Question:

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.

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.

Smooth sharp or chipped edges on bisque ware

Smooth sharp or chipped edges on bisque ware before you glaze and final fire your work. Unfortunately pots are very vulnerable at the bisque stage and especially if you work in a community lab or you share a studio your bisqued pots are bound to get chipped or broken at some point. Use sandpaper on broken or chipped areas or they will become razor sharp after a layer of glass has adhered to them! Fortunately many hardware stores carry specially cut and reinforced smaller pieces which are perfect for smoothing over the rough bottom or edge of a bisqued pot. It's a good idea to go over rough spots just before you glaze them. Sandpaper is our friend.

Never bisque a piece that's not completely dry

Never ever bisque fire a piece that's not completely dry. This does not require much explanation. Any piece which isn't completely free of moisture, or bone dry may explode and destroy other pieces in the kiln. If there is moisture in the piece, when you put it next to your cheek it will feel cold.
Handbuilt pieces with thick surfaces will take much longer to dry. When in doubt - wait a day, it certainly won't hurt.

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.

Line your shelves

Lining your ware shelves with newspaper is an easy way to keep the shelves from getting stained, and also keeps the pieces free of leftover clay particles. This is especially useful if you alternate between red and white clay.

Ceramics Frequently Asked Questions

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Tammi Reynolds