Home Depot Love

It’s Friday and time for a field trip! Today we’re headed to one of my absolute favorite places – The Home Depot, and yes, there is a “The” in their name we, or at least I, just never use it! Imagine my surprise when I went to take a picture of the front entrance of my local Home Depot and discovered it there!

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Prior to working in clay, I never really had any need to go to any type of home improvement store for the simple reason that I rent. My first several trips resulted in strange looks and panicked expressions from employees.

Pro tip – the worst thing you can tell a home improvement store employee when they ask what you need assistance finding is that you’re an artist and you’ll know it when you see it.

The more comfortable I’ve gotten with the layout of my store (and really all of them – they are all basically the same) the fewer sideways glances I get. I’ve even managed to meet some extremely helpful employees who, after explaining what I was looking for, have helped me search out and evaluate items from several sections across the store for just the right item.

Let’s go inside and take a look around at all the obvious, and not so obvious, things available for clay use at Home Depot.

Welcome to the garden section of the store. This is a great place to start! Typically housed in a fenced-in outdoor area adjacent and connected to the main part of Home Depot. It is open year-round and offers some great things for clay projects, alternative firings and art fair booth displays.

The very first aisle features clay pots of all kinds. I like taking a look through these for inspiration. You can get a great idea of what constitutes the pinnacle of functionality when examining commercial products. If a commercial product doesn’t have mass appeal and superb functionality it won’t sell – period. Be sure to check out drainage hole size and placement as well as shapes of pots and water catchers.

Ever wonder why so many planters are made out of terra cotta or earthenware? Well, when fired to temperature that particular clay never quite vitrifies and therefore remains porous making it great for allowing plants to breathe. If you’re partial to glazed planters then one solution is to forego glaze on the inside of the pot.

Lastly, take a look at the prices – this will help you gauge your own prices when making planters. While your prices won’t be exactly the same, it will give you a starting point.

Around the corner from the ceramic planters are ones made out of plastic. This aisle is a gold mine of forms of all shapes and sizes for molding your own planter and/or other projects. Since they are lightweight and non-breakable (and cheap!), you’ll be able to get great supports for creating larger forms.

Pro tip – Be sure to grab the corresponding water catcher if you’re form – ahem, planter – comes with one. Often they are molded to have a snap in place feature that is detrimental to using it as a mold for clay (see the two right-hand pictures above for without and with the catcher). If there isn’t one or if even the water catcher has raised parts too then simply fill that section in with clay until level before placing a sheet of plastic over the whole thing to make your clay easy to remove once set-up.

The garden section is all purpose when it comes to clay. Also near and around the planters is a whole area devoted to plant food. For the ceramic artist on a budget, these are great solutions to purchasing many of the minerals and heavy metals that are used in alternative firing options like pit fire. Miracle-Gro, in particular, is a great one to try out.

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Before leaving the garden section be sure to stop by the trellises. They come in all sorts of sizes, shapes and materials. They are great for art fair booth displays if you have tiles or wall pockets, etc to hang. I’ve even used them with fabric tacked on with upholstery tacks for a more finished look.

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On your way out of the garden center, you’ll find displays of seed packets of all kinds. Be sure to pick up a few, along with some good soil, to make seed bombs! Its guerrilla gardening at its finest! Once made, you can throw seed bombs into vacant lots, by the side of the road or anywhere that needs a little sprucing up.


A perfect project for kids and the kid-at-heart, all you need are seeds, good soil and clay. First, create a mixture of soil and seeds and add a little bit of water – just enough to get it damp and you don’t overwhelm your clay. Then get a ball of clay and start to wedge in the soil/seed mixture. There are no right or wrong proportions here as long as there is enough clay to hold the ball together. I would recommend avoiding larger sized seeds as they tend to create cracks after the clay dries. Once dry, your seed bombs are ready to be used (no firing!).


Seed bombs work because the clay gives them heft to be thrown and protection from being eaten. Rain slowly disintegrates the clay while giving time for the seeds to sprout. Its a lot of fun!

Pro tip – Be sure to pick up seeds for wildflowers and grasses native to your region of the world.

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Adjacent to the garden section are lawn mowers, outdoor grills and other yard appliances and power tools. A quick look through shows us a few great texture making purchases!

One of my latest favorites in the studio’s found object collection for texture is an air filter! While these are available in many stores and places, here are a couple for lawn mowers that are a nice, not too big, size. The best use? Personally, I like to roll my coils into them (any direction works) to create texture coils to use as handles for mugs. I’ll be featuring my favorite texture making tools throughout, but I encourage you to explore on your own as well. I always find something new when I visit.

Next up is lighting! This section can get a little overwhelming. The most important thing I’ve learned is to ignore the actual lights and focus on the lighting hardware.

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This rather fuzzy photo (sorry!!) is of a lamp making kit. These are great for ceramic artists. First, it makes you realize how absurdly easy it is to actually make a custom lamp. Second, most of them, like this one, come with rubber cylinders to help you fit the lamp kit securely into the top of your lamp. In this kit, you can see them in the upper right hand corner.

