Here are a few general rules to follow that will lead to a successful clay body:
1. Always knead your clay before you begin working with it to make sure it does not contain air bubbles. Even if you get it fresh from a new bag. Air bubbles will make your work explode during the firing process damaging your work and possibly others work around you.
2. Do not make any portion of your work thicker than 1/4" - 1/2" thick. If made any thicker you will do at least one of several things: waste clay, cause your work to dry unevenly leading to cracking and cause work to be too dense to withstand the extreme temperature leading to possible breakage during firing.
3. Always hollow out large work following the thickness guideline. Make sure you vent the inside by placing a hole in an inconspicuous area so air can flow in and out of the work during firing. If air is sealed inside of the work it will most certainly explode in the kiln.
4. Always score and use slip when joining two clay surfaces together. If not, the work may not stay attached.
5. Allow work to dry slowly and evenly. A plastic covering may help with this. Checking your work frequently is very important to the process of clay building. Issues that arise during the drying period can be fixed before it's too late and the work is completely dry.
The Three Common Methods of Hand-Building are PINCH, SLAB, and COIL.
Pinch - The pinch method begins with a ball of clay. The artist can form a pot by pinching the clay to create the center opening.
Slab - Clay slabs are cut into shape, and joined together with scoring and wet clay called slip... Slip is a liquid form of clay. Slip is used to fill in pores, and even out the color. Slip is used to join clay.
Coil - The coil method requires you to form the clay into long cylinders by either squeezing them or rolling them between the table and your fingers. In either method, you must try to apply even pressure to the clay during the manipulation. The coils may vary in size depending upon what the artist wants to achieve with the work. Coils are stacked on top of each other to form the desired shape of the vessel. A mold may be used so the coils easily conform to a specific shape. The inside of the work is then smoothed using tools, fingers, and water. The outside of the work may also be smoothed if a clean look is desired, although leaving the textured surface untouched can be very visually interesting. The grooves in the work are weak spots and if drying happens too quick the work will crack.
Where does clay come from?
It is safe to say that we use clay and ceramics every day in ways we don't even realize. Ceramics was first developed along the shores of rivers, streams, and lakes. Early man found they could take the material from the clay beds and fashion it into implements. Allowing these implements to dry in the hot sun made them durable and useful as tools and storage vessels. We will be using our clay to create art. Sculpting clay from the ground up takes work. Depending on the location of the clay bed, the raw material will usually hold impurities including rock and plant debris.
Below is a special project completed by participants in the ceramics class at 9Muses Art Center. The "Heads" project expresses each artist's idea of logic and reasoning both in their perception of reality and dreams for the future.
If you would like to learn clay techniques, come in and see us. This is just one of the fine arts classes taught at 9Muses Art Center. Classes are taught by professionally trained staff. Check our Calendar for more information.
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