Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Are You Spoiled by Paperclay?

My answer is a resounding "YES!!"

Just last week in the ceramics studio at the Irvine Fine Arts Center where I do a lot of my work, I found several slabs of a brown clay thrown into the trash bin. As most ceramic artists can attest to, we all hate to see such good clay go to waste so I salvaged the clay, determined to make something out of it.

The occasion presented itself as the IFAC will be holding a fun succulent planter show in about a month's time. I remoistened the already rolled clay slabs to make them softer than leather hard so I can put them over a form. I used a wok as my master mold.

Everything proceeded as planned. The clay was drying nicely. For the feet, I made 3 stout tapered cones and set them aside to firm up. They were later attached to the wok shaped body with paperclay slip after throughly scoring and slipping the areas to be joined.

If I had used paperclay, I would have let my wok-shaped form  and the feet dry completely and then do a dry to dry join. BUT... with a traditional clay body, I CAN'T.

I noticed where the feet joined the bottom of the form, my wok shaped dome was indenting a bit so I decided to fix it by inverting the shape back onto the wok and thought it was a simple matter of pushing the feet against the master mold. Lo and behold when I did that, a very big crack opened up from the edge to almost one of the feet. "Oh, crap." I yelled silently.

I had forgotten how weak regular clay is OR rather, I had gotten used to the superior strength of paperclay in its dry stage. Well, now what? Chuck it? Try to salvage it? I decided to try the latter and filled the crack with mushy paperclay and slip.

I am totally spoiled by the paperclay I've been using. First of all, I would not need to join the pieces during its moist leather hard stage but rather wait for all the parts to be completely bone dry. Second, even if I cracked the main bowl, it's not a problem joining the piece back with paperclay. Another experience to drive home the point, perhaps it's better not to be "cheap (maybe, frugal, is a better description)" and let regular scrap clay remain in the trash bin!

A good lesson to be learned from this experience is that I should be able to fix the crack with paperclay - theoretically. I'll attempt the mend and put the piece through its paces to a Cone 10 fire and see what happens. If it holds up and everything is good, then, it's another point for paperclay!

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