Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Useful Things to Know When Working with Clay -- Part 1

I've been thinking a lot lately about the merit of a bamboo skewer.  You can get a big package of them for about $1 and they are about the best tool you will find for working with clay.  I've used them to carve details, create molds, poke holes, hold beads for drying, wrap wire for loops and I'm sure I've used them for other things.

Another thing I love is polymer clay.  I use it to make molds quite a bit. You can press buttons into it, as I've mentioned, but try rolling out a sheet and them poking it with the blunt end of the bamboo skewer, or try using a straw.  You quickly create a texture similar to that of a sea urchin test or a tribal design of dots. You can coil metal wire and press it into a sheet of polymer clay and you can create another pattern.  I do this with earthenware clay too, but polymer has the advantage of being able to be baked right away, and test the design.  I've recently been working on molds using polymer clay and bamboo skewers to make floral molds for pendants.

I've learned that stoneware clay makes beautiful raku pieces and that lower temp clay doesn't work as well because it becomes too close to vitrification and won't pull in the smoke as well.  This was a HUGE tip to find because it has a made a tremendous difference.
As you can see these are a big improvement over my first birds.  They hold up to the thermal shock wonderfully as well.

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