Ceramics for Children Tips

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How do I make a coil pot


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. To 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.

How do I make a textured slab?

Basic slab

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 wedge my clay?

Under-wedged clay

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?


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.

What tools do I need?


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. 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.

What is Leatherhard ?

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!!!

What tools do I need?

Working Surface

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.

How do I make coils?

Ceramics Description

Objects made from clay, hardened into a permanent form by 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. Different types of clay, methods and temperatures of firing create a variety of results. Ceramics may be castor pressed in a mold, hand-built or thrown on a wheel.

How do I make a plaster mold

Slab flop mould

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!

How do I roll a slab?

Sticking textured slabs

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 store my Materials?


Prepare your clay properly.
Wedging is a technique used to prepare clay through kneading the clay then cutting it in half to check for consistency and air pockets. When no air bubbles remain in a cross section of clay you may begin. A good guideline may be about 50 kneading motions per 6-8 pound lump of clay.
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.

How do I make a simple mold?

Slab hump mould

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!

How do I decorate my ceramics?

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.

Can I do ceramics with my kids?

Ceramics for Children

Ceramics is a wonderful artistic medium for children to explore. Hands on sculpting and potting yields wonderful results and teaches children about the different taxtures and methods of ceramics. The best part is that your child can make something they can use, or they can make a gift for someone like a bowl, pencil cup or paper weight. They can also mold clay into different shapes and let their creativity take flight.

How do I make a textured slab?

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.

What do I need to begin?

What you'll need to start potting!

1) A smock (old long shirt, overalls, apron) (to keep your cloths 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

what is a ceramic body?

Feeling the 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.

How do I make a simple plaster mold?

Dog/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.

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PJ Campbell