Though most tools used in ceramics will not break the bank, every dollar counts. Many of the common tools used in ceramics can be replaced by simple items you already have around the house.
• If you are not working in a studio, prep your surfaces and tools with cornstarch prior to working. This will keep clay from mucking up your tools, surfaces, and canvas. Cornstarch will also clean up textures and designs made with impression. Just remember to dust first.
• You do not need a plaster table for wedging clay. You can improvise a portable wedging surface by filling the back of a stretched painter’s canvas (found at most craft stores) with plaster.
• Create personalized ribs from old credit cards, compact disks, and sand paper. Cut them to shape and sand the edges. CD’s work great to get the perfect shape for a cereal bowl. You can also try cutting different patterns into the edges of your homemade ribs to use for different textures. A zigzag pattern on the edge will scratch a nice set of stripes into the clay.
• There is no need to spend loads on rubber stamps and other printing equipment to create texture on clay surfaces; puffy contact paper, traditionally used to line shelves and drawers, can be used to roll texture onto slabs of clay.
• If you roll your clay out between canvas sheets, try using a rubber spatula or putty knife to smooth the fabric’s texture from the slab.
• Did your pin tool roll away? Though it will not work quite as well as the pin tool that came with your pottery kit, the pointy plastic end of a dental floss pick will work in a pinch.
• Dental floss also works well as a replacement for a cutting wire.
• Try out that rusty potato peeler for trimming.
• If you need to slow the drying process, try applying wax or petroleum jelly to the area. This will hold the moisture in and will melt off when fired in the kiln. Cool areas also help to keep pieces from drying too quickly. Leave those mug handles and lids in the basement overnight.
Slip/Glazing Finishing Tools:
• If you run out of the special wax for glazing, try using simple white glue (like Elmer’s). It does not work as precisely as wax, but it will do.
• Scrap PVC pipe makes great glaze stir sticks because they can remain in the glaze for any length of time without becoming mushy or dissolving like wood.
• Try using a whisk or a bristle brush for mixing glazes. This will help break up and blend the clumps.
• Metallic glazes can oxidize over time. Polish these pieces just as you would your grandmother’s old silver – with silver polish or lemon juice.
There are so many combinations of glazes, clays, and personal style that the possibilities in pottery are limitless. Keep your eyes open in the kitchen, in the garage, in any room of your house really. You might be surprised with what you find!
Since excess moisture can cause a piece to explode in the high temperatures of a kiln, it's a good idea to pre-bake it in your kitchen oven. This will assist in the drying process in a gentle way, so that you can be confident of your greenware being absolutely bone dry when you put it into your kiln.
Just start it off at your oven's lowest temperature, and then add another fifty degrees every twenty minutes up to 350 degrees. Hold it at 350 for half an hour, then turn the oven off and let everything cool. Once it's cool enough not to burn you, you can transfer it directly into the kiln.
A method of creating ceramics other than throwing a pot on a potters wheel or handbuilding is using ceramics molds. This is an especially good method if you are planning to create a set of pieces that should match one another. Using molds can be tricky so you should do research and get some good tips on using ceramics molds.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|