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Country Lore

Readers’ tips on making clay paint, rigging up a raken house, planting straight, clearing the air, and so much more.

| April/May 2020

Lore-1
Photo by Tom Keeling

Crafting Clay Paint 

We’ve experimented with various natural paints over the years. We wanted a paint we could apply once, that wouldn’t dust, and that would have a consistent matte finish (and, of course, that could be made using natural materials). At last, we’ve found our recipe. We knew wheat paste could be added to a clay paint, or even just pasted over the top to make the wall durable.

We mixed a poster paste recipe with our own clay paint. The paint we made was incredibly durable, gave a beautiful consistent color, and barely dusted, even right after drying. Here’s the recipe.

  • 18 parts cold water, divided, for flour/sugar mixture
  • 6 parts white wheat flour
  • 2 parts sugar
  • 18 parts cold water for clay mixture
  • 20 parts fine filtered clay
  • Color pigment (optional)

First, set aside 12 of the 18 parts of water on the fire to heat. Take another pan and add the remaining 6 parts of cold water. Slowly add the 6 parts of flour to the cold water. Mix well. (You can alter the portions depending on your desired consistency. Less flour will produce a thinner paint, but we wanted a thick paint to cover small cracks and bumps.) When the heated water is nearly boiling, add it to the pan with the flour/cold water mixture, place the pan over the heat, and stir. The longer you keep the mixture on the heat, the thicker it’ll get, so be careful. Then, stir in the sugar. We chose to remove the mixture from the heat at this point. If you want thicker paint, keep the mixture heated, stirring the entire time, until you like the consistency. There’s your flour and sugar component.



Next, you’ll have to filter the clay. We start with a large filter to take out gravel and rocks. Next, we use a filter made for flour to take out the larger sand particles, and leave only the finest clay. When the clay is filtered enough for your purposes, pour the 18 parts of cold water for the clay mixture into a wheelbarrow, and then add 20 parts clay and color pigment, if using. Stir well. Finally, add the flour/sugar mixture, making sure to get all the lumpy stuff from the bottom. This paint will always sink and separate, so whenever decanting and using this paint, make sure to mix and shake it first, or you’ll lose all the solids at the bottom. I stirred it before each use.

Use this paint as soon as possible. Our leftover paint began fermenting after a couple of weeks, and although we were able to use it on a different project, it’s probably not a good idea to apply fermented paint to indoor living spaces because of the odor.





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