The art of making and decorating pottery Clay is a mix of naturally occurring materials made up primarily of fine-grained minerals. Think of very finely ground up rock. The fine partials of rock are suspended in water. Different colors occur in clay because of impurities in the clay. Red clay is the results of Iron Oxide in the clay, while white clays get their color from Talc in the clay body. The stages of clay refer to the different amounts of water mixed with the minerals that make up the clay. More water makes the the clay softer to the touch, less water makes the clay harder to the touch. Slip clay is clay that has 25% clay to 75% water. Slip clay is used for a couple of different things. The first is as a glue when connecting two pieces of plastic or leather hard clay together. The second is as a decoration, when different colored slips are painted on a pot it will leave a chalky painted design. The final use of slip clay is as a way to cast ceramic items in a mold. This is usually done in production work, like the plates and mugs that we see where the same form is used over and over again. Plastic clay is used when you are handbuilding with clay. Pinch pots, coil pots, and wheel throwing are all done at this stage. Plastic clay is a mix of 50% clay to 50% water. It is easy to mold by hand, and can be connected together by scoring and slipping. You can tell a piece of plastic clay by squeezing it, if it doesn’t crack, and is soft between your fingers it is considered plastic. Plastic clay is the best time to make unique forms in the clay. The plastic stage of clay is also a great time to work in new textures. By pressing items into the clay new surfaces will result, because the clay is receptive to any texture! Leather hard clay has 75% clay to 25% water in it. Leather hard clay can be connected together by scoring and slipping, but you do need to score aggressively to get the pieces to stay together. Leather hard clay is hard and cold to the touch, if you have a slab of clay and lift it up, it will not sag down. In this stage, the clay will crack if you try to bend it. Leather hard clay is a great stage to do carving or subtractive sculpture techniques because it retains the carved lines well. Bone dry clay is the final stage before the clay is fired. Bone-dry clay has 100% clay to 0% water. In this stage you cannot do any additive method, but you can do some limited subtractive work. Bone-dry clay will crack and break if pushed too hard, and is very fragile to the touch. When clay reaches this stage, you are usually ready to fire the work, We call this finished “Greenware”. If you are not satisfied with your work, you can reclaim the clay by letting the clay soak it in some water. By letting it sit for a few days the clay will become slip clay and start the process Reclaiming all over again. Clay in a bucket of water Clay must be fired in a Kiln to make it permanent. The kiln heats the clay up to 2000 degrees to fuse the minerals in the clay together. When clay comes out of the kiln after it’s first firing, it is called “Bisqueware”. Bisqueware will not melt into slip if placed in water, and is ready to glaze. Glaze is the shiny, coating we see on most pieces of pottery. Glaze is made mostly of two components: 1. Silica a finely ground and pure sand, that gives the glaze a shiny surface 2. Minerals that give the glazes their colors and textures. Additive Sculpture Method: When two or more pieces of clay are pressed together to create a new form. Pieces that are done with the additive method should be scored and slipped to make them stick together. If a piece of clay is not scored and slipped it will most likely fall off in the firing. Subtractive Sculpture Method: When the clay is carved or pressed into it is considered a subtractive sculpture method. If the clay is carved or when clay is removed from the surface we call it a subtractive sculpture method. Often, a work of ceramic art will have both additive and subtractive methods used at the same time For our upcoming clay project, we will be working with a visiting artist Sonata Kazimieraitiene to create textured tiles that will be incorporated into the mural we will be installing in the hall outside of the main office. One of the great aspects of clay is that is receptive to any texture, and because of that we can create many varied surfaces can be impressed into the clay. Your homework due at your next class is to bring in one item to use as a texture tool. The tool you bring in needs to follow the following guidelines: 1. It can not be an object normally found at school! (no pen caps, paper clips, markers, etc.) 2. Your tool bust be able to create a texture by rolling or pressing into the clay. 3. Tools should be from nature, or made of plastic, cloth & fiber, or metal. No glass, paper, or breakable objects. Our visiting Artist Biography Born in Lithuania, Sonata Kazimieraitiene received an Masters of Fine Arts in Design from Vilnius Art Academy and worked as a graphic designer and PR/Marketing specialist. Upon relocating to the U.S., Sonata has since worked with Terra Incognito Gallery (Oak Park, IL) and Dole Art Center (Oak Park, IL) as an instructor and studio member. She is currently a Studio Artist at Chicago’s Lill Street Art Center. Artistic Statement Though I enjoy every part of the clay-working process, my current approach involves a trusting mutual exploration. Clay has its own life, and it can express what it wants to become in your hands. I just watch, listen, and react. I don’t demand or stress too much and am not afraid of experimenting. I also try to see the possibilities in every step, from the beauty of raw clay to the potential of leftover scraps. Satisfaction comes from realizing I am not in total control, but rather just one of the components in the process. I am most rewarded and inspired when I do my best and leave room for the other players - clay, glaze, and fire - to do their jobs.