Handbuilt Tips

Read these 82 Handbuilt Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Ceramics tips and hundreds of other topics.

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How do I dry my ware?

To prevent clay sticking

Cornstarch can be used to prevent clay from sticking to tools, canvas, etc. Coating a surface with constarch before carving or impressing designs can eliminate burrs and marks made from pulling the object off the clay.

   
How do I make a simple plaster mold?

Simple round mold: step 3

Once you have your plaster poured, you simply place your balloon or ball (if a ball is used it would be advisable to seal it with soft soap before use), into the plaster to half cover the ball. You can tape it into place while the plaster heats, cools and sets.
Remove the ball or balloon and container, scrape off any rough spots, leave to dry in a cool dry place for a week and it will be ready to use.

   
How do I make a Slab hump mould?

Keeping slabs useable

Make slabs in advance and keep them wet for ages in Styrofoam coolers. If they start to dry out, throw a wet towel over them.

   
How do I make a coil pot

Attaching pulled handles

Attaching pulled handles:
Once all handles are pulled and firmed, (approx.1/2 hr), they are ready to attach. I will describe this process as connecting to a mug, though it is the same procedure no matter the form.

1. Take handle and flatten the large end with a flat piece of wood ie ruler, wooden spoon back.
2. With a fork or other tool cross hatch both the flattened end of the handle and the point on the pot you wish to attach the handle, with an old toothbrush, wet these areas with water or slip.
3. Attach the hatched end to the pot and press and wiggle it gently until you feel adhesion
4. Pick up the pot and hold arm extended as when pulling the handle, and continue pulling in the same way until desired thickness, squeeze off any excess clay and join other end to pot by pushing into place.
5. Leave upside down to dry.

Note: Handles dry faster than ware,
so keep them covered with plastic or put on ware board with all handles facing inward.

   
How do I fire thickset ware?

Thick pieces/Cracking

When did cracking occur?
Often the crack itself can be examined to determine when it occurred. If the edges are sharp, then it probably occurred during cooling. If the edges are rounded or if the glaze has flowed into the crack, then it occurred during heating.

   
What do I need to get started?

Materials for basic handbuilding

BASICS:

1) A smock (old long shirt, overalls, apron) (to keep your cloths or nude body from
getting smeared in clay
eeeeeh)
2) Hair tie or scarf (to keep those pesky little suckers out of that masterpiece)
3) Handtowel (for drying hands if the phone rings)

4)Rags (for those unexpected messes)
5) Small plastic bucket (for water to rinse your hands, when they get too mucky)
6) Sponges ( for spills and keeping surfaces clean)
7) Tabletop (wedging, rolling, cutting)
8) Weigh scale
9) Claycutter (2 washers and picture wire)
10) ceramictile/s, or wooden ware boards (for drying pots)
11) clear plastic bags, or plactic groundsheets cut into convenient sizes (for keeping pots from drying out)
12) Kiln
- electric (low fire, medium fire, high fire)
- gas(low fire, medium fire, high fire)
- woodfired(low fire, medium fire, high fire)
OR - raku (low fire, medium fire, high fire)
just bisque firing stage

   
How do I roll a slab?

Slab Mug

This slab can be rolled from agate ware, textured slab or plain slab.
1. Cut a template of the shape, obviously straight to triangular shapes accomodate this proceedure better.
2. Cut 1/2" slab to required template. Form to desired shape.
3. Join seam in mug body as shown in joining tips.
4. Cut base to suit.
5. Join base to slab as shown in slab joining tips.
6. Leave to leather hard.
7. Add handle

Your work is now ready for firing!

   
How do I make a slab box?

How to make a slab box

Slab box:
After rolling your slab, and you can roll with a pattern by simply placing leaves or a
crocheted cotton tablecloth or such like ove the clay and roll gently but firmly, this will
give a textured slab. Leave the slab to become firm, approx 1 hr.
While waiting, make a template of the shape you are aiming for (be as precise as
possible as it makes the job a lot easier in the long run.)
Place the templates on the slab and cut around them with a sharp knife and a ruler as
a guide.
Each side that is to be joined must be bevilled to a 45degree angle.....this is achieved
by placing a ruler approx .5 of a cm in from the edge and cutting at that angle to the
table surface.
All edges to be joined have to be crosshatched with a fork, so they are rough, apply
slurry or water with a toothbrush and firmly press the sides together. roll a thin coil,
dip it into water and gently apply it over the join then smooth. Continue in this way
until all sides are joined and you have a hollow cube, leave it to become leather hard
when you are satisfied with the form.
With a sharp knife cut the top off the form, keeping in mind to mark one side so you
know which way the lid goes back on. clean the edges. and make small balls of clay
to press into the corners of the lid, and go down into the box as the lid fasteners.
You have made a slab box, leave it to dry thoroughly and it is ready for bisquing!

   
How do I make a ware board?

Make a wareboard

Wareboards: These are invaluable for transporting, drying and storing ware.
Best made from Marine ply 4 gauge is enough, 1m x 50c, is a good size. Cut out with jigsaw.
Cut 40cm long x 4cm dowl in half and nail 10cm in from either side (this gives a fingerhold and is easy to slip into frames (If you've been ingenious
enough to build them )

   
How do I add texture?

Carving without burrs

When carving into leather hard clay, first cover the surface with plastic Wrap. You can draw your pattern on it with a marker. And when you carve there will be no burrs.

   
How do I fire lead free glazes?

Firing lead free glazes

Firing lead free glazes
Changes In Glazes:
Lead free glazes are becoming the standard for commercial use. This is due to government regulation and health concerns by the manufacturers. As the name implies, lead free glazes are made from compositions or materials where lead has not been added.

