While the name of this particular clay might make you believe otherwise, paper clay is in fact extra-strength clay which is best used to create large pieces which would be overly-heavy with standard clay. Made by mixing clay with shredded paper or other fibres, paper clay is a strong and versatile clay which remains lightweight after firing. While ready-mix paper clay can be purchased, here we discuss how to make and use paper clay successfully.
Creating this Extra-Strength Clay
It’s easy to make your own paper clay, but as a general rule if you’re creating a lighter piece you’ll want to add less paper, but more paper must be added for creating heavier pieces.
- Paper clay is a combination of clay slip and paper pulp
- In order to make 4.5-9kg of paper clay, you’ll need 7.5L of recycled clay slip
- Paper fibres need to be treated to prevent mould from developing so mix in a tablespoon of bleach to the paper fibres before adding to the clay slip
- Add 3 handfuls of paper fibre to the clay slip at a time and mix well for approximately 20 minutes
- Use your paper clay within 2 weeks of making
The Improved Structure of Paper Clay
Paper clay is fantastic for both larger and thinner, more delicate pieces. The added paper fibres create a capillary system within the clay which helps to transfer moisture evenly throughout the piece and adds far more internal strength than standard clay – just like top iPhone slots apps may increase the strength of your wallet! All these improvements mean that the body of work can support itself and also makes transportation far easier.
Paper Clay is Easier to Repair
Paper clay is incredibly versatile and can be made using a large variety of clays including terracotta, porcelain, stoneware, and earthenware. Another advantage of using paper clay is that it is excellent for repairing any joins or cracks which may appear during the creation of your piece. Most potters make use of paper clay to easily mend imperfections and you can even sort any breaks in bisque-fired paper clay with wet paper clay.
The Reduced Drying Time of Paper Clay
While it may seem counter-intuitive as you have essentially added more moisture to the clay, paper clay actually dries much quicker than standard clay. The science behind it is that since the moisture is more evenly distributed throughout the clay thanks to the capillary system created, the moisture evaporates much faster. You may also choose to force dry paper clay as the faster the drying process, the lower the chance of the piece cracking.
The Firing Process of Paper Clay
While the process of creating paper clay is different to that of standard clay, the firing and glazing process remains the same. While most potters tend to fire paper clay at a slightly higher temperature than standard clay, keep in mind that the paper fibres which make the clay strong can also make the fired work more porous. As the paper burns away, the finished piece is slightly more fragile to handle post-firing.