Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Clay Slab Construction

Today, I thought I would briefly share the basic handbuilding techniques I use to make my Mini Sculptures. There are many different hand building methods and techniques for working with clay, but here are a few of my favorites...

Clay Tools Needed: rubber rib, scoring tool (or a needle tool), a rubber stylus, wooden rib, slip trailing bottle. All of my work is slab built from lowfire clay. Using a slab roller, I roll the clay out to 1/4" thickness. (Before I had a slab roller I used a rolling pin and 1/4" wooden dowels to keep the thickness even.)It occurred to me one day making biscuits, that the same process could be applied to my Minis. I now have biscuit cutters in a variety of sizes and the process is much, much quicker It also keeps the sizes more consistant. (Don't worry. These aren't the same cutters I use on the weekends for fresh parsley, rosemary and buttermilk biscuits.) Oh, I like the clay to be a little wetter than leather hard when I start work work with it.

Each mini is made up of 2 circular slabs. The base is 1/2 smaller than the top. A rubber rib is used to smooth the surface of the clay. I also like working ontop of fabric interfacing instead of canvus because the weave is finer and leaves the clay surface smooth. The top is then pinched into a small bowl-like shapeThe edges of the top and bottom are scored (aka scratched)......and a slip of the same clay body is brushed on help attach the two pieces. The top is placed ontop of the bottom, carefully working the seams together.
Using a wooden rib, I then go around the piece and smooth and attach the two pieces, conceiling the seam.
Fingers also are helpful...
Once the piece if formed, I use my rubber stylus to draw/carve decorative lines or veins.

Again, fingers are great for smoothing those lines.
Now, I leave the piece alone until it is leather hard and then incorporate slip trailing/stippling. More on that tomorrow - including the lowfire slip recipe I like to use.

If you have any questions, or other tips for clay slab construction, I'd love to hear from you!

Thanks for reading!


Judy Shreve said...

This is a cool lesson in slab work. I love how you make one larger than the other - for smooth attaching.

I'd love to see your low-fire slip recipe.

WildMagnolia said...

Thank you so much for demonstrating this. I can't wait to see you decorate. Your eye for color is beautiful.

michele d

Jorna said...

Hi Meagan,
Just discovered your blog and beautiful!! Love your pieces!! Thanks for sharing this technique...:)
Best wishes, Jorna
the Netherlands

bird said...

Thank you for sharing this technique, Meagan. As an art teacher, I am always on the lookout for new ideas.

Meagan Chaney said...

Bird - you are most welcome! I still hope to write a post soon on the slab built tumblers I experimented with in Montana. I'm happy to help share info any way that I can!