When Things Go *Splat*

In this case, it is the sound of clay hitting the table while wedging.

Ha! Last year, little less than a mere six months ago *that* sentence would not have come out of my mouth.let alone through my enviable writing and typing skills. (tongue in cheekily) Such is life in this adventurous world of mine. I love the idea of learning new things to keep the old thinker thinking…working, wondering and humming along with new knowledge or innovative ideas in a sort of perpetual motion type of thing.
This, of course is a part of product development and this time, the decision was made to bring in a new item for our shop in the form of personal aromatherapy necklaces. After a ton of research and a couple of months of trial and error, I tried air dry clay, poly resin clay and then decided a true ceramic was going to be the best choice for my mental picture. The dream was brought to life in the form of kiln fired clay pieces. This part came with some weeks of trial and error which was fun, exasperating, annoying, fun, exciting, time consuming, annoying again (when hard work blew up), a learning experience, fun, and in the end something creatively rewarding. You see this was all punctuated with FUN in between all the ‘stuff’, both good and bad, that is always the life blood of the endeavor.
Here is a visual clay feast for your eyes! I was so in love with my first ever attempts at shaping beads and forming the pendants as I had envisioned them in my mind…well, kinda, sorta, maybe. I was happy with this so far. Of what you see here, some never even made it into a fire. It’s amazing how much banging around one does just living the daily life, but you *learn* just how much when you have a bunch of small delicate things waiting around to dry enough to actually go under the fire.

Pretty = before... overcooking or exploding
Pretty = before… overcooking or exploding


The true vision I got for my pendants looks much different than what I have made here and the main reason is because I have not yet achieved enough knowledge or skill to hand shape what I hold in my minds eye. Considering I have never taken a class or had any experience working with any kind of clay except for calcium bentonite clay, used for internal and external health applications (a far cry from making clay shapes), taking baby steps was the way to go with this.
More than a few of these pieces ended up over baked, dark and bubbly or warped. I never suspected that you could over bake clay, but I learned that you can. Another few of these exploded and I later found out could be attributed to one or two things or both, who knows which of these were my errors, but I learned from them. One is not waiting long enough for the pieces to dry all the way through before firing. If they are cool to the touch when placed on your wrist, they still have moisture in them which can boil in the high heat, causing expansion, then explosion…and poof! There goes all your sweet work blown to pieces. Second is not having enough compression in your pieces, meaning there are still air pockets in the clay when you are shaping or rolling them out. Same type of explosions are possible or bubbling of your pieces. On the ones I had over baked, there was warping, bubbling, fissures. This could have been due to not working the clay enough or a technique called ‘wedging’. Although the word sounds familiar, this is nothing at all like pulling your little brother’s chonies up from behind. 

Thank you YouTube! for showing me the way. I love these modern times where the internet brings to our fingertips the access to skills we may never have had such access to within a matter of minutes. I adore this way of learning through others. Of course you have the whole gamut of ‘teachers’ available and I was able to pick out the videos that worked best for my learning needs. Here’s where the ‘splat’ sound comes in, what fun it is to drop or lightly slam a piece of clay onto your cloth covered table to shape it into a square-ish cube then fold it into the rams head wedge. It really does look like a rams head! Then slam it again over and again through the process. I can certainly say I learned some other techniques about working with clay as well and look forward to trying other processes, though I’ll not attempt the potters wheel any time soon. If I ever decide to, I’ll surely take a class for that.