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oddartist

Why Didn't Someone Tell Me About Paperclay!?!

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oddartist    6

I picked up a bag of paperclay last week and I'm in love.

Let me back up. I have been creating for over half a century. I started painting with tempura, went to oils, then watercolor, then discovered acrylics, where I spent a few decades. I've turned my energy towards ceramics the past few years and have gone from clay to clay trying to find the right one for me. While I will still play with different throwing clays, I have found my sculpture clay.

The difference between clays has never been so defined! It's like comparing oils to acrylics.

Oils take a long time to dry and are far more particular that fast-drying, easily-fixable acrylic paints. Sculpture clays are perfect for those who choose to work more methodically. I want instant gratification and have been achieving some forms I thought I would have to really fight with by using paperclay.

 

I'm wondering if there are any pitfalls I'm overlooking and would love any hard-earned knowledge from those who have used this fabulous material.

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GiselleNo5    464

I am very interested to hear what people say! I have been wanting to play with paper clay myself. I will be reading this thread with great interest!

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MatthewV    258

Well...

It feels dead when fired. The finished piece just didn't feel right to me. A strange integrity that paper clay lacks.

It doesn't carve or reclaim particularly well.

At higher temperatures it will slump.

I participated in a short workshop with it and couldn't stand working with it. That is just me.

 

But....

Like you have said, it allows for more instant gratification.

You can ignore most technical issues.

It has strength and is lighter.

 

You do need to bisque fire in a way that give extra time for the paper to burn away. A rather minor thing.

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Denice    243

I pretty much felt the same way Matthew did,  I didn't just hate it I didn't think it was worth the trouble.  I even gave it a second chance, the first batch I made my self,  when my supplier started carrying premix I decided to try it again.  I have been working with clay for 40 years I guess there is no teaching a old dog a new trick.  Denice

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bciskepottery    925

Paperclay is another option -- no more, no less.  It depends on what you are making and your preferences.  I've mostly seen it used in hand-built items and/or sculptural works; have not seen it used for functional wares -- but my experience with it is limited to firing other folks work at a community studio.  Just another tool in the toolkit.  At greenware stage, it can be quite fragile as most people use it to go for thin walls or make large slabs for brushwork, decals.  After bisque, where the paper is burned out, you have . . . regular old bisque clay that is no different, from a composition standpoint, than wheel-thrown or hand-built wares. 

 

We know it works well as a mender for greenware and bisque -- clay body in a slurry, some toilet paper, and vinegar mixed to fix cracks, etc. 

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Mark C.    1,800

Con-It's hard to cut and get a clean line with all the paper in it for detail work

Pro-It stands up well for sculpture like arms and forms that hang out without lots of support.

C-it has some voids when paper burns out

P-it salted well for me at cone 10

 

It has its use but for me it limited

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Chris Campbell    1,087

I am a big fan of paperclay and have a teaching area on my website ....

 

http://ccpottery.com/paper.html

 

I have even worked with coloring the paper clay and experimenting with firing temps.

 

I make my own paper clay since I like to vary how much paper pulp I add to any clay body.

Yes, you can make any clay you like into paper clay. Remember that the paper totally burns out early in the bisque firing and leaves behind a more porous version of your original clay. No paper remains in the fired clay.

 

So what can you expect from paper clay bodies ...?

It takes glazes differently because it is more porous

Objects made are lighter ... which is great if you are making large pieces

It is harder to carve into because the fibers drag

Your green ware is much stronger so easier to handle and load

You can repair chips, cracks or breaks even after bisque firing

The paper clay slip makes a great repair product even if the original piece is not paperclay but is the same clay body.

 

Is it good for everything ... no.

I would not recommend making functional wares from it because unglazed areas will stay quite porous.

 

But otherwise try it and have some fun with it. It is a joy to play with.

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I enjoyed it for sculpture, and share many of the observations that have already been made about good green strength, lighter forms, more porous, etc.