To eliminate lead, glazes are reformulated. This can change some of their properties. Some of the differences you may notice include:
Does not flow or run as much in firing as lead-containing glazes.
*Brush marks may show after firing
*Not as wide a firing range
*May not be compatible with as many bodies (improper fit). This leads to shivering or crazing of the glaze.
*Colour does not match lead glazes
*More surface defects

For problem-free results with lead free glazes, firings must be more closely controlled and kilns well vented. Bodies may have to be bisqued to a higher or lower cone number to solve a problem.

   
How do I fire my ware?

Thick pieces/Heat control

How can I control my heating?
This depends on the controls for the kiln. With switches, leave them on medium settings longer. It should take more than 3 hours to reach red heat and even longer for thick pieces or a heavily loaded kiln.

Make sure the kiln is well vented below red heat and closed up completely above red heat. Keep the kiln closed during cooling for 8 hours or until well below red heat.

   
How do I mend Greenware?

Mending greenware

When mending greenware, be sure both sides of the crack or bread are damp before using mender or slip to repair. This will help your mending agent adhere much better and form a permanent seal.

   
How do I allow even-drying?

Clay model:

Making your clay model:

Start with something small. Large clay models require a different technique and can be frustrating for the beginner. A large model also requires an armature to be made. An armature is a frame; usually from steel, which is constructed to support the clay model. A further reason for starting small is that the later casting process becomes more complex. A suggested model is a face or hand or something with simple lines and shapes. Do not try using your imagination to model at first. A more imaginative approach can be used later after the foundations of clay sculpture have been mastered.

Begin experimenting with your range of tools and explore the different ways in which they shape the clay. Remember that the wonderful advantage of clay is that you can wipe out any mistakes and start again. Always remember to keep the clay moist with your spray bottle. If you have to leave your model for a period of time, cover it with plastic, making sure that it is fairly well sealed, and moisten the plastic. In this way one can keep a clay model fresh for working on for weeks.

Once your creation reaches perfection and you feel that you have achieved your aim, then the clay can be left to dry. But this drying process should be done slowly, as they clay may crack if it dries too quickly. Therefore, put your model in a cool place to dry and cover it with a slightly damp cloth. Do not allow it to dry in the sun, as this is sure to cause cracking. Once the model is completely dry you may apply a varnish or a coat of paint. Remember that hardened clay is still very fragile and this process is only suitable for indoor sculpture. There are a number of casting techniques which allow the transformation of the clay into a much more durable material like bronze and fibreglass.

   
How do I combat shrinkage?

Joining

Joining two pieces of clay presents more challenges. If the clay is quite moist--not much drier than when it comes out of the bag, we can usually just smoosh it together and smooth out the seam. But if the clay has dried a little, such as when adding a coiled foot to a bowl or joining the corners of a stiff slab box, we need to take care when joining the clay. The surfaces to be joined should be thoroughly roughened by scoring with a serrated rib and moistened with slip. It's a good idea to repeat the scoring again after the slip has a chance to soak into the clay. Daub on a little more slip and firmly join the pieces. If possible, it's good to compress the seam by smoothing it with a tool or rib or by paddling it gently.

   
Any tips for handles?

Great joiner/attacher

Use vinegar to attach clay, it works like magic. And if you are trying to attach pieces to work that has gone past leather hard, wrap it all in wet newspaper, then plastic. The moisture will even out and the pieces will stick.

   
how do I dry my ware?

Ideal clay thickness

Overly thick clay can also cause problems. Very thick pieces must be dried very slowly and very thoroughly before being fired. Thick, heavy sculptures are usually constructed of very groggy clay to aid in drying and to prevent cracking. For the purposes of this class, a piece with walls 1/2" thick should be the limit. By learning to work thinner and lighter your forms will become more expressive, and you'll have fewer problems with cracking.

   
How do I add texture?

Simple textured slabs

Go collecting:
Leaves, flowers, pieces of wood, wire, shapes, kitchen tools, doilies, tablecloths any thing with texture are all great for imprinting onto clay.
Roll your slab, approx 3/4" thick, then place your texture items on the slab and roll to approx 1/2"thick, it is now ready to use.
You can place it in a slump or hump mold. Do a basic cylinder, cut into small shapes for jewelry etc.
Remember nothing beats a handmade gift, and with thought you will find the perfect thing for any individual.

   
How do I make a plaster mold

Making Plaster Molds

Making a Simple Plaster Mold

Plaster molds are used in ceramics to pour multiples of a single object with liquid clay (slip). Making a mold can be a daunting task, depending on its complexity.

Due to the length of this tip, it is placed in the Articles section of this site 'Making a simple plaster mold'
Or go to:
http://www.ceramics-tips.com/RscArticleV.asp?id=375

   
How do I make coils?

Sculpture Armature

How to Make a Sculpture Armature

Here's How:
1. Get a piece of plywood. Two-ft. square by 1/2-inch thick.
2. Get a galvanized plumbing flange with a 1/2-inch threaded hole.
3. Attach the flange to plywood either at corner or midway along one side.
4. Attach a two-ft. section of 1/2-inch galvanized threaded pipe to the flange.
5. Next, attach a 90 degree angle connector to upright pipe.
6. Lastly attach a one and one half-ft section of 1/2-inch pipe to the angle connector.
7. Tie copper wire onto the end of the one and one half-ft. section of pipe to support your clay sculpture.
8. You may want to add more wire to support extended sections of sculpture such as arms or legs.

Tips:
1. Use copper wire if sculpting with water based clay. Steel wire will rust.
2. If using water based clay be sure to cover work between sessions to keep clay from drying out.

   
What happens when I roll a coil?

