PROTOTYPING WITH CLAY
By Leviticus Williamson,
Clay is an artistic resource not just for artists making statues and pottery but for inventors as well. I recommend that inventors utilize clay for making prototypes as I know it has personally helped me. Clay has quick capabilities to aid in many creations. Clay is actually a toy by definition but it is the answer to that troubling piece that is either a wrong size or an unusual shape. My life as a toy and game inventor has been aided by the use of clay to make many game components and figurines. Oven-hardening modeling clay such as Sculpey or Fimo can be shaped into anything you can imagine. It is very inexpensive to purchase from a nearby craft store and comes in many colors. It is simple to use. When the right shape is sculpted, it is hardened in the oven and can become a permanent piece to your prototype. Furthermore, if your project needs a mold then you can use the Sculpey mold maker. Here the putty can be hand molded around things like a clay model and then left to dry to create a mold. You fill your mold with different materials. Hardware stores carry very uniquely shaped items that can easily be duplicated by a mold to help you in your creative mission.
I used clay to make unique apple-shaped dice in the original prototype of my multi award-winning game Granny Apples by Gamewright. I rounded clay apple shapes, sliced them in half, baked them, added a shiny coat of bright red acrylic paint and topped it with varnish. Voila! An addition to my prototype that I believe helped me sell my idea to Gamewright!
I used other prototype resources as well. Polymorph is a plastic that you melt in hot boiling water that you can mold before it cools off as well as while it’s drying. This gives you amazing flexibility and is just like sculpturing a masterpiece. It also can be reheated to reshape the item again!
Another product I use is Shapelock. When it is heated you can make molds and shapes for any prototype design. Also I recently discovered a new advanced prototype material called Sugru. It feels just like modeling clay or play dough but it dries into a strong durable and flexible rubber material overnight. It is waterproof so if your idea involves water play this product might be the answer. It is also very durable and flexible when dry so it would be the perfect answer for a prototype involving outside play such as an outside toy rubber toy idea. Endless shapes and creations can be shaped from all of the above products with a little imagination and creativity. The answer to making cost effective prototypes are right in your nearby craft store. Just choose your medium and roll up your sleeves!
In conclusion making great prototypes to me is the most creative challenge in toy/game industry as an inventor. Some of us are great at writing rules, others are great with computer digital images and others, like me, are great at turning natural materials into unique prototypes for companies to explore. It helps to show them exactly what my vision is and then hopefully they will turn my idea into a fun product for families to enjoy!