Thursday, April 10, 2008

Fun with Paper Clay

After a long period of unmotivation and slight apathy for life, I found some joy in the studio today. For one thing, I've quit worrying about money thanks to my friend Chipotle giving me a job. Not the job of my dreams, but it serves its purpose. So today I finally got to making paper clay, 2 months after I should've started. Boy is it fun! I started out visiting my old friend Sieger in the printmaking studio to get some worn blotter papers. I started in a 5 gallon bucket and tore up 2 sheets, approx. 18 x 24 in. into 1 - 2" pieces. Then added hot water almost to the top, just enough so when I beat it with a drill it wouldn't completely splatter my pants. Drilled it for a few minutes, let it sit for an hour, and drilled it some more. Meanwhile I had some slip going in the pugmill... I didn't mean for it to be slip, but of course I didn't think ahead to dry out the clay before attempting to pug it. First lesson of the day: thick slip cannot be pugged. Damn.

The next fun part was draining the paper... it looked like a fluffy cloud sitting in the sieve :) After squeezing out more water, it felt like wet cotton balls. Go figure - 100% cotton rag paper feels like cotton balls when beaten to a pulp. As obvious as it is, it was still pretty cool. So I took about 1/2 of the pulp ( =1 big sheet of paper) and added about an equal amount of slip from the pug mill. I'm not one to measure things like this, though if you're particular about it, there are books around that can help. Drilled some more, then laid out the p'slip mix on a plaster bat. It felt soft, and my clay-covered hand looked fuzzy. At the same time I laid out some non-paper slip on a bat to dry... is there not a pug mill out there that can dry out your clay while it's mixing?

Several hours later I come back and it's still too moist to work with, so to quicken the process I start hand-stretching the clay into slabs (no slab-rolling involved). By this I mean I start slamming a ball of clay onto the table, picking it up from the edge farthest from me, and flipping it over gently and swiftly so that it stretches evenly. If I only stretch it from one side to the other without rotating, it looks like a lemon, then a surf board. The fun continues!

After stretching and re-wedging the clay several times it begins to dry out, but I realize that the clay looks pretty cool after stretching and rolling it into a cylinder. So I give up on drying it further and improv some vases. Does it matter that they're not "my" style? They're fun to make, and I like them. End of story.

Back to the paper clay... I had some pre-recycled porcelain stiff enough to wedge with the p'slip, though the slip was still pretty slippy and the resulting clay was too moist. Considering what little time I had left in the studio for the night and the fact that paper clay can get pretty smelly pretty quickly, I challenged myself to make a rough mock-up of my planned sculpture in only 3 hours. After 2 tries and only 45 minutes left I decided to give up and use the whole batch of clay to make more slab vases. I wasn't sure if I could make it to the studio tomorrow, and thanks to our lovely director I'm guaranteed to not be in the studio on the weekend, so I thought it'd be best to use up the p'clay before anything could grow in it. Overall, I accomplished my goal. I wanted to test paper clay with my recycled porcelain before I attempted the real thing with my $1/lb. Southern Ice. I'm sure it'd help to experiment more, but with only 1 week left to work in wet clay this semester, I'll just cross my fingers and hope for the best.


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