Coil compression

If we want to create a strong ceramic piece, we want to align and compress the clay particles. Again, consider the slate and Jell-O. Suppose we want to make a strong driveway out of the slate. We could have a truck dump the whole mess out in front of the house and kind of push it around to make it more or less level.
Clearly we'd be better off to run a steam roller over the pile to align and compress the mass of slate. With the plates aligned and interlocking we'll have a much stronger driveway.
This is exactly analogous to what happens when we roll clay into a slab. The resulting slab is much stronger than a similar thickness of clay cut from a block. When we roll a coil, the clay platelets align lengthwise along the coil. Throwing clay on the wheel, a potter uses his/her fingers or tools to compress and align the clay as (s)he pulls up a cylinder. Extruded clay is compressed by the edges of the die as it's pushed by. Even in casting the particles tend to align and compress as they deposit on the surface of the mold. Whenever we're working with clay we should look for ways to compress the clay to strengthen our forms. This is particularly true when making joints or seams.

   
How do I make coils?

For Coiling

You will need some slip for building, to make this, dry some clay, the same as the body, crush it and add water to a cream consistency.

You will also need:
A paddle-pop stick
A plastic fork
Old toothbrush
And a wide bladed knife (The old bone handled bread and butter knives are perfect).
You may also need a cardboard box from which you can cut a template. See complete coiling tips.

   
How do I add texture?

Random texture

For random textured slabs, impress food objects such as coffee grounds, wheat bran, and rice. Just make sure you don't get pieces of rice entrapped in clay or they may cause an explosion when firing. .

   
How do I Burnish?

Burnishing

Use a spoon to burnish the bottoms of pieces when they are leather hard. The surface will be nice and smooth. You can also burnish foot rings after trimming in the same way, for a nice smooth finish. You can do the burnishing by hand, or while the piece is still on the wheel after trimming.

   
How do I decorate my ceramics?

Agate-ware: Stained

Agate ware is a decorative ware made from partially blended dark and light clays which give striations. The effect is sometimes created with surface slips. The name comes from the semi-precious agate ston, a form of crypto-crystalline quartz with striated markings.

Though agate ware can be made by using different stains to achieve the colour variations mentioned above.

Procedure:
1. Wedge 3 kg fine white earthenware clay.
2. Cut into three.
3. Add stains to desired colour to the three batches.
4. Roll slabs of the three colours 1/2" thick
5. Cut the slabs into 1/2" wide strips.
6. Align the strips into a pattern and roll, turning frequently to join.

This slab can be used as is, in a slump or hump mold, or can be further dissected into a patchwork design or made to order with colours purposfully positioned to form a decoration or drawing.

Have fun with this as it is a wonderful technique and one well worth mastering!

   
How do I prevent clay sticking to my tools?

Achieving clean cuts

When cutting clay pieces, first dip your knife in vegetable oil so it glides right through the clay. WD40 works also, but has a chemical smell. Both will burn off in the kiln.

   
How do I emulate a piece I have seen?

learning procedures

Think about the applications of the pinch pot technique. We have done shells, bottles, fish etc, but the uses are endless. Pinch pots can be used as sprigs on larger pots (as handles or adornments), made into pumpkins, for soup tureens, or as animal sculptures. Dragons lend themselves well to this technique, as do birds and the human form. Delving into pinch pots, slab and coil, as we have lately, should give you the knowledge to decipher how a pot is made by looking at the finished article. This may sound strange, but ceramics is about problem solving. In order to create your vision you need to know how. There is no point in creating a bird, wings first, as you know they cannot stand the pressure of the building process of the body, so too, all ceramic structures have their steps. These steps enable the artist to achieve the desired results, cleanly, and with the least amount of double handling and maximum flow of procedure. This step mentality, will give you a firm grounding of the procedures used in a piece, to achieve the best results. with the least resistance, and is well worth thinking about and noting.

   
How do I fire my ware?

Thick pieces/firing schedule

Am I firing too fast?
All bodies expand when heated and shrink when cooled. If the outside wall expands more than the inner wall, stresses occur. If these stresses are large enough, they pull the body apart and cause cracking. A 1" thick wall can have more than a 10°F difference in temperature between the hotter and cooler surfaces. Firings need to be slowed down for thicker wall pieces. Likewise, it is important not to cool too fast.

   
how do I dry my ware?

Drying tiles flat

To keep tiles and other pieces of clay flat as they dry, sandwich them between pieces of drywall. You can stack many layers this way.

   
How do I care for my tools?

Clay sticking to tools

Having trouble with clay sticking to your molds, rolling pins, and canvas?
a) Use pantyhose to cover molds, rolling pins, etc.
b) Sprinkle the surfaces with cornstarch. It will burn off in the kiln.
c) Cover items with Saran Wrap or newspaper.
d) If you're using the slab roller a lot, the canvas can get wet and cause sticking. Use separate pieces of cloth (old sheets are great and you can get them at garage sales for 25 cents) or thick plastic instead of placing the clay right on the canvas.

   
What are oxides

Oxide colours

Our glazes and clays are colored by the oxides and carbonates of various metals. Iron oxide is red, cobalt carbonate is lavender, copper carbonate is green.... These are what give the un-fired clay and glazes their colors. If we adjust the burners and damper of the kiln to fire the kiln with excess oxygen--enough to burn all the fuel, plus some--the metals will take on their most oxidized forms in the fired clay and glazes. This is called oxidation firing. Copper glazes will be green, and iron bearing clays will be orange, red, or brown. Electric kilns always fire in oxidation.

   
What is Greenware?

Greenware

Almost all the drying shrinkage happens between the wet and leather hard state; so once the piece is leather hard, it can be dried more quickly. When the piece is fully dry the clay color will fade, and the piece will no longer feel cool and clammy when held to the cheek. At this point it's called bone dry. Any unfired piece is called greenware. Once a piece is bone dry, it's ready to be bisque fired.

