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tjbanjo

student cracking clay very quickly

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I have a 4th & 5th grade after school clay club once each week at school, with eight students. We've had three classes so far and the kids are working on pinch pot critters. I have one student who seems to dry his clay out very quickly, to the point that it gets irreparable. After his first pot fell apart I had him start over during the next class. That pot is also not doing well, but is holding up better than the first one. This kid wears shorts all year round, even when it's only about 25 F outside. He doesn't seem to get cold. Could his body temp be just enough above normal that his hands suck more moisture out of the clay than normal? It's the only thing I can think of, because he's not using a really absorbent surface to work on, just a canvas mat like everyone else. 

Any thoughts or suggestions? He kind of goes overboard on the water if I don't keep a sharp eye on him.

Thanks

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Your kid might be taking longer to finish one than the other children.  You might try some disposable latex gloves,  you should have them anyways for the children to wear when they are glazing.   Your clay might be a little on the dry side,  I make pinch pots to start my coiled pots on and have never used water.  Your kid may have a low body temperature,  I do.   When it 100 degrees outside it feel like 103 to me because my body temperature is 3 degrees below normal.   I wear sandals until there is ice and snow on the ground and short sleeve shirts.   Denice

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tjbanjo, 

There are a few questions that I might ask about your class. Are the students finishing the pot in one class period or over one or more? What type of clay are you using for class? What is your storage procedure if the students are using more than one day to complete?

Just wondering, if the student is storing properly over the time period.  Another hint, is that the drying process, sometimes is accelerated if the student has excess water that is not absorbed into the clay.  I also wonder if the student has dry skin and that causes him to absorb moisture. You may find that hand cream will help with that problem, having him use some on his hands before working. I usually kept hand cream in the room any way for those students that believed their hands were getting drier.

Interesting problem, keep us informed, and WELCOME to the forum!

best,

Pres

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Just out of curiosity, is this student making the pot in the same spot in the room?  And if so, is he under or over a vent that may be drying out his clay faster than the other spots?  My shop heater is overhead and there is a definite air pattern that goes around the perimeter of the room.  My molds will release greenware two hours faster on the table next to the wall than the one in the center of the room.

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if you wet the canvas, (personally, i HATE canvas because of its dust retention) before he works, and keep a damp sponge nearby, it might help.   that is one way that i can roll out very thin coils to fill in the deep impressions from leaf stems that i roll into a slab.

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5 hours ago, oldlady said:

if you wet the canvas, (personally, i HATE canvas because of its dust retention) before he works, and keep a damp sponge nearby, it might help.   that is one way that i can roll out very thin coils to fill in the deep impressions from leaf stems that i roll into a slab.

I will try that, or have him work on a different surface. I'm not a fan of canvas, either, but it's quick and fits on the tables easily.

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17 hours ago, Viking Potter said:

Just out of curiosity, is this student making the pot in the same spot in the room?  And if so, is he under or over a vent that may be drying out his clay faster than the other spots?  My shop heater is overhead and there is a definite air pattern that goes around the perimeter of the room.  My molds will release greenware two hours faster on the table next to the wall than the one in the center of the room.

Yes, he is working in the same spot, kind of against one wall. I believe he might be under a vent or something, too. I'll have to look at that tomorrow. There is another kid sitting right next to him, though, and his clay seems to be fine. Still, I'll have to pay attention to that. Thanks.

Bob

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On 05/03/2018 at 9:55 PM, Denice said:

Your kid might be taking longer to finish one than the other children.  You might try some disposable latex gloves,  you should have them anyways for the children to wear when they are glazing.   Your clay might be a little on the dry side,  I make pinch pots to start my coiled pots on and have never used water.  Your kid may have a low body temperature,  I do.   When it 100 degrees outside it feel like 103 to me because my body temperature is 3 degrees below normal.   I wear sandals until there is ice and snow on the ground and short sleeve shirts.   Denice

I tried the latex gloves with him today. I think it might have been a bit better, but I need kid-size gloves, since they were hard for him to work in.

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On 06/03/2018 at 7:04 AM, Pres said:

tjbanjo, 

There are a few questions that I might ask about your class. Are the students finishing the pot in one class period or over one or more? What type of clay are you using for class? What is your storage procedure if the students are using more than one day to complete?

Just wondering, if the student is storing properly over the time period.  Another hint, is that the drying process, sometimes is accelerated if the student has excess water that is not absorbed into the clay.  I also wonder if the student has dry skin and that causes him to absorb moisture. You may find that hand cream will help with that problem, having him use some on his hands before working. I usually kept hand cream in the room any way for those students that believed their hands were getting drier.

Interesting problem, keep us informed, and WELCOME to the forum!

best,

Pres

No, they aren't finishing in one period, but he had problems the very first period with the clay. We're just using some basic earthenware clay, nothing fancy. As far as storage, I put the projects all together in a sealed plastic storage box with a good number of sponges to keep things from drying out. It seemed to work for that, it's just when he's working on things that they get really cracked. 

Thanks.

Bob

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I have seen plenty of students dry out their clay from overworking.  Especially those, who have never worked with clay,  who enjoy "playing" with it,

As the clay is exposed to air, it loses moisture, especially as it is needed and more and more of it is exposed to the air.  Couple that with the hands pulling some of the moisture out, and it doesn't take long to dry out. 

How warm the clay is really doesn't contribute much to how quickly it dries, unless a person is generating a couple hundred degrees of heat.  An absorbent material however, like canvas plaster, cement and dry air, will pull water out of the clay rather fast.

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Maybe he is fiddling with the clay too much while he is thinking/working. Alot of times with small pieces squishing around in your hand or rolling it can make it short and crackle in no time. 

Edited by BlackDogPottery

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3 minutes ago, BlackDogPottery said:

Maybe he is fiddling with the clay too much while he is thinking/working. Alot of times with small pieces squishing around in your hand or rolling it can make it short and crackle in no time. 

That was my first thought. I'm trying to keep a closer eye on him and keep him moving along and not overworking the clay.

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Give him a small spray bottle with a fine mist and tell him not to spray the clay but to spray his palms and fingers a little when he starts noticing the little cracks. I use old body spray bottles filled with water and use them especially with my students in the winter as the heater dries the clay out fast while working with it.

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