Monday, 1 February 2010

Clay has rules

It's true. Clay has rules. It doesn't matter how big you are (and I'm pretty big) or how clever you think you are, you cannot escape the rules.

One whopping great big fat rule is that you have to let clay dry evenly. You don't always have to let it dry slowly, but it has to dry evenly. So if you have some bits sticking out - say like... ooh, I dunno, a handle, for example - that's much thinner than the rest of the... let's say jug, for arguments sake... then it's better to cover up the whole thing in plastic and let it dry slowly and evenly.

I know that. I'm not stupid. "So why didn't I do it?" I have no idea. "You can't cheat in this game Linda, you have to play by the rules." If you don't dry delicate items slowly and evenly, as the clay dries and shrinks it will put the clay under stress.

"We know all about stress, don't we Linda?"

Well, you can guess what happened. The handle dried out way before the rest of the jug, and the shrinkage and resulting stress caused it to crack and break.

I wasn't too upset; I was convinced I could fix it. I struggled though, and in the end I thought I would be better off taking the whole handle off and making a new one. I made my new handle, and then while it was setting a little, I decided to moisten the area of the jug that the handle would be attached too. You see, I still hadn't learnt. "That was a very silly thing to do wasn't it Linda?" What do you think happened? "Go on, tell the nice people what happened, Linda..."

Umm... the jug cracked. "Yes that's right, the jug cracked. And why do we think that happened, Linda?" Umm... because the clay expands when you make it wet and it put the vase under... stress. Well, it was only a little crack, and I dunno... maybe I can fill it with slip or something? Anyway, the handle is attached and it is now slowly drying. I have no idea if it will stay attached, or if it will crack again. I'll just have to wait and see.

Mean while I decided to reglaze those little blue bowls again. You know, the ones that went streaky? And I noticed that the glaze was separating on the surface of the bowls as I was applying it. "Ah-ha" I thought "The surface must be greasy" so I washed them first...

One of those nasty bowls which I actually love except for the glaze. I know I should just give up and make them again, but I just can't bring myself to leave them looking like this. (And yes, the photo is still upsidedown and won't let me correct it).

I also decided to wash and glaze that little white vase; I'm not happy with the iron oxide showing through from underneath - it looks like someone has drawn on it with a marker pen and then unsuccessfully tried to wash it off...

But as I was drying it I realised that the warm water had made it crack a little. "Ah-ha" I thought "I have a vase that needs cracking!" So I fetched my ivy vase and ran that under the tap. "Crack".

Unfortunately it wasn't the crack I was after - it was one of the leaves that had got knocked and broken! NO!! Why does my stuff always break?? Why?? First the small ivy vase, then the tree fairy vase, now the large ivy vase... and the jug! I wouldn't mind now and again, but I seem to have more rejects than anything else!

The ivy vase with the crackle glaze that didn't crack.

Do you ever have those moments when you just think: "This whole clay thing was just a big mistake"?


mona said...

Well bummer about the handle but so glad to see you are working your little heart out. :)

Undaunted said...

Thank you for your sympathy Mona. I tell you, I was ready to give up, until I reminded myself that I took the name Undaunted for a reason!

Yeah, I suppose I have been a little busy bee. I have no plans of stopping either. Too much to make, so little time!

baglady said...

Linda- thanks for the nice comment you left on my blog about selling my jewelry. I like how it looks and I get compliments when I wear my own designs, but when I look at all these other blogs and the amazingly creative people, I feel rather inadequate. I like your posts on your journey with clay. I'll be adding you to my google reader so I can follow your creative journey. Thanks- Nancy

Undaunted said...

I know what you mean Nancy - feeling inadequate is something I struggle with. But like you, I get a lot of compliments for the things I have created. I try to remind myself that everyone has their own taste, and what might look inferior in comparison to other work in my eyes, looks superior in the eyes of someone else.

Thanks for coming over and adding me to your google reader :)

Linda said...

Hi Linda, Have you tried working with white stoneware clay, I loved it, its great to carve into and the rest, and fires literally into stone. I've drop one of my old dishes onto the kitchen floor several times with only a tiny chip out of the bottom rim :) being white,rather than the buff,doesn't restrict your color choices for decorating either. Lindaxx

Undaunted said...

Hi Linda, yes, that is the clay I use, white stoneware. The cracking I was refering to is the glaze - I've been using stoneware clay but low fire glazes, and they tend to crack on the inside of vases and stuff, and when they are put in water. So I'll be changing my clay to white earthenware soon. But on the large ivy vase I used a crackle glaze and it didn't crack! It was suggested that this also could be because I am using the wrong glazes with my clay body.

As for the leaf breaking - maybe it would have happened anyway? They stick out in places and are not very thick. But like you, I have dropped bowls and they have not suffered any damage at all, even though they have not been fired to stoneware temperatures.

I totally agree about the colour! I'm not a fan of buff in general. When it's fired it's so... ugly!

Thanks for your suggestions though. I didn't know you were a clay person Linda?