   
How to I prepare and make slabs?

Basic preparation

Slabs
One of the easiest techniques a potter incorporates, this technique is used for a
multitude of purposes....from a basic flop moulded bowl to intricate formed plaster
relief slabs that are then made into boxes or sculptures.(See the work of Gabrielle
Schitzenbaumer)
The simplest method of rolling slabs is of course a slab roller, if you have access to
one, but most of us use the rolling pin method. A large rolling pin is needed without
moving parts. Also 2 wooden boards 1 inch wide x 1cm thick, these are used as a
rolling guide.
Cut a piece of clay from your block, pace a cloth over a flat surface(this stops the
clay from sticking to the surface) and roll from the centre outward, then turn the slab
over and procced as before.....repeat this process until the clay slab is approx 1.5 cm
thick.
Place roller guides on either side of slab approx 1cm from the sides and roll flat.
Your slab is now ready to use!

   
How do I make a coil pot

Adding handles and attachments

ADDING EXTRUDED HANDLES AND ATTACHMENTS:

These are the easiest handles and lugs to make, though making them look a part of the pot is quite a challenge, but can be achieved with practice.

1. Crosshatch and slip joins and pot at locations of adhesion.
2. Press handle on firmly, wiggling until adhesion is felt.
3. Sponge to clean.

   
Have I allowed enough time for carbon burnout?

Cracking/Exploding

Have I allowed enough time for carbon burnout?
It is important to burn out all carbon from the ware before higher temperatures are reached (1200°F or 650°C). It takes time for oxygen to move into the pourous body, react with the carbon and then leave. If carbon remains, many problems can occur. These include problems with colour, glaze fit, strength, blistering and discolouration. Use of a downdraft vent system, combined with slower heating, virtually eliminates carbon related problems.

   
How do I join my clay?

Visible Joining

Sometimes we want to preserve the texture of the joined pieces, so we don't want to work the seam too much. In such cases it's best to:

Assemble the clay as wet as possible.

Smooth it as much as we can from the inside of the form. The textured side can be supported by a slightly damp sponge or towel.

Go ahead and smooth the joint but then cover it with a trim piece that can be textured to match or complement the piece.

Pots assembled from pieces or with added handles or appendages should be dried slowly.

   
What are the common faults in greenware?

Trapped Air

Air trapped in the walls of pieces. When a pot is fired the first action of the kiln's heat is to drive off the water in the clay. If the clay has air trapped in it, the air pocket can fill with steam. As steam is heated it expands, and if the kiln gains temperature fast enough the steam can build up enough pressure to blow out the wall of the pot. Clay straight from the bag can usually be assumed to be free of air pockets, but reworked clay needs to be wedged to eliminate air. When joining or adding clay to a form, we need to be careful not to trap air in the joints. Also, thick walls tend to hide air pockets and trap the moisture needed to cause disaster. Thin and light is the way to go. If your pot explodes it can destroy other's work also!

   
How do I mix my plaster?

Simple round mold: step 1

To make your mold you will need a container, this can be a box formed with wooden planks, held together with clay or any disposable container you have on hand.
A pack of potters plaster.
A baloon or ball (this will be your mold shape).
Soft soap if using a ball, (available at pottery suppliers).
Water.
A Bucket for mixing.

   
How do I allow even-drying?

Removing slab canvas marks

To smooth a slab surface and eliminate canvas marks, use a squeegy or a paint scraper / putty knife/ spatula thing, or wooden ruler.

   
What is handbuilt ceramics?

Handbuilt Ceramics

You don't have to throw pots to be a successful ceramic artist. Handbuilding your figuring, pot or plate can yield beautiful and unusual results. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced potter, handbuilding offers a wonderful creative opportunity and you can discover tips and techniques for your handbuilt ceramics project at ceramics.lifetips.com.

   
How to Do Easy Relief Surfaces

Easy Relief Surfaces

How to Do Easy Relief Surfaces

Flowers, abstract geometry, letters, anything -- making complex relief surfaces on your pots, tiles or sculptures is easy using shellac. This technique is especially suited to fine clays like porcelain or porcelaineous stoneware, but could be used on just about any clay.
Difficulty Level: Easy Time Required: 20 min

Here's How:
1. Dissolve shellac flakes to a thin, creamy consistency in Methylated Spirits (Alcohol).
2. Paint your designs with various brush sizes on to bone dry greenware.
3. If necessary apply a couple of coats. This will depend on the initial consistency of the shellac.
4. Let the shellac dry thoroughly. If you're in a hurry, you can use a hair dryer set to 'hot'.
5. Carefully wipe back layers of clay with a wet sponge. The clay will stay raised where you have applied the shellac.
6. After drying, the process may be repeated for layers of various depths.
7. Decorate, glaze and fire as usual.

Tips:
1. Be careful not to use too much water at any one time, otherwise cracks may appear, especially on thin ware.
2. Further effects can be achieved by additional carving.
3. Try experimenting with other nontraditional resist materials, like house paint!

   
How do I do a hump mold?

Slab hump moulds

Slab hump mould:

This is a similar technique to the slump moulds, except that we are using the clay over the mould instead of
in the mould.
Roll slab as in introduction, place it straight over the desired mould with a piece of
newspaper between. The difference between the two techniques starts here, because
clay shrinks, the form must be watched closely, and removed before it shrinks so
much it cracks. When dry enough to handle, gently remove from mould and place rim
down to dry.
The piece is now ready for bisquing!

   
What are the stresses in handbuilding?

Stresses

Most pinch pots, coiled or slab built ware generally have thicker walls than their slip cast cousins, although molded pieces ay be cast heavily as well. With these types of pieces, the thicker walls create some unique challenges for firing.