How do you make a lamp out of clay? Make a form – it can be literally anything – that meets the following criteria:

  1. Some height is necessary to balance out the lamp shade. I would recommend a minimum of eight to ten inches
  2. Some weight is necessary. Lamps can get bumped and knocked over. You’ll want to make sure that your base is not so lightweight that it can’t take normal wear and tear. Stable is a word that should come to mind when creating your lamp base.
  3. There needs to be a small opening at the top no bigger than 2 inches in diameter. Don’t get too caught up in precise measurements since that’s why kits have rubber fitters.
  4. There needs to be a hollow path running down the interior of the lamp to hide the cord. Typically, this is a no-brainer since good clay construction practices encourage hollow interiors.
  5. Lastly, you’ll need an exit hold near the bottom and in what you consider to be the back of the base. This allows the cord to exit so the lamp can be plugged into the wall. It should be approximately 1/2 inch in diameter to account for shrinkage.

That’s it. It seems so simple after all, doesn’t it. It makes you wonder why everyone isn’t creating lamps!

Pro tip – Look for lamp shades at thrift stores, discount home good stores like Ross or TJ Maxx before trying other places. You might find a great bargain!

Next up in lighting, you’ll want to check out all of the electrical gear. There are some really cool and unusual textures to be found.

First up, these metal tubes (no, I don’t know the real name) are for corralling and protecting wiring – they are great for rolling into clay. They come in several different diameters and can be cut up into smaller more manageable pieces if necessary. Sometimes it helps to bring a friend or two with you on a texture shopping excursion to split the cost and materials!

Second, another, and recent, favorite of mine are outlets. They look kind of boring from this side, but if you turn them over the imprint they leave is really cool. The examples are all bolted to the shelves and the ones to purchase are packaged, so I don’t have a picture of it for you. Prevail on a friend who is a handy person to see if they have one you can take a look at the back.

Pro tip – I strongly discourage you from taking part your outlets at home. There are safer ways to take a look at the back of an outlet.

Alright, on to our last stop in lighting – electrical tape! Electrical tape is a wonderful material. Its flexible, water tight, hard to rip and cuts cleanly making this kind of tape perfect for glaze experiments.

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Electrical tape can be applied to bisque ware as a removable resist for glazes and stains. Once the glaze or stain is applied and before it gets too dry (the glaze will flake if too dry), remove the tape for super clean resist lines. Feel free to experiment and apply the tape over a stain as well. I suspect that it shouldn’t be put on over a glaze as it mostly likely will remove the glaze with it. Auto detailing tape can be substituted if you’d like instead of electrical tape.

Wow! This post is getting rather lengthy and we’re not even a third of our way through the store yet! I’m going to pause here in our visit. Stay tuned next Friday for some more Home Depot Love!

Custom Clay Ribs

If you’ve been working in clay for any length of time you’ve probably got a favorite rib. In fact, you probably have a couple of favorites depending on what you need to do with them. For me, I love my metal rib with teeth for scoring, my flexible red rib for smoothing and my rounded wooden rib for shaping … that is until I lost my favorite wooden rib. Even though I found a similar one, it didn’t have quite the right curve and size of the one I lost.

That’s when I learned that I could make my own rib out of clay. I figured it couldn’t hurt to try it out. What I found was that I was able to create the exact curved, shaped and sized ribs I had been wanting after losing my favorite one.

I thought I’d share what I learned about making several ribs out of clay for myself.

Tools Needed: Pin Tool, Rolling Pin (or slab roller), Paring Knife, Slab Bevel Tool

Clay: Typically a quarter to half pound of clay depending on size

First, start by rolling out your clay into a slab slightly bigger than the size you want your rib to be. Slab should be rolled out thick – ideally 1/2 inch in thickness.

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Cut the slab into the shape, size and curve you want for your rib. I’m partial to this rounded almond shape for my ribs because I find it gives a nice supporting curve for when I shape my pots. However, you should cut the curve and shape you think would be best for your purposes. That’s part of the beauty of making your own ribs you can experiment with all sorts of shapes and sizes.

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After creating your shape, the next step is to bevel all of the edges. I used a slab bevel tool (pictured) for my rib, but you can use a pin tool or paring knife to cut the beveled edge – a 45 degree angle works best for this project.

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After beveling the first side, flip over the slab and bevel the edges on the opposite side as well. This creates a tapered edge for your slab that is perfect for use in your clay projects while the thickness keeps the rib from being fragile.

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The timing of the next step will depend on your clay’s firmness. Wait until it is relatively firm (like a soft leather hard) and then spend a few minutes softening the sharp edges created in the beveling process.

Next, pick up the rib and press your thumb and forefinger together in the middle of the slab to create an indent for you to hold on to the rib comfortably. You have probably noticed holes and/or curved areas in ribs you’ve purchased for the same reason it gives you a great place to hold on to the tool. Be sure to think about how you would hold your particular rib before placing the indents.

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The last step before firing is to dry your rib flat. I like to sandwich mine between two plaster bats, but you can use anything flat with some weight to it. It is also possible to weigh it down with a heavy object placed on top of a light weight bat or board sandwich.

A lot of times tools made out of clay are only fired to bisque temperature, but for this project it is actually best to fire your rib to the full cone temperature of the clay. This will depend on what type of clay you’re using, but you should take the rib to the highest temperature the clay is meant for – typically the same as your glaze firing cone.

The reason for this is you don’t want the clay to be porous like it would be after a bisque firing. If the rib is still porous then it will stick to your pots (particularly wheel thrown ones) when you use it for shaping. Once the clay is fired and vitrified, it will glide easily like any other rib.

And that’s it! They are so easy to make that you may soon have a whole collection!