Personalize Your Clay Cutters

You can never have enough clay tools IYKYK.

Today I’m going to share one of the ways I make personalized cookie cutters for clay jewelry, but really for any time you need a unique, small cutter.

Tools Mentioned

  • Safety Glasses – find ‘em here
  • Tin Snips – feels just like using a power tool here
  • Masking a Tape

All tools noted above are my own personal preferences for my studio practice. Purchases made using the links don’t add any cost to you, but do provide a small amount to me in support of my blog and videos.

Floating Ceramic Pendants

I’m having so much fun sharing jewelry tips with everyone! Today I’m sharing an easy way to make your pendants so you need fewer jewelry findings after firing – always a good thing in my book!

Tools Mentioned

  • Wooden Skewer – definitely check the dollar store or here
  • Pin Tool – an example here
  • Smoothing Rib – an example here
  • Even Dough Bands – an example here

Be sure to check out the other videos mentioned: ceramic beads and rolling out a slab!

All tools noted above are my own personal preferences for my studio practice. Purchases made using the links don’t add any cost to you, but do provide a small amount to me in support of my blog and videos.

Beads, Beads and More Beads!

Making jewelry with my own handmade ceramic components is a fun side project of mine. Occasionally I get the urge to display them to the world, but mostly I do it for me.

I thought I’d share some of my love of ceramic jewelry making with you in a series of fun tutorials! First up, let’s make beads!

I absolutely love making beads. Surprised? You’re probably not the only one since I make them, fire them and then … they just sit in a box or bowl. I have quite the collection of them along with other ceramic jewelry components.

Tools Mentioned!

  • Wooden Skewer – check the dollar store or online here
  • Wooden Modeling Tool – example here

All tools noted above are my own personal preferences for my studio practice. Purchases made using the links don’t add any cost to you, but do provide a small amount to me in support of my blog and videos.

How to Roll a Clay Slab (No Slab Roller Needed!)

One of the first things you miss as a hand builder when transitioning to a home studio is the slab roller or, at least, it was for me.

I pulled together my tips and tricks of rolling a slab at home for you in this video. Do you have any tips of your own to share? Let me know!

My go-to tools for rolling a slab!

  • Canvas or duck cloth – available wherever fabric is sold and inexpensive. Get a few yards and then cut to fit your needs.
  • Wooden trim – available at any home improvement or hardware store. Be sure to get 2!
  • Rolling pin, extra long!
  • Even Dough Bands

Thank for checking out my latest video! Like the rest of my tutorial videos, it is me raw and unedited.

All tools noted above are my own personal preferences for my studio practice. Purchases made using the links don’t add any cost to you, but do provide a small amount to me in support of my blog and videos.

How to Smooth a Clay Edge Without Water

Water is great for so many things not the least of which is helping us stay hydrated, but, in my humble opinion, not so wonderful when it comes to working with clay.

As I mention in the video, I receive no money (its not an ad) from any of the companies who make the tools I mention – they are all of my own personal choices honed over my years of working with clay. I feel strongly that all of us eventually find the right tools that work best for each of us personally.

Surform Shaver Tool – Also available at your local home improvement store.

Mud Tools Polymer Rib

Some links in my posts may contain affiliate links for products I personally use and recommend. If you choose to purchase using these links your price for the item remains the same, but I receive a small amount towards supporting my blog. Thank You!

Exploring Mishima

Mishima is one of my favorite techniques in my toolkit. I love how you can create so many different looks using multiple layers of texture and colored slip (liquid clay) or underglaze on the surface of a piece.

In today’s video, I show the final part of the process where the excess underglaze (I’m using AMACO Velvet Underglazes) to reveal the inlaid color. You can see an alternative version of using underglaze in a similar way at the bisque stage here.

This video contains some affiliate links to products used in the demonstration. There is no change in price if you decide to purchase using the affiliate link provided, but I get a small amount towards supporting my blog. Thank you!

A Little Bit of Experimentation

Just sharing a little bit of my behind the scenes process (or lack of it in this case!) with some experimenting I did on a planter yesterday.

I’m using for this process Amazon Velvet Underglazes. I don’t really explain this in my talk, but underglazes are essentially commercially produced colored clay. However, what differentiates them from a colored clay or colored slip you may make yourself is the range of versatility of when you can apply them. Unlike colored clay/slip which can only be applied to moist clay, underglazes can be applied to moist clay, bone dry clay or even after bisque fire. This technique I’m showing here takes full advantage of this flexibility to be used at the bisqueware stage when sponging your piece is safer. Enjoy!

All of my designs came about through similar times in the past when I was trying new ideas. Check out the ones that made the final cut here!

Repeating Stamps

As some of you may know, I hand make a lot of my texture tools from clay. Among my absolute favorites are the stamps that can be used both as a single impression and as a repeating one that creates an entirely new pattern.

I love when I learn that one of my stamps is capable of creating a pattern or two. For those who don’t work in clay, it’s not possible to fully test a new stamp until after it has been fired. It can be like Christmas getting new stamps back for their first impression testing and not all of them make the cut let alone the creating a new pattern cut.

I thought I’d share one of my favorite pattern creating stamps with you today! I created this one using a plaster carving technique to achieve fine lines in the stamp.

First, a single impression of this stamp.