Basic problems that can occur when firing handbuilt or thick cast ware include cracking (or exploding) and carbon burnout. Because of the thicker walls it is important to fire slower and control heating and cooling during firing. Preparation of the piece is important as well.

During forming, stresses within the piece may result in hairline cracks that appear during firing. It takes longer to fully dry a thick piece. Uneven drying can result in warping or cracking.

For pieces properly prepared, handled and dried, the next critical step is firing.

   
How do I make coils?

Making coils

Coil Pots: Coils are made by rolling clay on a table. Start out by squeezing the clay in your hands to form a rough fat coil. Then roll this coil back and for the on the table, giving it its momentum with the full length of the inside of the hands. To keep the coil from flattening out it is important that you do not press down too hard and that the coil makes at least one complete rotation as it is pushed in one direction.
T make a long coil use more clay and when rolling, start with your hands in the center and move them apart to either end of the coil.
Rolling dries out the clay so start with moist clay.

   
What are some vairiations on pinch pots?

Variations on Pinch pots

Variations on pinch pots 2 shells

Once you have the sphere (joined and smoothed), gently pull the ends out into points,
by rubbing and compressing the clay with your fingers. Do this on both ends. Flatten
the base by gently banging it on a wooden or cloth surface. Take a ruler and press it
into the clay on the fattest end, to form a spiral, go around the spiral with your fingers
pinching the clay to form the conical end of the shell.

Leave the form to become leather hard, then with a sharp bladed knife, slice the
length of the shell from the base of the conical decoration to the very end, approx.2cm
from base. Gently fold the base in on itself to form the bottom of the shell, and pull
the top flap out and curve it and press it to form the top of the shell.
Sponge and smooth, and it's ready for bisquing!
Example at htpp:www.anywhereis4u.com Then go to handbuilt page.

   
How do I wedge my clay?

Wedging-Under-wedging

Under-wedged clay is hard to throw because it is not ‘warmed up' properly and you could ‘pull a muscle'so to speak. Also, it's problematic because it allows air bubbles to remain in the clay. For example, have you ever had a nice cylinder pulled up high and you find an air bubble in the bottom, this indicates you have under-wedged. Try to pop the bubble with your penknife tool then smooth it over with a few pulls. This may not work and you will have to start over. If you find the air bubble near the lip, cut it off just below the bubble and proceed with some nice pulls. For best results and more enjoyment, take the time to properly prepare your clay - especially for throwing pots.

   
How do I decorate my ceramics?

Perfect circles

To make large perfectly round shapes, use lids from an old set of cook ware. Coat the edges with oil first to keep them from sticking to the clay.

   
How do I make a simple plaster mold?

Simple round mold: step 4

There are so many uses for this type of mold. The simplest being to roll out a slab of clay, rip it into manageable sized pieces and place them in the mold, pushing them in firmly and evenly once you have covered the mold in this manner, lift one side around and over the top of the mold giving you the base to keep building. You can do a sealed sphere in this way, shape, using the air inside to hold the shape, just like a large pinch pot. From this you can add a neck (remembering to cut away the inside of the neck when leather hard), base, handles, lip anything you like.

   
How do I wedge my clay?

Wedging

One reason we wedge clay is to compress it or to align
and press the particles tighter together . If clay is not compressed properly, it can easily pull apart while you are trying to work with it. For example, have you ever had this problem? While you are pulling up a cylinder, the top ring of clay tears and comes off. Assuming you're using good clay and your pulls are consistent, this happens because the rim isn't compressed.

   
How do I fire my ware?

Firing thickcast ware

Handbuilt or thickcast ware

Most pinch pots, coiled or slab built ware generally have thicker walls than their slip cast cousins, although molded pieces may be cast heavily as well. With these types of pieces, the thicker walls create some unique challenges for firing.

Basic problems that can occur when firing handbuilt or thick cast ware include cracking (or exploding) and carbon burnout. Because of the thicker walls it is important to fire slower and control heating and cooling during firing. Preparation of the piece is important as well.

During forming, stresses within the piece may result in hairline cracks that appear during firing. It takes longer to fully dry a thick piece. Uneven drying can result in warping or cracking.

For pieces properly prepared, handled and dried, the next critical step is firing.

   
What are handbuilt firing issues?

Firing Issues/cracking

Firing Issues

Is the ware fully dry?
Ware that is not adequately dried will crack or explode during the early stages of firing. Water inside the pores of the ware turns to steam, exerting pressure inside the ware. To fully dry a thick walled piece, the ware needs to be warm for more than 12 hours.

   
How do I make a coil pot

Burnishing

Burnishing

The technique of burnishing pottery can be traced back to ancient times.

Burnishing involves no more than rubbing the clay surface with a smooth tool to produce a mirror-smooth surface. In reality it has a compressing effect on the clay particles. It can be done when the clay surface is leather hard and up until it is almost completely dry. Most clays are suitable for burnishing although the finer the clay the smoother the burnished surface.

Suitable tools for burnishing include: Smooth rounded
beach pebbles, The convex side of metal spoons and smooth knife handles.
After the pot is smooth, draw your design with lead pencil then scratch around design with a knife. Designs can either be geometric or organic. Once the pot has been blackfired it can be left without further
treatment or polished with oils to enhance the shine.

   
How do I decorate my ware?

How to make a test seive

Test Sieve:
A small test seive is a must, for experimenting with glazes and oxides.
They are very easy to make and become invaluable.
Purchase a strong plastic container approx 1 ltr capacity. with a rim
on the base, the rim gives the sieve strength. Also purchase 200 mesh wire, it is expensive but only a tiny circle is required.
cut around the rim with a stanley knife, heat a long handled knife in an
open flame (a gas kiln is great), and gently melt the plastic around the
hole and stick the mesh to the molton plastic.
This technique can be used on a bucket seive as well for large batches
of glaze.