Two things that haven't been mentioned: 1) you really can't throw with it because of the fibre, and 2) it stinks like something unholy once the paper fibre begins to rot. I got into the habit of only mixing what I would use in the span of a couple of weeks to avoid this. (Premixed paper clay wasn't available for sale here, so we had to make our own out of reclaim slurry and homemade paper pulp. We'd throw in a touch of bleach or peroxide to prevent the epic stink.) I've heard of people rolling it out into thin sheets and drying it out to store it, and then rehydrating it as needed.

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yappystudent    40

I did not know this. Thanks for the info, something to consider.

 

If I'd attempted the sculpture shown in my avatar with paperclay it sounds like it might have survived.

Until now I thought paperclay was something sold at Michael's in little plastic packs for crafters to air-dry.

 

Question: If you were to make sculpture that ended up in a show, would you mention the use of paperclay or just call it ceramic?

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Mark C.    1,800

I love this statement

(I'm wondering if there are any pitfalls I'm overlooking)

Well let me say straight up that in my 40 plus years full time in clay the pitfalls never end-that's right NEVER end

So in ceramics you can count on pitfalls-its the one constant .

Just when I feel I have it down wham pitfall.

It can be from the kiln to the clay from the glaze to the kiln gods-even the customers can cause a pitfall.

There may be less pitfalls with moon shot or space walk but it will cost you more.

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MatthewV    258

Question: If you were to make sculpture that ended up in a show, would you mention the use of paperclay or just call it ceramic?

You can say paper clay, give the firing temperature and such. Honesty is the correct thing! Yes, the general category is the same as other fired clay bodies (ceramic).

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preeta    80

when we have specific clay shows here, many proudly announce paper clay because of the type of installation here. some of them truly use the lightness of paper clay in full form - especially when they use the air dry form.

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Chris Campbell    1,087

Question: If you were to make sculpture that ended up in a show, would you mention the use of paperclay or just call it ceramic?

Once you have fired it all the paper is burned out, so you just have clay ... so yes, it is ceramic. If asked how you made the work you could say you started with paperclay.

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Chris probably made all of the major points, but just another voice in the din.....

 

I have used paperclay for bust sculpture.  My first bust took me months to complete and simply would not have been possible with regular clay - clay here can dry up very quickly.  Paperclay re-wets easily with no side effects.  I fired that bust in Saggar with no problems.

The mold it often grows is easily controlled with a bit of Hydrogen Peroxide in your water spray bottle, or some rubbing alcohol.

 

It is very easy to re-use if you don't like your piece - turn it into a slurry and dry it to your preferred level of moisture.  You can do this over and over and....

 

I'm not sure why anyone would want to throw with it, but I have a couple of friends who throw with nothing else, quite successfully.

 

It tends to be a bit pricier than other clays, but there are plenty of recipes for making it yourself with toilet paper.

 

The advantage to firing it is that it is waterproof, otherwise, you can just leave it if you want.

 

The only thing I *don't* like about it is making coils - it does not stretch well, due to the fibers.

 

There is an artist in Australia who uses nothing else for his sculptures (article: https://www.yumpu.com/en/document/view/10830032/visual-masters-graham-hay) He and others describe being set free of some of the limitations of clay with this substance, opening doors to their creativity.

 

Fun stuff, really!

 

 

 

 

 

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Marcia Selsor    1,301

I discovered a paper pulp source from SiO2 in Barcelona. It is a finer paper pulp than cellulose insulation. from Home Depot. I have used that as an additive for making paper clay in my mixer.I have also used it to chink up soda kiln doors. It works great for that.

I brought some of the fine pulp back from Spain. I didn't mix it yet. I have been using paper clay for about 23 years. Began when I was introduced to it while doing a residency at Banff in 1993. Rosette Gault had been there the previous year and there was a source of linter sheets for paper pulp. I have used it in large scale architectural work as well as my raku slabs to lighten their weight at the end of tongs.

I have tried newspaper, shredded office paper, cellulose, and the linter. I like working with paper clay. It works well for my purposes.

Marcia

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 2) it stinks like something unholy once the paper fibre begins to rot. I got into the habit of only mixing what I would use in the span of a couple of weeks to avoid this.

I find that adding a bit of anti-fungal ointment from the drug store, e.g., athletes foot medication, help with controlling the "rot" of the cellulose.

