How to Process Your Own Clay for Pottery

The processing of clay to make pottery was a milestone for man. It meant having light and durable storage vessels. Furthermore, clay was readily available from the environment thus inexpensive. Centuries later, decorative pieces came to be, identifying communities through their unique styles. Today, pottery is a very relaxing and fun form of art with an increasing number of people using pots as decor.

Potters can buy clay rather than make their own. Commercial clay saves greatly on time and work. However, processing your own clay is cheaper and helps you develop an appreciation for your environment. Besides getting your hands dirty could be just as fun.

With that said, it is only right that you learn to make your own clay. Clay processing is quite simple and once you get it right, highly rewarding. Fortunately, most soils contain clay. Even the one in your backyard. Still for a higher yield, it is best to know areas with plenty. These include;

ü  Riverbanks

ü  Road cuts

ü  Gullies.

ü  Construction sites

Before deciding to harvest clay, do a simple test. Add water to your sample and roll it into a snake. Tie it around your finger and see whether or not it breaks. If it does, then it isn’t good clay.

There are two methods of clay processing, the dry and wet harvest method. The dry method is best for areas with water scarcity while the wet method is better for areas with plenty. Below, are the steps to follow for each.

THE DRY HARVEST METHOD.

  1. Dry the soil completely in the sun or by fire.
  2. Crash into a fine powder.
  3. Sift it to remove organic debris. Organic debris could build up steam and blow up your wares during firing.
  4. Add water and knead and it is ready to use

THE WET HARVEST METHOD.

  1. Collect your soil from beneath the top soil since top soil has a lot of debris.
  2. Add the soil to a level of 2/3 in a container and break the clamps.
  3. Add water to your soil and stir.
  4. Leave it to sit. You will notice two layers of clay water and silt.
  5. Pour off the clay water into another container to separate it from the silt. Leave the clay water to settle and repeat the process to remove all silt.
  6. Let it settle again for hours. A distinct layer of clay settles below a layer of water. Pour off the water to leave clay. Do this repeatedly.
  7. Using a fine cloth, filter your clay. Pour the clay onto it the cloth and fold it into a bag. Hang the bag from a tree. Water drips from the fabric and and the clay hardens. Leave it for 2-3 days while checking its consistency. If the clay can be moulded into a ball, it is ready.

8.Temper your clay by adding larger particles to your clay to restrict its  expansion during firing thus avoiding explosion. Use sand or tiny rock particles. Simply form discs with the clay and sprinkle the temper over it. Try using different amounts of temper until you find the perfect mixing ratio.

9 Make test pieces to test for the workability of your clay and the maturation temperature. For your test piece, make small bowls.

With that your clay is ready for use. If you are a beginner, you will want to start small. Make a few clay mugs until you get the hang of it. Over time, you will start to become better and even enjoy it more.

Tips for selecting the right Watercolor Paper

It’s not uncommon for people to feel daunted and confused by the sheer volume of paper choices whenever they walk into an art shop. Perhaps the last time you walked into one you got flustered and decided to walk out. When it comes to watercolor painting, it’s important to choose the right quality paper as it is the foundation of your artwork. Choosing the right watercolor paper for your painting work doesn’t have to be as daunting and confusing as it seems to be.

Quality and Production

The first thing you want to think about is the quality you want. Are you looking for an artist-grade or student-grade paper? Note that watercolor papers can be handmade, machine-made, or mold-made. Both hand-made and mold-made watercolor papers are stable and durable with irregular surface textures that are pleasing to work with. Papers made by hand are more stable and stronger though. You should, therefore, consider handmade papers if you’re looking for artists’ quality papers. Machine-made papers are often used for student’s quality artwork as they are less-costly and prone to deterioration especially when wet.

Watercolor Paper Texture

When it comes to texture, it often depends on your individual painting style as well as personal preference. There are three watercolor paper textures; the hot press paper, cold press paper, and rough paper. The hot pressed paper is preferable for artists who love detailed work as it has a smooth, hard surface. The most versatile and popular texture- cold pressed watercolor paper has a lightly, semi-rough textured surface. Finally, the rough watercolor paper is suitable for painters looking to add luminosity and visual interest in their artwork due to its rough texture that’s good for washes.

Weight Matters

Watercolor papers are measured by weight- numbered in grams per square meter or pounds per ream. Usually, the heavier the weight of a paper, the pricier and studier it is. If you’re planning to use a lot of washes during painting, then its best you choose a thicker paper. A 90 pound paper is best used with less water and won’t survive a lot of abrasion and scrubbing. The most commonly used water color paper- the 140 pound paper, can handle a bit of water and abrasion or scrubbing. The 300 pound watercolor paper is as thick as cardboard and doesn’t need stretching.

Watercolor sheets, Pads, and Blocks

Watercolor papers are commonly packaged in individual sheets, blocks, or pads. Buying individual sheets is great for larger works and also allows you to tear them down to your preferred sizes. If you’re looking to keep your artwork as a collection, consider pads with a spiral binder. Blocks are usually bound around the edges making them easy to transport. While you won’t have to stretch the paper before using it the fact that you need to remove each of the 20-25 sheets to start another piece of painting makes it problematic.

In conclusion, understand that there’s no one best watercolor paper for artwork. However, there’s only what works best for your specific artwork. Consider experimenting with various brands and different kinds of watercolor papers to find what best works for you.