   
Where do I start?

To begin

What do you need?

Once you have your clay then the following items will be essential. One needs a range of tools with which to shape the clay. These tools are sold at hobby shops and are usually in the shape of cutting wires, knives and spoons. However, one can use almost anything to shape soft clay, including old kitchen implements. Even pieces of wood and steel can be used to shape clay in a unique way. All sculptors have their range of favourite tools, and these are often not bought but made or found.

You will need a solid surface on which to work. A piece of masonite board is an excellent surface as long as it is not too thin. Remember that clay is wet and must remain so throughout the working process, this necessitates that the board or surface you work on should not be too thin, otherwise it will be prone to warping.

Other items that are extremely useful are: a sponge for smoothing and even shaping the clay and a spray bottle for keeping the clay moist.

   
How do I do a flop mold?

Slab flop moulds

Slab flop mould:

Anything can be used as a mould, although plaster is preferred, any object can be
used.
Roll slab as in introduction, leave it to firm approx 1/2 hour.
Gently insert slab into mould and press against walls, trim excess, and leave till leather
hard. Remove from mould and allow to dry.
The piece is now ready for bisquing!

   
What are some easy projects?

Textured cylinder

What you'll need:
Clay, I suggest raku
rolling pin
cardboard roll(anything from a toilet roll to gladwrap roll)
sheet of newspaper
sticky tape
collected texture tools.
Roll and texture your slab, leave to harden for approx 15 minutes, until it is workable.
Cover your cardboard roll with newspaper just tightly enough so the newspaper just moves on the roll.
Measure and cut the clay to fit the roll with approx 1/2" overlap.
Gently roll the clay onto your covered cardboard roll
and join with your fingers.
Cut around the base of the cylinder, and while still on your cardboard join to the cylinder.
Leave till leather hard, the smooth the joins.

These make great vases, be sure to glaze inside and out, or pencil/pen holders, you could also attach a handle to use as a personalised mug.

   
Why does my ware crack?

Firing too fast

Am I firing too fast?
All bodies expand when heated and shrink when cooled. If the outside wall expands more than the inner wall, stresses occur. If these stresses are large enough, they pull the body apart and cause cracking. A 1" thick wall can have more than a 10°F difference in temperature between the hotter and cooler surfaces. Firings need to be slowed down for thicker wall pieces. Likewise, it is important not to cool too fast.

   
What is Agate-ware?

Agate-ware

Agate ware is a decorative ware made from partially blended dark and light clays which give striations. The effect is sometimes created with surface slips. The name comes from the semi-precious agate ston, a form of crypto-crystalline quartz with striated markings.

Procedure:
1. Wedge 3 kg clay: Ikg fine white earthenware, 1kg fine terracotta and 1kg buff raku. (You will find, that using the same brand of clays will enable more confomity in shrinkage)

2. Roll slabs of the three colours 1/2" thick
3. Cut the slabs into 1/2" wide strips.
4. Align the strips into a pattern and roll, turning frequently to join.

This slab can be used as is, in a slump or hump mold, or can be further dissected into a patchwork design or made to order with colours purposfully positioned to form a decoration or drawing.

Have fun with this as it is a wonderful technique and one well worth mastering!

   
Where do I begin?

Where to start?

Working with clay
One of the most important things to do when working with clay is to feel it. This may sound silly, but getting used to the texture and feel of the clay is important. The reason for this is actually very practical. There are many different types and qualities of clay and each type of clay is suitable for a particular task. When buying clay ask about the amount of grog that the clay contains. Grog is a hard element in the clay that determines the strength or weakness of the material. If you are going to use the clay for sculptural purposes then you need strong, flexible clay; while smoother clay with less grog may be more appropriate for pottery work.

However, there are no hard and fast rules and I have often used a clay that was deemed for pottery in my sculptural work. This is what one has to develop a "feel" for clay. It is only through actually working with the particular clay that one establishes a sense of its quality and ability.

   
How do I make slabs?

Rolling

If you like to work on pieces of clay that require rolling to form thick sheets for cutting out flower petals and leaves, you may find that the clay sticks to your roller. Next time, try putting a piece of plastic between the clay and your roller to prevent this from happening.

   
How do I combat shrinkage?

Memory

Another property of clay closely related to shrinkage is memory. Imagine rolling a slab and cutting a strip which we bend into a circle. If we let the strip dry we'll find that the circle opens up as the strip tries to straighten itself out. We say that the clay has memory of when it was a straight piece of slab. When we roll the slab we align and compress the platelets in the clay.
Then when we bend the strip we squeeze the particles on the inside of the circle together and make space between the particles on the outside. As the water leaves the clay, the particles can move, and they arrange themselves to eliminate the stress. This straightens the strip a bit. We most often have trouble with memory when we put a handle on a pot. The handle wants to straighten out; so if we don't attach it really well and dry it slowly, it may pull itself off the pot.

   
What are some easy projects?

Slipcasting

Methods of Forming with Clay.

We're most familiar with un-fired clay in the moist or "Play Dough" state. But if we consider the fired clay objects we encounter in our lives, most are formed from either liquid clay (slip) or dry clay powder.
Slip casting is commonly used to mass-produce the low-cost dishware and pottery (vases, flower pots, knickknacks...) we have all around us. Even toilets are cast from dense porcelain. Slip is poured into plaster molds which absorb moisture from the clay at the surface of the mold. This clay solidifies to form the cast piece. After the excess slip is poured from the mold, the piece is allowed to partially dry and then removed from the mold.

