How to Work With Moist Pottery Clay
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Working with moist clay is a satisfying outlet that comes from hand-building a piece, sculpturing a form, or throwing on a wheel. Clay comes moist, usually in 10 lb. bags, and in a variety of textures. Textures range from porcelain clay, which is smooth like butter to coarse, which is heavily grogged (crushed fired clay in various sizes). Since clay was not made to be worked for a long period of time, you will need to keep it moist while working it. For the simple clay shapes, very little equipment is needed. For more complex pieces, you will need more elaborate equipment like a pottery wheel or slab roller. Here are some recommendations for working with this medium.
Place the clay on a covered board. This helps soak up the excess water as you work with the moist clay. When you first take your clay out of a newly purchased package, it will be moist and ready to work with without adding any moisture. If it has been sitting for a long time on a store shelf, you might need to moisten the clay.
Condition the clay--also known as kneading the clay. The purpose of kneading is to spread the clay minerals, making it more malleable, adding water if needed, and expelling air bubbles. Cut the clay in half and place it on top of each other. Begin to knead it (just like kneading bread), turning the clay as you knead.
Cut the clay in half again, and knead again. You need to do this about 20 times or more. The clay is ready when it is smooth and all the air bubbles are gone. The clay is only ready for use after it is well processed.
Form in a round ball. You are now ready to roll out your clay, if you are hand-building or using a mold. Place the clay between two pieces of wood and roll it out with a rolling pin.