Buying or making the right pottery clay is one of the keys to success in your studio. There are many variables that determine the right clay body for your needs including color, temperature range, the type of pottery you make, and what kind of forming methods you use, just to name a few. Whether you end up using earthenware, stoneware, or porcelain (or perhaps all of these) depends on you understanding the properties, benefits, and drawbacks of each type of clay. Most of the value in a piece of pottery is in the time and effort you invest, and the clay is one of the least expensive elements, but that does not mean it is the least important – quite the opposite. Becoming familiar with the types of clay bodies available will allow you to make smart design decisions and can open up new areas of creative exploration.
Here’s a sample of what you’ll find in Successful Tips for Buying and Using Pottery Clay: How to Select, Process, and Test Clay Bodies for Better Results:
Testing Clay Bodies
by Paul Andrew Wandless
At some point we all change clay bodies for one reason or another. Whether you want a body that shrinks less, has more/less absorption, a lower/higher maturation point or just a different color, there are hundreds of commercial clays to choose from. While most clays have pretty good general catalog descriptions of what they are and what they can do, once we apply our specific working and firing processes other issues can arise. A combination of tests can give you plenty of information that makes choosing and learning about a clay body a little easier.
Why Test Pottery Clay?
Testing clay bodies provides you with information that you can observe, touch, and feel first hand in your own environment. While a catalog photo shows what a body may look like fired at one or several cones, it may not tell you what it will do at the cone you’re firing to. Basic clay bar tests give you information more specific to your needs, and a 25-pound sample is usually enough to complete all the tests you need.
What to Test
Tests should be done at multiple temperatures to yield the widest range of information on the body. You need to understand the same general characteristics at every temperature you fire to, and even at temperatures you may want to fire to in the future. I test at every potential cone I may fire to and keep records of all the results. The three important general characteristics are shrinkage, absorption, and warping/slumping. Other important qualities to note are color, texture, plasticity, and hardness. Some results are determined with visual and touch tests while others require simple formulas. All require consistency of procedure so the results you achieve are created under the same conditions.
Download your free copy of Successful Tips for Buying and Using Pottery Clay: How to Select, Process, and Test Clay Bodies for Better Results to see the rest of this article and the articles below…
by Antoinette Badenhorst
The lure of porcelain can be so irresistible! Working with a pottery clay that’s smooth, white, and translucent certainly has its appeal, but at what cost? Working with porcelain takes a bit of a change in how you work, what you make, and what your skill level is. Check out what it may take for you to switch — porcelain may be just the thing!
||How to Wedge Pottery Clay
by Michael Wendt
No potter really likes to wedge, but it’s a necessary step in getting clay uniform for throwing or handbuilding. While spiral wedging is widely practiced, over time it’s hard on the hands and wrists. With this stack and slam method of wedging, you can blend colors, textures, and moisture levels into a smooth blend in just minutes without pain.