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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


Picture 2At 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…



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  Picture 7Selecting a Pottery Clay Body
by Bill Jones

Most potters use commercially-prepared clays, and ceramic suppliers and clay manufacturers want to make sure you’re getting the clay you need. Here’s a checklist for selecting the right pottery clay for you whether it’s earthenware, stoneware or porcelain.

  Picture 6Buying Porcelain
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!

  recycling_500Recycling Pottery Clay in Your Studio
by Jonathan Kaplan

We all make clay scraps when making pottery, and because this happens at various stages in the making cycle, we need a way to bring all of that clay to an even level of moisture and consistency so it can be used again. Here is a simple way to recycle your pottery clay without a lot of equipment or hassle.

  How Much Clay Do You Need?
by Robin Hopper

For potters it’s hard to visualize just how much clay you need to last a month or three months or six months. But if you know that you can get 50 coffee mugs from a 50 lb. box of clay, you at least have an idea of what you’ll need before you order again. If you make a chart like Robin Hopper’s, you’ll be able to judge your clay supply with no problem.

  Picture 3How 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.


claybloatingHow to Prevent Bloating in Your Clay Body

by Dave Finkelnburg

Bloating in fired clay is always a puzzle. How is it possible for a fired object to have its surface distorted by an unsightly, unintended bulge that wasn’t present when the work was loaded into the kiln? The challenge with bloating is getting past that frustration to focus on preventing it from recurring.

by Vince Pitelka

Pottery clay has it’s own unique language. You’ll find this glossary helpful when deciphering the unique language of clay.




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About Ceramic Arts Daily:


Ceramic Arts Daily is a free online website and newsletter written and produced for the benefit of potters and ceramic artists worldwide. The newsletter features both renowned and emerging artists, their work, techniques and artistic perspectives. Regular features include tips and techniques designed to help every artist expand their skill set and widen their artistic horizons. Ceramic Arts Daily also delivers video tips, in which potters and ceramic artists demonstrate various projects and processes. Think of them as e-workshops!


Ceramic Arts Daily is designed to be interactive, inviting your comments and fostering a community in which each person can contribute to the growth of their own and others’ skills. You may be surprised at what you learn!


Ceramic artists on Ceramic Arts Daily know what ceramic art is all about – from functional pottery to abstract ceramic sculpture. This is about community. You’ll be drawn in by artists’ stories, inspired by their work and find confidence to try some of their techniques. With Ceramic Arts Daily, you’ll learn a little bit of everything. Then you can choose the techniques you enjoy the most to create something new!


So start today by downloading our free Successful Tips for Buying and Using Pottery Clay How to Select the Right Clay, Estimate Your Clay Needs, and Test Clays for Better Results. Then, get ready for Ceramic Arts Daily to introduce you to new artists and show you new techniques!

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