Paper clay is a fascinating substance and one that I’ve been exploring recently. I mixed up a batch using part recycled clay and part bog roll (toilet paper), it was so enjoyable playing with the mucky slush, squelching it together with my hands to get any lumps out. After mixing it for quite a while I then pasted thin layers of it onto a lime stone slab to dry out a little and scraped these off which eventually gave me a lump of workable clay.
The rest of the slush I stored in a airtight bucket and returned to whenever I required slip (clay glue) or needed to make another lump of working clay. The only awful thing was that when ever I opened the lid off of the slurry the most horrific pong drifted around the studio and I frequently needed to reassure others that I didn’t have a bad stomach that day. Apparently a splash of dettol would solve the problem but I haven’ t tried that yet. It seems that the pong results when the organic matter (loo paper in this case) begins to break down.
A carved ivory Chi ball from China.
Once I’ve mastered the process of making different sized balls then I will experiment with creating a piece that has a ball, within a ball, within a ball, within a ball. The great properties of paper clay are that it is light, very strong, shrinks less than normal clay, and can be added to itself in its wet, dry and fired forms. Yes that’s right, I can make part of a piece, fire it to bisque, then add more to it with wet paper clay and fire it again. I don’t know yet how many times this process can be repeated but it gives more possibilities for building sculptures that are structurally impossible to build with conventional ceramic clay and that is very exciting.
So far, these pieces are like three dimensional sketches. In order to understand a new material I often need a certain amount of ‘play-time’ to explore, experiment and enjoy that material before I narrow the work towards a final piece. These are my ‘play-time’ sketches in paper clay.
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