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How to Prepare Natural Clay for Pottery

(15 votes, average 4.53 out of 5)
Written by Darlene Michaud   

natural clay pottery

If you happen to live in a part of the country that contains natural clay, you can prepare the natural clay so it can be used to make pottery. It can be quite a process to prepare the natural clay but seeing your finished work of art knowing you prepared the natural clay yourself will make the process well worth it. And it's a great craft to do with your kids. And you will save money by making your own clay using natural clay!

Step 1:  Gather the following ingredients to prepare your natural clay for pottery: natural clay, 1 two pound empty coffee can, old newspapers, a hammer, 1/4 inch mesh sieve, 2 three pound empty coffee cans with the lids, water, a window screen, large plaster bowls or cloth lined bowls.

Step 2:  Dig up enough natural clay to fill a two pound coffee can.  Try to pick clay that is as free from debris such as sand, gravel, dirt, plant roots, etc. Some debris is okay and will even add some texture and personality to your finished pottery.

Step 3:  Spread the clay out onto old newspapers and place it in the sun to dry completely.

Step 4:  Break the hard, dry clay into a fine powder using a hammer. You can crush the clay right on the newspapers on a hard surface.  If you see rocks in the clay, pick them out. Do not crush the rocks into the clay.

Step 5:  Sift the powdered clay through the sieve. Discard any pebbles you come across.

Step 6:  Fill one of the three pound coffee cans 2/3 full with the sifted clay.  Completely cover the clay with water.  Let the water soak into the clay then keep adding a bit more water until all the clay is soaked and there is about 1 inch of water on top of the clay.

Step 7:  Stir the clay with your hands to evenly distribute the water through the clay. Yes, your hands will get dirty. That's part of the fun!

Step 8:  Let the clay soak in the water for about 2 hours or until the mixture looks like the consistency of thick cream.

Step 9:  Pour the mixture of soaked clay through a window screen into another coffee can so you can break up any lumps.

Step 10:  Let the strained clay mixture of clay sit in the coffee can overnight or until all the clay has settled to the bottom.

Step 11:  Pour the clear water off the top of the settled clay.  Do not stir up the thick clay (called slip) that is in the bottom of the can.

Step 12:  Pour out or scoop out the thick slip that remains in the bottom of the coffee can and put it into large plaster bowls or bowls lined with cloth.

Step 13:  Let the clay sit in the plaster bowl or cloth lined bowl.  As the clay sits, the moisture will be absorbed by the plaster bowl or the cloth in the lined bowl and the clay will stiffen and pull away from the bowl.

Step 14:  Remove the clay from the bowl and store it in covered coffee cans for several days. Store it moist since it will dry out as it ages.

Step 15:  Take the clay out of the cans when you are ready to use it. You must "wedge" the clay (take the air bubbles out) before you can use the clay.

Step 16:  Wedge the clay by cutting off small pieces of clay and throwing it on a table several times until all the bubbles are removed from the clay. The clay is now ready to use for making pottery.

Step 17:  Improve clay that does not hold its shape by adding a bit of clean sand to the clay. Do not add too much.  If the clay crumbles then you added too much sand and will need to discard it.

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Comments (1)add comment

Carl Benjamin said:

Carl Benjamin
don't forget to vote for your stars up above. Just click on them.
January 14, 2010
Votes: +1

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