   
How do I paint Eyes?

Painting Eyeballs

Everyone's eyeball is white
Except on the morning after the night before, everyone's eyeball is white.

   
How do I decorate my ware?

Christmas decorations

You can make an unusual background for Christmas decorations by dipping a pine or spruce bow in slip, fire it on a tile and spray-glaze it.

   
What tools do I need to make a coil pot

Making a coil pot

Making a coil Pot.

You must have an idea of your shape in mind before you begin. If it is a difficult shape, prepare a template from cardboard (any cardboard box will suffice), cut out your shape and use the negative template during building to keep the form true.

1. Cut rolled slab for base.
2. Cross hatch the outside of the base with the fork, approx. ½ “.
3. Apply slip with the toothbrush, ensuring roughness.
4. Place coil onto base, so the outside of the coil sits on the outside of the base. Supporting the outside of the coil with one hand, take your paddle-pop stick, and in a downward motion spread the coil onto the base, do this all around. In an upward motion, supporting the inside with other hand, join the outside of the base to the coil. Back to the inside, spread the clay back up from the base to the top of the coil stretching it against your supporting hand. Turn the piece over, and in and upward motion, join coil to base.
5. Turn back and with your fingers spread the clay, always supporting the opposite side, and keeping shape in mind till about ½ thick.
6. Place next coil in position. The shape dictates where the coil is placed. If it goes out, place the coil on the outside, or on the inside if you want to narrow the shape. Start on the inside with the paddle-pop stick joining coil to pot, then outside pot to coil, inside pot to coil and outside coil to pot. Once again build and smooth with your fingers to ½” thick. Smooth inside and out with your knife.
7. Repeat the above until piece is complete.

Note:
The form must be supported at all times. I really can't stress this enough!!!
If the form is too soft, let it stand, if you continue to work on it, it will collapse.
Keep form in plastic, to keep it from drying out, from day to day.
If it does dry out, spray lightly with water and cover with plastic.

*Happy Potting*

   
How do I add pulled handles

Pulling Handles

Pulling Handles
This is the most common technique among studio potters, as it is time and energy efficient and gives the most professional result.

1. Roll a coil of clay approx.1” round.
2. Holding your arm straight up to the ceiling hold the coil and wet the other hand, pull down the length of the coil wetting your hand as necessary until it is approx. ½” round.
3. Just pull the last 2” of the coil now, keeping arm extended, pull handle between index and middle finger alternately with a rounded hand pull, until desired thickness(approx. twice the finished handle).
4. Place the pulled handle on a wooden board and continue these steps until the required number or handles have been pulled.

Note: Handles will go askew if arm is not held rigidly straight.
See notes for attaching pulled handles.

   
How do I make coils?

Start Handbuilding

Hand-building with standard clay. The possibilities are endless for hand-built ceramics. It requires the use of a kiln (see above). But otherwise the investment needed is very low. Clay itself is inexpensive. ($6-10 per 25 lb bag) A rolling pin, newspapers or cloth, and other ordinary household items are all that are required. With a book on hand-building, most anyone should be able to start making pieces on their own.

   
What are some vairiations on pinch pots?

Pinch Pots

Take 2 pieces of clay, approx 3" square.
Roll in your hands to form balls.
Place one ball in the palm of your left hand(for right-handers, opposite for left-handers), push thumb of opposite hand into the centre of the ball, to approx 1/2" from the base.
Gently but firmly rotate your thumb to make a cup shape approx 1/2" thick all over.
Repeat with second ball of clay.
With a fork, cross hatch both openings.
With a toothbrush, wet the openings with water, be sure to make the edges course as this aids joining.
Gently but firmly, press openings together.
With a paddle pop stick drag the clay over the join, going one way (up or down) then doing the same in the other direction.
Roll a small coil and place over join and redrag the clay in both directions.
Smooth your ball with a flat-blade knife, and leave to stand approx 1/2hr or until firm.
Roll a small coil and join to ball (incorporating the cross hatching we did earlier), to form foot and neck.
When neck is firm, you can cut out the hole inside the neck.
Smooth.
Your piece is now ready for firing!

   
How do I paint Eyes?

Highlights in the eyes

Highlights in the eyes
When working on figurines or animals be sure to include the highlights in the eyes. This is a small reflection of light in the iris, to the side of the pupil. It can be added with the tip of a sgrafitto tool, pin or lace tool for a tiny dab of white. Do not allow the white eyeball to show above the iris as this gives a fixed staring expression to the face.

   
how do I dry my ware?

Shrinkage

By far the biggest technical challenge clay will present us with is shrinkage. Clay shrinks as it dries, and it shrinks again when it is fired. Most stoneware clays shrink by 10 to 15 percent from the wet to the fired state. The exposed edges of a pot will dry more quickly than the bottom, and thin parts will dry and shrink faster than thicker parts. If one part of a piece dries and shrinks before the rest, this sets up stresses in the piece that will often crack it either during drying or firing. Try and keep the thickness of your pieces uniform, and dry them gradually and evenly by covering them with plastic and periodically turning them over to dry the bottoms.

   
How do I fire my ware?

Firing thick/Dry fully

Is the ware fully dry?
Ware that is not adequately dried will crack or explode during the early stages of firing. Water inside the pores of the ware turns to steam, exerting pressure inside the ware. To fully dry a thick walled piece, the ware needs to be warm for more than 12 hours.

   
What is clay?

Dry Clay forming

Dry clay can be formed into very simple shapes (typically tile) by compressing it into molds under very high pressures in hydraulic presses. Larger more complex forms such as planters, bowls, or plates can be pressed with slightly moist, extremely hard clay. While we usually associate these processes with industrial production, artists and designers are increasingly using them to create forms that don't lend themselves to the more traditional moist clay methods.