Now, here is the start of building the pattern. First, I did a row of the stamp all oriented in the same direction across the length of the slab. Then, I flipped the orientation 180 degrees to create some great rounded rectangles in the negative space.

I really like when I figure out great patterns like this one to create with my stamps. I love using the positive and negative space to leave some parts of the pattern bare clay and some parts glazed. Sometimes I alternative which parts are glazed and which parts are bare clay. It really gives me so many opportunities from a single stamp!

Check out my Squares series in the planters section of my online shop to see this stamp in action and glazed!

Here are a few behind the scenes shots from my photo shoot of my stamped pattern! This is my baby boy Bennie! He is 15 years old and loves being a studio cat!

Its Good to Have Standards

Last fall I worked out and began creating standard sizes for my planters. It makes life so much easier. I no longer have to sit and sort pots by approximate size to figure out the right prices. I no longer willy-nilly cut out slabs of clay and hope that the proportions make sense once I start to form them.

Lots of unexpected things have worked out as a result of this change too. I can easily size up or down my planters with very little effort. Before I would make what I thought were larger and/or smaller sizes only to discover there was not as much variation as I had anticipated. I can also list multiples of the same planter design in my online shop since it has become a no-brainer to re-create the same dimensions.

But the best result of standard sizes? You’ll never guess, but my planters now all nest perfectly inside one another. Isn’t that cool?! I think that’s so cool!

Foot Problems

As I shared in my last post, I have struggled with getting a great foot on my plates for a long time. I thought I’d share today what I’ve learned through my challenges.

First off, a great foot does way more than most people realize. Sure, it has to add to the aesthetics of a pot, but more than that it comes down to structural integrity. The most beautiful foot in the world is worthless if the piece slumps during firing. I always recommend to students to focus first on good construction before they start to get fancy.

It’s the marriage of the two – structure and aesthetic that is one of the ultimate challenges of clay. The other, for those curious, is non-dripping teapot spouts!

Without further delay, I’d thought I’d share my tips and tricks for a successful plate foot.

Use a Thick, Long CoilWhile there are many ways to create the basic plate foot – slab, tripod feet, etc., the most stable that I’ve found is a rolled coil. The trick is to roll the coil slightly longer and thicker that you think you’ll need for the end result. Length is important to give you options to ensure the foot is big enough to structurally support the curve and width of the plate. Thickness is equally as key since you’ll have more clay to use for attaching the foot well.

Marking Foot PlacementIf I had a dollar for every time I spend time figuring out the right placement for my foot, only to have to repeat the exercise after slipping and scoring I’d be rich! Slipping and scoring of clay is like the glue that holds to pieces together. Once its been done you run the risk of tearing the foot and/or the plate as you try to figure out the right placement. I like to mark the inside of my foot ring lightly with a skewer, but anything not too sharp will work.

Slipping & ScoringAs I mentioned earlier, this is the glue that holds two pieces of clay together – all of the smoothing in the world won’t save you if forget to slip and score. Technically speaking, the amount of slipping and scoring that needs to be done depends greatly on the moisture level of your clay – both the pot as well as the foot. Extremely soft, wet clay for both and you might get away with not doing it at all. Leather hard clay (meaning it holds its shape but can still be dented with a fingernail) and both pieces need to be scored, slipped a couple of times to bring the attachment areas to a moist enough level for attaching.

This is typically where I see a lot of folks go wrong, They don’t take into account the moisture levels of the pieces being attached and don’t slip and score enough. Generally, the plate (or pot) will be firmer and the foot softer resulting in unequal levels of wetness. For some reason people tend to score/slip the softer clay, relying on the extra moisture to hold the attachment when raising the firmer piece’s attachment area to the same moisture level as the softer clay would be more effective.

Scoring the Foot Ring Into the PotI love, love, love this tip I picked up from Amy Sanders’ Ceramics Arts Daily video on textures. Her DVD is full of so many great tips and tricks, but this one is like a good foot – structurally sound and aesthetically pleasing. She uses a metal rib with teeth to score her foot ring into the pot. She leaves this texture visible on her work, but I use it for my starting point to smooth the coil into the piece. So much easier to grab just enough, but not too much clay to smooth with this rib than any other tool I’ve tried. Once I’ve done this additional scoring, I smooth the clay in a horizontal motion. I find that this delivers a one-two punch of compressing the clay in multiple directions to prevent cracks.

Flaring Out the RingA subtle, but necessary part of the foot process, if like me many of your plates get hung as wall art, is to flare out the foot ring. In addition to having enough clay to adhere the foot well, that extra thickness in the initial coil also helps here since you lose a small amount of width in the flaring process. I use either a curved rib or my finger to gently push out from the interior while my other hand supports the exterior of the foot ring. This subtle flaring allows a wire to wrapped around the foot ring for hanging – the flare prevents the wire from otherwise slipping off.

Simulating the TableA big part of a good foot is one that will allow your piece to sit correctly on a table, etc. The challenge in hand building plates is that often they are constructed, like mine, upside down. How to solve for a flat foot when you can’t turn over the piece until both the foot and plate can hold their shape? The answer is easy, you simulate the table with a piece of wood or a bat. This trick can be used even before attachment to see if a tripod foot, for example, will sit level. Once the board has been placed on the foot just gently press down to remove any raised areas.

That’s it! A few, hard earned tips to a good plate foot.

You can check out my finished plates online in my Etsy shop!