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jrgpots    231

I make native American ceramic flutes. I have 10 in various stages of construction right now. I wonder how the use of paper clay might affect (or is it effect?) The tonal qualities.

 

The beautiful tonal qualities of the violin depend on how the instrument resonates. A soft wood such as spruce is used on the back of the violin to improve resonance.

 

When I switched from wood flutes to ceramic flutes, I noticed that the ceramic flutes had a "brighter" tone. I wonder if the porous nature of paper clay would make the paper clay flute sound more like their wood counterparts?

 

Then again, I probably am the only one interested in such a question...

 

Jed

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oldlady    1,323

affect is correct.  the Effect is what is left after everything else is finished Affecting the outcome. :wacko:

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yappystudent    40

Chris probably made all of the major points, but just another voice in the din.....

 

I have used paperclay for bust sculpture.  My first bust took me months to complete and simply would not have been possible with regular clay - clay here can dry up very quickly.  Paperclay re-wets easily with no side effects.  I fired that bust in Saggar with no problems.

 

The mold it often grows is easily controlled with a bit of Hydrogen Peroxide in your water spray bottle, or some rubbing alcohol.

 

It is very easy to re-use if you don't like your piece - turn it into a slurry and dry it to your preferred level of moisture.  You can do this over and over and....

 

I'm not sure why anyone would want to throw with it, but I have a couple of friends who throw with nothing else, quite successfully.

 

It tends to be a bit pricier than other clays, but there are plenty of recipes for making it yourself with toilet paper.

 

The advantage to firing it is that it is waterproof, otherwise, you can just leave it if you want.

 

The only thing I *don't* like about it is making coils - it does not stretch well, due to the fibers.

 

There is an artist in Australia who uses nothing else for his sculptures (article: https://www.yumpu.com/en/document/view/10830032/visual-masters-graham-hay) He and others describe being set free of some of the limitations of clay with this substance, opening doors to their creativity.

 

Fun stuff, really!

Thank you for the link, I love his stuff and would like to do similar type sculpture, although not quite as delicate as his, still, it does open up possibilities I wasn't sure how I'd overcome.

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As far as pulp goes, a couple of rolls of cheap toilet paper work pretty good too, although I liked cotton linters.

We were told as students not to use the attic insulation cellulose, because it can come treated with fire retardant, and burning that off in your kiln is a whole lot of no good for your health and element longevity. But building codes vary, so they might not be the same where you are. It's a worthy question to ask.

Edit: in hindsight, the inability to throw with it may have been due to the fact that I used cotton linters for the pulp. The fibres in it are longer and stronger than t.p. or others.

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jrgpots    231

Can one substitute dryer lint for paper? It wouldn't technically be paper clay anymore...

 

 

Jed

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Jed,

The answer is yes,

but:
 
And if the lint is all cotton, the performance will be similar to use of paper. 
 
The lint fibers will be a lot longer, and this could either be a benefit or could be a problem depending on the forms, techniques, etc.
 
If the lint is synthetic fiber, you will not get the same benefit of moisture movement via the cellulose fibers (in paper)  during drying and the 'burn out' gases will probably smell different and probably will take require a different temperature for complete burnout.
 
LT

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yersincathy    0

Hello,

 

I have a tricky question about paper clay and I am having a hard time finding an answer, maybe someone here will be able to help:

 

- Is it really necessary to empty a sculpture made with paper clay before firing it?

 

Would be awesome to hear about your experiences,

 

Thank you!

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Yes, you still have to carve out a solid paper clay sculpture. The paper pulp makes the clay more porous and somewhat lighter because of that, but all the gasses and water vapour still need to burn off from the centre of the piece. You in fact have additional gasses to burn off because of the paper fibre combusting, which can exacerbate any of the usual complications if you don't dry and bisque properly.

 

The good news is, paper clay lends itself extremely well to building hollow forms in the first place. Slab build your piece around some firmly wadded newspaper, and leave an opening large enough that you can just pull the paper filling out once the sculpture is pretty dry, and then enclose it with another slab of paper clay. The paper pulp will allow you to attach two pieces of clay to each other that have wildly different moisture content, without any cracking. It's a pretty cool magic trick.

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