Sunday, May 16, 2010

Paper clay and Speed Drying

Paper clay holds up very well to speed drying.

What is speed drying?
It is using an external heat source to speed up the drying of the paper clay. Below are examples of heat sources available.
  • the sun (it's free)
  • electric heat gun
  • propane torch
  • microwave oven
  • regular gas oven
Why speed drying?
It allows the soft paper clay you are working on to firm up enough for you to continue working.

In Southern California, especially during the hot summer days, the sun provides you with a free energy source. When this is not fast enough, I use my propane torch to "spot" dry areas that I want firmed up.

Why speed drying works in paper clay?
The microscopic tubes in the paper pulp act as channels for the steam and hot air to escape so your piece does not blow up. Sometimes, when I get very aggressive with my propane torch, small surfaces of my paper clay piece flake off with a popping sound when I hold the flame too long in one spot. This is telling me that I've over-stressed that part of the clay and the sound I hear is a "mini steam explosion." Time to ease off on the propane torch. Or move the propane torch more often to reduce "hot spots."

I've even "zapped" small paper clay pieces (especially lugs for vases, etc) in my old microwave. The principle is the same as discussed above. The steam needs to have an outlet and as long as there is one, you can speed dry your paper clay. I started with a low setting (50% power) for about 15 seconds and gradually build up my courage to do a full minute at full power. My pieces come out of the microwave oven hot and steaming so care must be taken when handling them. Once cooled, they are firm enough for me to continue my project.

You can never be this aggressive with traditional clay so please don't try this or you will have a mess to clean up!

Speed drying is yet another "tool" in your "paper clay tool box" to work your clay. You are not bound by traditional ceramic techniques that have been taught and still continue to be taught in all ceramic art schools.

See earlier related post on "forced heating."

Disclaimer: Use caution, wear gloves, and eye protection for your own safety when operating electric and/or gas tools. Use at your own risk.

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