   
How do I care for my molds?

Plaster in your clay

Be careful not to get plaster in your clay. In the studio the wedging table, various molds and bats are made of plaster. Plaster (calcium sulfate) in the clay is transformed by firing to become calcium oxide or quicklime. Quicklime is unstable--it absorbs moisture from the atmosphere. When it has absorbed enough water to become stable calcium hydroxide, the lime will have expanded to 30 times it's original volume. If this happens in the wall of a pot the pressure of the expanding lime will blow out the surface of the pot leaving a crater with fluffy white powder at the bottom. This will usually happen after the bisque firing. Plaster molds are easily chipped or scratched which can dislodge bits that get into clay. Be very careful when working with plaster, and never use metal tools on a plaster surface.

   
What is Leatherhard ?

Timing your work

Usually we can only do so much to a form until we need to let it dry a bit in order to finish it. Clay dries to a point where it becomes stiff but still has a somewhat malleable surface. This is what we call the leather hard state. Leather hard clay retains the wet clay color and will yield when gouged or scraped with a fingernail. At this stage the clay is firm enough to handle but not as fragile as when it's fully dry, so it's usually best to finish or refine when the piece is leather hard. Finishing means cleaning up seams, surfaces, and edges to give our work a polished look. Sloppy joints, leftover scoring marks, and jagged cut edges are the stuff of which Cs and Ds are made. Coarsely treated clay can be quite expressive and appealing, but if you choose to work this way be aware that there is a very fine line between being spontaneous and being a slob. If you're not sure what the difference is, keep your work clean for now and come back to explore this later.

   
How do I stop corners drying prematurely?

Good slab support

To support your slabs while handbuilding, try cutting your templates out of roofing paper (tar paper) or cardboard. They will support the slabs so you can assemble them while they are still soft. Keep it attached until the clay hardens, then peel off.

   
How do I fire my ware?

Thick pieces/Carbon burnout

Have I allowed enough time for carbon burnout?
It is important to burn out all carbon from the ware before higher temperatures are reached (1200°F or 650°C). It takes time for oxygen to move into the pourous body, react with the carbon and then leave. If carbon remains, many problems can occur. These include problems with colour, glaze fit, strength, blistering and discolouration. Use of a downdraft vent system, combined with slower heating, virtually eliminates carbon related problems.
Heating & Cooling Control
The best way to control cracking problems during firing is by controlling the rate of heating and cooling for the kiln. During firing, materials that make up the body undergo many changes. Special care must be taken at temperatures below 1500°F (815°C) to heat the body uniformly.

Remember, the thicker the wall, the slower the heating should be done. Above 1500°F temperatures can be increased more rapidly because the changes are less likely to causes stress cracks within the ware.

   
How do I make a simple plaster mold?

Simple round mold: step 2

Mixing the plaster.
To a bucket 1/2 full of water, add potters plaster by the scoop and distribute evenly over the surface of the water keep this rhythmical action going until you notice islands of grey plaster forming through the surface, keep sprinkling the plaster onto the watery areas until all plaster is damp and grey. Place hand into bucket and stir, trying not to break the surface as this introduces air. When mixed pour your plaster into your waiting mold surround.

   
What is Agate ware?

Agate ware.

What is Agate ware.

Agate ware is a decorative ware made from partially blended dark and light clays which give striations. The effect is sometimes created with surface slips. The name comes from the semi-precious agate stone, a form of crypto-crystalline quartz with striated markings.

   
What are some vairiations on pinch pots?

Variations on pinch pots 1

Variations on Pinch pots:

And these be endless. Some examples:

When you are happy with the form and before the leather
dry stage, gently bang the base on a wooden or cloth surface
(so it doesn't stick) to get a flat base. This is the method
used to square off a piece too, or gently but firmly tap
the sides of the piece with a wooden spoon, or piece of wood.
Once you have the base flat, roll a coil, and using the same,
joining technique, crosshatch the top of the form and the coil,
apply slurry or water with toothbrush and coil a neck, smooth
coils inside and out. (Remember you need to cut a hole later,
so it is advisable not to go too high!)

   
How do I decorate my ceramics?

Simple slab pieces

Try rolling a simple slab, approx 1/2" thick, use a cookie cutter, to cut out shapes, decorate with underglaze, then finish with clear glaze.
The variations to this are endless, you could draw a design onto some paper, then using carbon paper, trace it onto the clay and use it as your template to cut around, this is particularly good, as you have the lines to follow for your decoration. You can add pieces of clay to build a texture, or accentuate a piece with a later lustre firing.
The object of the exercise is to let your head go, and have fun with it. The recipient will be pleased you made the effort!!!
*Happy Potting*

   
How do I make a dog´s bowl

Make a dog or cat bowl

You'll need 1kg of Raku clay, and you.
start by flattening out 100grams of clay to form a base, place this in a plastic covered dish, to keep the shape and roll yourself some coils with the remaining clay. place a coil on the already formed slab, and pinch and pull it so it adheres to the slab, use your fingers to meld the to the right thickness approx 1/2". Keep joining coils in the same manner until the bowl is the correct size. Leave to dry and decorate as you like. Any local gallery will fire your piece for you.

   
What is Paperclay

Ceramics Description

ceramics
Objects made from clay, hardened into a permanent form by baking (firing) at very high temperatures in a kiln. Ceramics are used for building construction and decoration (bricks, tiles), for specialist industrial uses (linings for furnaces used to manufacture steel, fuel elements in nuclear reactors, and so on), and for plates and vessels used in the home.
Read my entire article on "Ceramics Description and history" in the Articles section on this site
Or go to:
http://www.ceramics-tips.com/RscArticleV.asp?id=374

   
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