Spring is Here!
With an unusually warm February come and gone, it's time to really start gearing up for spring! The official start of the season is on March 20th, but we're not waiting around to get to work in the studio! After the lull of winter, there are likely to be some chores that need doing to whip your creative space back into workable shape (I know mine is a horrid mess!), so we've made up a little checklist that might be helpful to you!
Spring Studio Cleaning Checklist
Stepping into a dirty, disorganized studio can really put a damper on your creative motivations. Take a day this weekend to do some spring cleaning, and your artist within will thank you for it!
One question we get a lot is "How much clay do I need to make ____?" Alternately, there is also the "How many mugs can I make with a box of clay?" version. It's something everyone asks at some point in their clay explorations, usually more than once! While meandering through the archives of Ceramic Arts Daily, I came across this great diagram by Robin Ouellette and wanted to share!
If that is too small to read, here's a charted version:
This is obviously just a general guide, and you may need to use more or less clay to achieve these forms. Happy potting!
I can't believe it's already November, but here we are. If you plan on making some of your gifts this holiday season, it's time to get in gear! Between making, drying, firing, glazing, and re-firing, there is a pretty substantial lead time on any clay project, so don't procrastinate! Get ahead of the holiday-gift game and start today. We love these little textured dishes because they are easy to make, look great, don't require many tools, and the technique can be adapted to make almost any form!
Using your rolling pin or hand roller, press the clay onto the texture slab with moderate pressure. Make sure to roll in multiple directions, and all the way to the edge of the mold. You can gently lift one side of your clay slab to check and see if the design is imprinted. If it is faint, continue rolling with increased pressure until you get a good impression.
Carefully remove the slab from the mold and lay it flat with the textured side up. Using your paper plate as a template, cut out the shape of your dish using the fettling knife or a similar cutting tool (you can even use a butter knife in a pinch). Turn the paper plate right-side-up and set your round slab into the center. Lift the plate a few inches off the table and let it drop a few times. This will help the clay settle into the form and take the shape of the plate. If the paper plates you have are not very sturdy, you can double- or triple-layer them to help support the clay.
Using your thumb, gently press on the sharp edge of the rim to soften it. Continue this soft pinching motion all around the rim. Don't worry if it isn't perfect, there will be more opportunities to refine later. Let the plate set up for about an hour, or until it becomes soft leather-hard.
When the plate has set up to the soft leather-hard stage, it can support its own weight without the paper plate form. Once your piece is out of the paper form, gently turn it over and set it on a bit of foam to prevent damage to the texture. Keep in mind that this is a dessert-sized plate, and for larger forms like a dinner plate, you will need to add a support underneath once you remove the paper plate form and flip the clay piece over. I find that sponges work well for this.
Roll out a thin coil and tap one side to make it flat. Score the flat side of the coil and the bottom of your plate on the "shoulder", where the flat bottom starts to turn into the rim.
Brush a bit of water, slip, or vinegar onto the score marks and connect the foot to the plate. Using a rib, blend the coil onto the bottom of the plate on both the inside and outside of the foot. Make sure to use one hand to support the underside of the plate opposite where you are pressing the rib, keeping the foam in between to act as a buffer and protect your texture. Once the foot is blended, you can go back with your sponge and refine the foot and rim. Try not to use too much water, as it will soften the clay again and cause distortion to the shape.
Last but not least, once the foot has set up a bit (about 30 minutes), flip your plate over and give the foot a few gentle taps on a flat surface. This will level out the foot so the plate doesn't wobble.
Tada! You just made an awesome appetizer plate/ring dish/catch-all/soap dish/you-name-it! Aunt Rosie will be in raptures!
Bonus tip: Choose a glaze that accentuates texture, like Mayco'sElements Glazes or Foundations Sheer Glazes!
Most of us at some point will have to ship a ceramic piece, whether it be for a gallery, online customer, or Aunt Bernadette's birthday. After spending hours making a beautiful cup, plate, sculpture, etc., the last thing we want is to hear that the precious cargo arrived in shards! Amaco published this great video that covers the basics of packing pots for shipping:
A Few More Tips
Why and How to Make Your Own
Making pots takes time. Decorating them takes even more in some cases. One thing that is always at the forefront of a potter's mind is the moisture state of the piece. If it's too dry, the carving tool will leave ragged edges. If it's too wet, the clay will stick to the tool and smear. Timing that handle attachment or that mishima scraping is a major part of our art that takes practice and patience to perfect. Let's face it, though: we all have busy lives, and sometimes, time constraints don't allow us to wait for just the right moment. Luckily, there is an easy solution that makes a great addition to your studio: a damp box.
A damp box is a humid container in which to store in-progress claywork. You are creating a makeshift version of this every time you put a plastic bag over an incomplete piece. The advantange of a damp box is that you can do this without the hassle of the plastic bag, or the potential surface marring it can cause.
Now, you could pay hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars for a fancy damp cabinet from a manufacturer, but I'm a broke twenty-something who pinches every penny until they beg for mercy. Why pay all that money for something you can achieve with $20 and 30 minutes of your time?
Once you have chosen your box, you will need some plaster. I prefer a medium-density plaster such as Puritan Pottery plaster or #1 Casting plaster (both are available at Armadillo Clay). You will want to weigh out about 10 lbs of plaster for a 30-40 gallon box. Smaller boxes will use less plaster. Assuming you are using one of the two plaster choices I recommended, you will need about 6 1/2 pints of water to make up that 10 lbs of dry plaster. In a clean bucket, measure out your water, then add in the dry plaster and mix for about 5 minutes. Make sure to wear a respirator! Once your plaster is well-mixed, carefully pour it into your box until you have about an inch depth of plaster in the bottom. Too much, and the box will be very heavy. Too little, and your plaster layer will be prone to breaking when you move the box around. Let the plaster set overnight, lid off.
Your damp box is ready to use! Make sure to leave the lid off when it is not in use, to avoid mold growth. If you do get some mold growing, you can spray the plaster slab with a bit of well-diluted bleach. To recharge your damp box, just pour some fresh water onto the plaster slab. I prefer to have a layer between the plaster and my pots, so I cut some old Orton Cone box liners to make a soft sponge layer on top of the plaster. Once you have a damp box, you'll wonder why you didn't make one years ago!
Do you have an upcoming show or event? Email us with a .JPEG postcard image and the basic info about the show, and we can post it right here on our blog!
Ceramics-related events only, please!
E-mails can be sent to melissa[at]armadilloclay.com.
Please note: The events page is a courtesy for local artists, and we cannot guarantee every submission will be posted.