did string art which doesn’t require a very sharp needle, I love the metal tapestry needles. Once you purchase those, you don’t have to buy those year after year.

Lastly, if you’re going to be teaching sewing, the best needle for sewing that has a nice, sharp end is a chenille needle. It’s got a big eye and a very sharp point. All right, so there you go. Fiber arts.

Let’s talk now, printmaking. Printmaking can be a little pricey, because of the ink. But really that’s it. When I do printmaking with my students, I have the brayers. If you don’t have brayers, then you need to get you some. They’re the best thing ever, obviously. Then the great thing is, once you’ve got them you don’t have to purchase them year after year.

I don’t have one particular brayer brand that I love over another, so just get some brayers. My brayers are all very squeaky. None of the kids like to get the squeaky brayers, but we work with what we’ve got.

As far as ink goes, I am just going to say I love Speedball Washable Ink. I don’t love it in those containers, I love it in the tubes, because for me it’s just easier to distribute that way. Now if you want to do printmaking with your students but you can’t afford the ink, well then marker prints. Just throwing that out there.

Now, last but not least, let’s address all things crafts. Because, especially if you’re an elementary art teacher, you’ve got to have some of those fun things like glitter. Do we really have to? I mean I really, do we really? Do we really? Pom-poms, googly eyes, pipe cleaners, pony beads, those are just the things that always, inevitably, I find myself adding to my supply list.

One thing I used to order, that I no longer feel comfortable ordering, are feathers. I just can’t bring myself to order feathers anymore. I also hate that I have a little stash of them in my closet. So, that’s just something that I just don’t like that idea. But, there you have it. Art supply order done, son.

Last week, in case you missed it, I covered all of like, the main essentials. I thought this week I would cover the things that, if your budget allows, you could really explore purchasing and really let your students explore with in your art room.

Now that we’re all done shopping I feel like I need to put my feet up and go unpack some of these boxes of things that I’ve ordered. That is really the best part about placing an art supply order. The Christmas-time feeling that you get when all of those boxes arrive.

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Cassie Stephens: Well, since I jibber-jabbered so much, because obviously I’m a girl who likes to shop, I’m only going to take one question from the mail bag this week. But it totally ties in. This one comes from Perry. She asks, “I have a question about the ink that you put in your bingo dauber. Is it permanent? Because I am using non-permanent, and I’m pretty sure that when I paint the watercolor paint on it, it will smear. What do you think?”

Okay, so in case you have not gotten on the bingo dauber D-A-U-B-E-R-S train, you my friend, are missing out. Now, good luck finding bingo daubers, because they are officially like, back-ordered everywhere. Earlier this year, I shared on my blog and my YouTube channel, a lesson involving a bingo dauber.

In case you’re not familiar with what it is, it’s literally, like when people play bingo, and they have a little thing that they tap on their paper to, you know what I’m talking about. The bingo dauber. I’m doing a really bad job explaining it. Google it, how about that?

Anyway, I shared a couple of lessons, and now I cannot stop doing lessons with these things. It seems that a lot of my fellow art teachering buddies are on the same train with me. We love this thing. So really, it’s just an empty bottle, is how I purchase it. You use a pair of pliers, take off the top part which is like a fuzzy top part so you can draw with it. You fill it with diluted India ink. At least that’s what I fill mine with.

The reason, Perry, the reason as you know, you gotta use the India ink is because it’s permanent. Just because you dilute it like I do. I only dilute it because I’m cheap and I don’t want to end up using all of my India ink. The only reason to dilute it is because I just need it to spread a little bit more. But it won’t smear once watercolor paint is added.

Now I have had a lot of art teachers say, “My bingo daubers, when the kids are using them, the ink is going everywhere.” To that I think that perhaps you all haven’t put the top of the bingo dauber back on securely enough. Also, I really emphasize to my students that when you’re using them, you don’t have to squeeze them. In fact, I don’t call them bingo daubers to my students. I refer to them as paint markers. That way, they really understand, this is just a marker that I’m drawing with, and I don’t squeeze my markers and I don’t shake my markers, so why would I do it with this contraption?

So, anyway. If you have not given these a shot you guys, it’s the best ever. Especially like I was saying earlier, you friends who are on a cart of have to have a low mess project with a big, powerful impact. This is it. So check it out and don’t forget to fill them with a diluted India ink. Just don’t ask me the measurements, because like I said earlier, I don’t do math.

If you have a question for me, you should send it my way. You can find me at

So you guys know that I like rainbows, right? So I don’t have anything against somebody buying an art supply that when you paint it on your paper it makes really magnificent rainbows. I just question the choices of somebody who purchases art supplies at a mall kiosk. That’s all I’m saying, that’s all I’m saying. If you are tempted to do such a thing, then you might just want to take a deep breath, step back and reconsider. Listen to my voice, do not buy your art supplies at the mall. Just reiterating that. Thank you so much guys for letting me shop with you today, it was a pleasure. Have a great week.


Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.