Fake Dirt Recipe

First Post

Welcome to Riccio Exhibit Services revised website. Now that I have resigned my teaching position in Eastern Illinois University's Historical Administration Program, I am devoting most of my time to the exhibit firm. Our clients can still expect the highest standards and level of commitment to your projects that RES is noted for. We are fairly new to the blogosphere, so this is a work in progress. I hope to share exhibit issues, tips of the trade, and maybe make connections to the way we approach exhibits, that you may not have considered before. I hope you will join the discussion and share this site with like-minded folks.

Since I get requests for this from my former students at least once or twice a year, I thought I should make one of the first blog entries my "fake dirt" recipe. Several classes have used this recipe for their exhibit project. It is very versatile, and I have even used it on vertical surfaces. And it has obvious benefits over using real dirt in galleries. 


The recipe should cover an area approximately 4’ X 6’

 1 bag of sand (buy wash sand instead of sandbox sand. It’s cheaper and dirtier, but hey, that’s what we’re making)

Instead of sand you can substitute powdered potter’s clay. It depends on what kind of dirt you want to make, sand-like or clay-like. You can also use both in proportion to the kind of dirt you desire.

 1-gallon carpenter’s glue



Water-base paint (optional)

 Mix up the sand and/or clay and sawdust in a wheelbarrow with a hoe in roughly equal parts. You probably won’t use a whole bag of sand, but just make enough so that when you mix it up, it’s not spilling over the top of the wheelbarrow. Keep adding water and glue in equal parts and mix until the consistency of wet cement, thoroughly wet, but not runny. If you need certain color dirt, you can add paint to change the darkness and/or color. A little paint goes a long way. Just add a little at a time, like a cupful. Remember, the dirt will dry darker, too.

 Staple 1-inch mesh chicken wire to the surface where dirt is to be applied. Trowel on enough dirt to cover the wire. It may take 2-3 days to dry, so don’t wait until the last minute before making it. If you didn’t mix enough, just repeat the process. Ideally, you shouldn’t trowel it on in the gallery because water can seep out. It will be heavy to move when dry, but better safe than sorry.

© Riccio Exhibit Services, LLC 2013