Friday, April 11, 2008

Thursday, March 27, 2008

First clay tutorial on coil building

To Begin, you want to have an idea of what you want to make. I never know exactly what will come out in the end because:
1. clay has a mind of it's own.
2. sometimes you see the way the piece is shaping up and want to change the shape to better suit your eye.
But it is helpful to me to have a basic idea and sometimes even make a sketch.
Imagine the bottom of your piece and roll out a slab to fit. I am making a mermaid today and this is the bottom of her tail as it would sit on a solid surface.

Start with a slab of clay rolled out to about 1.4 an
inch. You can go thicker but it is not necessary.
We are going to be adding clay on the outside of the oval's edge. So that is where we want to score (making crosshatch marks in the surface of the clay) the piece. You also want to use a damp sponge to add just the slightest bit of water to your scored area.

After scoring the clay, we are going to add our first coil. A coil is what one of my nephews called "making snakes." You can roll out a bunch of "snakes" before you start but make sure to keep them covered well. I just make them as I go, finding that better for my work process.
When you add a coil to the slab you want to make sure that you press down with a good amount of pressure as you go around. We want the clay to attach solidly.
Now, once you go all the way around, you will be attaching clay to the "snake " you started with. If your clay has enough moisture and it is easy to press the clay together and make them stick solidly then there is no need to score the clay each time you go around. I always give the coil a good tug to make sure they are sufficiently stuck.

After your first snake or coil comes to it's end, you want to smooth the clay together inside and out. Start from the top of the coil and pull down with your index finger...pulling clay from the top down over the crease to the very bottom. You will do this with each coil. You don't have to do it at the end of each snake. You can wait until you have 4-5 coils put on. Just a note: if you wait too long and get too high the walls will want to buckle as you are smoothing.

Now to add a new coil you just start where the last one ended. Making sure to pinch strongly the end of the first coil to the beginning of the second.

And so on...

A lot of times, because coil built pots tend to be hollow and thin, I need to build interior walls for structure. This one is the interior wall for the tail.

These walls will be built within all the way to the top of the piece.

The second interior wall is to support the body of the mermaid.

Sometimes when you are building upwards gravity comes in to play and you must stop and wait for the bottom area to set up a bit. Make sure to cover the top area where you are working while you wait for the bottom to stiffen up.

I usually add features as I move upwards because I can still get my fingers into the area and attach things well.

Notice how I start to move across her upper shoulder area.

The head is hollow and built up from a hollow neck. This just takes patience and a lot of waiting. Sometimes I will have 3 or 4 going at once so that I always have something to work on while I am waiting.

When you attach hair and eyes and things such as these, you
need to Score each area and dampen with your sponge.
When you are finished you can go back into the sculpture and carve areas as I did with the scales of the tail.