Thursday, March 12, 2009

Paperclay and Inclusions - Part 1.

© 2009 by Anthony Foo.

This is one of the many great advantages of paperclay. A variety of organic material can be kneaded into or coated with paperclay to create interesting textures. Materials such as grains (rice, beans, etc), sawdust, straw, rice husks, pasta, cotton twine, steel mesh, even high fired fragments embedded into paperclay will fire successfully.

I will use the example of incorporating cooked rice (left over 1-2 day old is best - the kind you use to make fried rice) into paperclay as an example here. I use Brown rice here as this is what I eat at home.  White rice works just as well.

This has become my trademark texture for my hand pinched bowls/cups. I've added as much as 50% cooked rice to 50% paperclay. A higher percentage of paperclay to organic material will be easier to work with. A higher percentage of organic material will be weaker in the bisque stage as there is less clay to hold everything together. I usually use about 1/4 rice to 3/4 clay, by volume. A lot of it is done by eye and feel and becomes more of an art than science. If you want more texture, add more rice and vice versa. Just bear in mind the above comment about post-bisque strength.

This is the reason why cooked rice works with paperclay and not with ordinary clays. The paper fibers in the paperclay act as a wick to transport moisture from the cooked rice to the outside surface  and hence allows it to dry. Ordinary clay will encapsulate the moist rice and it takes "forever" for your piece to dry, if it does dry completely at all. I tried one time with cooked rice and Black Mountain sculpture clay and it took over TWO months (in summer temperature and days in the sun) for it to be acceptable for bisque firing. My pinched bowls survived the bisque firing without blowing up. Compare this time scale with a matter of days when using paperclay for your piece to dry and ready for bisque.

You will be asking "Can I use raw rice?" I have not tried it before, but had a student who used raw lentils and it worked fine. The reason I like cooked rice is because during my pinch bowl forming process, I can "mush" the rice to make it conform to the shape I want. Raw rice grains incorporated into the paperclay will not give at all. You can still work with it, but not as easily in my opinion.

Another advantage of using cooked rice is that you can easily carve, sand, grind your work after it has dried completely. Depending on the thickness of your work, it resulting "completely" dried piece has tremendous greenware strength. I've made a piece that is deliberately very thick and after the bisque fire, took a stone chisel to it to chip away the surface to expose the texture below (Gate 3)

You don't have to knead the rice into the paperclay; you can also press the rice onto the surface of the paperclay to create the imprint. In this case, I would recommend using raw rice as cooked rice will just become mush when you press it onto your paperclay. You don't have to worry about the rice grains which are stuck to the surface of your piece. They will fall off or burn out in the bisque fire.

Hope this helps. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions about this article. I'm also interested in learning about other people's experiences with this technique. I hope this article (and future ones) will also encourage other ceramic artists to push the boundaries of paperclay.


parrotfeathers said...

a few months ago i was introduced to paperclay but i really wanted to try porcelain...i didn't know it was commercially available so i made my own, (sort of) by mashing in big chunks of brown recycled tissue wrapping into coleman's. it's very airy and a nice cream color after high firing.
...and then last night i saw the rice cups and before actually reading this thread i jumped the gun and wedged uncooked white rice into the coleman's paper mix. no idea how it will make it though firing but working with it is a dream :)
the rice made it so sturdy!
anyways, all of that long story was just to say thank you for the inspiration for me to work in whole new way with a plant that i love so much.
if you're interested i can let you know if it makes it through bisque.

Anthony Foo said...

There is quite a bit of info on the internet about making your own paperclay from any clay body you choose. It can be quite messy and certainly time consuming. After making your own paperclay, you would appreciate the ease of getting commercially prepared paperclay.

Yes, please let me know how your piece turns out.


parrotfeathers said...

heh, i actually really enjoy making "my own" paperclay from a prepared body. i think the messiness just makes it that much better for me :)
i enjoy playing the "mad scientist" with herbal preparations so now concocting things with clay it's like there is this whole new, infinite universe to jump into. when my dirt chemistry skills improve i know i'm going to start making clays from scratch.
someday when i can afford to pay shipping on clay i will give the prepared paper porcelain a try as no store around here seems to have it. it was a nightmare just trying to get a hold of stoneware paperclay i needed for a school project. i still don't know i feel about that one. i do know that i will never ever ever ever again try to put that on a wheel. that was a painful lesson.

Anthony Foo said...

Paperclay can be thrown on the wheel. There is a throwing version from Aardvark. I've not used it since I am not a potter.

I see the greatest benefit of paperclay when used in sculpture. The finer the clay body, the more benefit you will get from the inclusion of the fiber pulp in your clay.

parrotfeathers said...

oh yeah i've seen paperclay for the wheel...but this stuff was not it.
i grated off the skin on the side of my hand when i went to center it. i wanted to try it because i was doing less than satisfactory on the wheel and i was trying to find a clay that i could improve my skills with.
i agree though that it is way more suited to sculpture.
i'm loving the porcelain with rice "temporary grog" right now. the things i'm coming up with are so much fun to make in their insanely unbalanced ways...but i am still waiting for experiment 1 to come out of the fire before i move forward.

Anonymous said...

loved the "Dirt Chemistry" term!

check out the launch of the 1st World Paperclay Bread Bake off..

Last weekend a workshop student lent me her electrical breadmaker in Sydney.

We replace 1/2 of the flour mix with dry clay powder and did everything else normal (there was some debate over which cycle to use-I think we selected "wholemeal" :) )

It still tasted a little "breadish" and I'm awaiting for Jojo to fire it to see how it came out of the kiln.



Anonymous said...

Why not ask the manufacturer if they have any retailers near you?


parrotfeathers said...

i'm sorry it has taken me so long to write you back. computer broke and i had limited online time for a long time.

so after about 5 failures and one maybe sorta kinda success i think i figured out the rice deal. raw rice wedged into paper porcelain =no. white and brown rice puffs up and the structure crumbles in bisque. same result with plain porcelain, WSO stoneware, and jamaican stoneware. raw rice stuck on the outside works ok and made it through bisque and high fire but the results were sort of boring...just looked like i stuck rice on the clay.
so i guess you really got it right with the day old cooked!

on another note back in april i started playing with "raw" dried plants in place of glazes in high fire reduction.
dry nori and dry white sage have some really cool results so far.
stinging nettle ashes are pretty too.

Anthony Foo said...

Hi parrotfeathers,

Am glad you have been gotten success with the cooked rice inclusions. I've been using cooked brown rice from the start and it has worked out very well for me. I've gotten very interesting and deep textures with the rice techniques, much more interesting than just pressing the rice on the surface of the clay. I've also used rice husk with paperclay and it gives a more delicate texture.

Wishing you much success in your inclusions.

parrotfeathers said...

yes, i'll have the opportunity to look deeper into rice inclusions over the next few weeks as i have a series of five medium/large sculptures that focus on texture to complete.

best of luck to you as well, (like you need it! your stuff is awesome)!