Kristin Melkin from Eckford Street Studio shares a fun DIY and more!

October 18, 2013

The opportunities Brooklyn parents have for exposing our kids to art are embarrassingly rich. I am delighted to join Motherburg and share what I am discovering as an artist raising a son in our artistically diverse and exciting community!

As a sculptor, I have always had a thing for sensory materials and physical processes. Since I began designing projects for very young children, cornstarch has become my most favorite ingredient in homemade art materials. Just plain cornstarch and water (aka oobleck) makes an outstanding goop for sensory play, and cornstarch can be cooked into paste, dough, and a lovely and squishy fingerpaint. Below are a couple of my favorite recipes using cornstarch. Eckford Street Studio will be at the East River State Park Harvest Festival tomorrow hosting a FREE project using a variation on the clay recipe – please stop by and try it out!

Cornstarch Finger Paint

This finger paint should be made fresh when you want to use it; after a few hours it gets pretty gloppy. Some sources say it can be stored in the fridge, but it never regains the wonderful, smooth consistency it has right out of the saucepan. And it’s so quick and easy to make!

You can color this paint with food coloring after cooking, or replace the water with vegetable juice for rich, natural colors. This and more variations after the recipe.


3 cups water, divided

½ cup cornstarch

1 T glycerin

food coloring


  • Heat two cups of water in a saucepan to boiling. As water is heating, mix ½ cup cornstarch with remaining cup of water; stir well.
  • When water boils, turn heat off and add cornstarch and water mixture. Stir constantly until mixture begins to thicken. Paint should go from cloudy to mostly transparent in a few moments; you may need to turn the heat back on to finish this process. Once transparent, add the glycerin (optional) and stir well – this will give the finger-paint a bit of luster when dry.
  • Divide paint into bowls to cool; add food coloring of your choice to each bowl. Once paint is cool enough to touch, the fun begins! You can scoop the paint directly onto heavy paper and swirl it around, or apply it with a brush. Once you have a nice layer, you can use plastic utensils or Q tips to draw lines in the paint.


+ For all natural colors, skip the food coloring and replace all the water with vegetable juice (I use the water from boiled veggies). Red cabbage makes a nice purple; add a bit of baking soda to turn it green. Beets are a gorgeous red, and a bit of saffron boiled in water makes a bright, lemony yellow.


+ A cornstarch finger-painting lends itself well to mixed media. Rice or salt sprinkled on top adds fun texture; strings, ribbons or paper shapes stick well, too.

Cornstarch Salt Clay

This is my favorite homemade dough. It’s squishy and workable, and has a unique grainy texture. It dries hard and sparkly, and can be painted with tempera or acrylic paints.

This one stores well in the fridge in an airtight container. Recipe can be halved, but doubling is not recommended.


1 3/4 cups salt (regular salt – not kosher – works best)

2 cups water

1-cup cornstarch

3/4 cup cold water


  • Mix salt and 1 3/4 cups water in saucepan and heat until boiling. Meanwhile, mix 1-cup cornstarch with 3/4 cup water; stir until lumps are gone.
  •  When water and salt boil, remove from heat and add cornstarch and water mixture. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon or spatula; mixture gets stiff very quickly. When all ingredients are combined, it should look a bit like mashed potatoes.
  • Turn onto a plate or parchment to cool (I recommend placing a damp paper towel over it to keep the top layer from drying out). Knead well when cooled. If mixture is too sticky, add salt a little at a time until desired consistency is reached.


+ This clay can be colored with food coloring by kneading in a drop at a time once cooled. You can also replace the water with vegetable juice (see finger-paint variations), or spike the water with tempera paint for extra vibrant colors.

+ Add buttons, beads, or other embellishments to your sculpture. Inserting sticks, straws and pipe cleaners is especially fun for younger kids.

+ The salt in this clay can be partially or completely replaced with sand (but I recommend using an old saucepan for this). Super fun for building permanent sand castles!

Upcoming classes!

ARTLAB Fall Series Two begins November 6. Registration info and complete schedule here

Eckford Street Studio offers Art After School classes for ages 4-10. Next semester begins in January. More information here 

More information about ERSP Fall Festival

To learn more:

About Kristin:

Shortly after earning a sculpture BFA in 1997, Kristin Melkin found herself visiting Greenpoint and decided to stick around for a while; fifteen years later, she is still here. Along the way she became a wife and mother, and acquired an extensive career in arts education, working for a variety of institutions and organizations including the Guggenheim Museum, Noguchi Museum, and as a resident artist at many city schools.

After the birth of her son in 2011, Kristin brought her arts ed practice local and created ARTLAB toddler classes in the back room of Caribou Baby. In May of 2013, she opened her second baby, Eckford Street Studio. ESS is a permanent home for ARTLAB and a place for young artists of all ages to connect to their community, explore art processes and materials, and discover their own ways of expressing themselves.


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