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This week's tip is actually a fun handbuilding project you can make whether you are a beginner or advanced potter, and even children and friends can get into it. You will find a bottle to use and because you are making it out of clay yourself, it includes the beauty marks of the maker and no two will be alike. You could texture it, put designs on it, or glaze it funky colors.
- Wrap newspaper around your bottle and tape it on well. Wrap a second piece of newspaper over the first and tape it together so it stays on. Don't connect the two layers of newspaper. The inside layer of newspaper is going to stick to the clay, so if you want to take it apart before the clay shrinks and crushes, you need the first layer to slide off the second layer.
- Now roll out big sheets of clay. The easiest way is with a rolling pin. Get two sticks about 1/4" thick and put one on each side of the clay, then pat and roll the clay down until the edges of the rolling pin hit the sticks on the ends. This gives you a uniform thickness of clay 1/4" thick. Make sure you roll the clay out on canvas, cloth or paper or it will stick to your kitchen table.
- Now, pretend for a minute you were just making a glass bottle with no neck. Cut a rectangle that is approximately the height of the glass, and wide enough to go around the glass. Start with the glass at one corner of the slab, and roll it around until the other side covers it and makes an overlap. Cut a slice down the middle of the overlap, peel the leftover pieces away, and the ends should match nicely. Apply vinegar and push the edges together, smoothing them over. If your clay is stretched a little, you can just beat it back into shape with a paddle or a stick of wood.
You can do some interesting things by using tape as a resist. You can make straight or wavy lines, and geometric shapes. Here are some ideas.
About the Tape
Masking tape is the most basic option, and while it has some disadvantages (it can absorb, it can tear while you’re pulling it up, and it doesn't stretch), it can be a good place to start.
Blue painters' tape is probably a little better. Electrical tape works well and stretches somewhat. Another option is Chartpak which is a graphic artists' tape and comes in various widths. Drafting tape is another option, as is auto pinstriping.
Make sure the tape is stuck down well by burnishing the edges with a fingernail, edge of a spoon, or wood tool.
Remember that the wider the tape, the harder it will be to get it to stretch evenly over a curved surface. But don’t stretch too much or the tape will try to pull loose.
Coil building is a great way to build pots, sculptures, and just about anything. You can build all kinds of shapes, from structured "perfect-looking" pieces to very organic pieces. But as anyone who has tried to roll coils can attest, it is not as easy as it looks!
Beginner's coils tend to flatten, get hollow on the ends, be lumpy, or break into pieces. This tip will focus on how to roll nice, straight, even coils. And next time we will talk about using the coils to build beautiful and interesting objects.
Start by squeezing the clay into a sausage, and taper the ends slightly.
Some people do the first rolls of the coil in their hands, then lay on the canvas.
- Use clay that is soft enough.
- Hard clay tends to go hollow on the edges, although starting with tapered ends and keeping the canvas moist will help.
- The heat from your hand can also dry out coils.
- Soft coils are better anyway for joining, and slip is not needed.
- But if clay is TOO wet, it can cause problems too. If rolling on a canvas, dampen it slightly. Otherwise the canvas will dry out the clay.
There are two approaches to rolling:
- Use your whole hand (palm + fingers, fingers spread wide).
- Use just the outstretched fingers.
Almost 10 months ago, I became a mother for the first time. This has been a journey unlike any other, including my 10 year career in ceramics. After my daughter was born, I resigned my high school ceramics teaching job and opted for the stay-at-home mom life.
This was a big adjustment since I’d been in the career world for so long. To beat the isolation and lack of socialization, I joined a stay-at-home moms’ group. I know, it sounds funny, but really, it’s awesome! We have play dates, potlucks, and crafts at the mothers’ homes and at the local parks. I thought, “Well, I know how to teach and I have all the materials; let’s do a clay craft at my house!” But, I had to think about the fact that we had limited time. I wouldn't be able to have them make the pieces, come back after the bisque fire to glaze, and then come back yet again to pick up the finished pieces.
So, I needed to figure out how to get the kids’ projects created and glazed in one sitting. I hardly ever use low fire glazes, underglazes, or slips. I do Cone 6 at home in my Skutt electric kiln. I took a chance and ordered some Amaco Velvet Underglazes, which are primarily meant for low firing and known for their vibrant colors. I got red, orange, brown, and green.
There are a huge number of ways to decorate a thrown-clay vessel including piercing the wall of the vessel to cut in a design or carving the inner or outer wall of a vessel while the clay is leather-hard. For an even more interesting and challenging project, consider piercing and carving a double-walled thrown vessel like a vase thrown with porcelain clay.
The first step is to throw the vessel. There are many videos available on the internet (e.g. YouTube) demonstrating how to do this. Once the double-walled vessel has been thrown and allowed to dry to leather-hard, follow these steps to create a pierced and carved design.
- Create a design on paper if you are not comfortable simply free-handing one. Cut out the design and spray it very lightly on the back with water and lay it on the external wall of the vessel. Trace around it very lightly with a pencil. Make sure you deal with the area where the external wall air hole is first. Locate your design so that it incorporates the air hole into a portion of your design that will be cut out.
- As you pierce and cut using a craft knife remember that the clay you do not cut away has to support the exterior wall so leave enough connections at the top and bottom to provide this support.
- Be careful, especially at the top and bottom of the external wall not to cut into the inner wall of the vessel.