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Best Clay To Start Throwing With


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#1 CecRR

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Posted 24 March 2014 - 02:02 PM

Im looking for recommendations on a good soft clay to begin throwing with. I order my clay from aardvarkclay.com and I called today, but the guy on the phone wasnt much help. I previously ordered their beemix w/o sand and it seems harder to throw than it should be. It dries out quickly, so Im constantly adding water. It takes a while to open up a pot. I press down and can only go about 3/4 of an inch down before I have to add water, and I REALLY have to push down. The clay just doesnt like to move. Ive watched so many videos on line and it doesnt seem like it should be that hard. Im pretty sure its the clay, but I dont know what other clay to try? They dont give info on their website as to how soft or plastic their clay bodies are. Any help would be much appreciated. TIA



#2 Mark369

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Posted 24 March 2014 - 02:14 PM

Get clay from company that mixes it their self. Not a retailer.  Have them mix it soft for you. Premixed clay hardens over time as it dries out even in bags. Get something with some grog in it. Not a lot or it will be hard on you hands.


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#3 CecRR

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Posted 24 March 2014 - 02:16 PM

There is nothing near me that mixes clays. The only close place I have to buy from orders from the same place and she tried to charge me out the wazoo for it!



#4 Pres

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Posted 24 March 2014 - 02:21 PM

Tia, I would ask a few questions. Where in the country do you live, I assume you have thrown some before, was the clay stiffer or softer than you are using. When did you order in the clay as compared to when you started using it? I ask these questions because 1) You may find a supplier near you with a better seller/potter relationship, 2)Your expectations are often based on what you have used before. 3) If you had ordered the clay several months before using, sometimes the way things are sealed lately it could have stiffened up some.

 

As to the clay you have now, you could try cut and slam wedging with layers of water in-between. I often bring clay back by doing this. Cut bread like slices off the block, put finger dimples in the first piece, spray with water, place second piece of clay on top, pound down with back of hand, repeat until all clay is used-spray between each layer slightly. slam the block onto the wedging table several times on all sides, stand on an edge 90 degrees from first-repeat. Do this for about 6 or 7 times, then put clay in bag and reseal. Let sit for a few days, then wedge it up. This should help return the clay to a decent throwing consistency. If you have clay that is wet(thrown and very wet) and some dryer clay, do the same without the spray bottle. Make two blocks and alter the slices wet to dry then block up the same way and store for a week. Re-wedge.


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#5 Biglou13

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Posted 24 March 2014 - 02:25 PM

Sometimes it's not the clay formula.
Often clay may have sat too long and gotten dry.
Others must be wedged and need to be woken up.
Some bodies are just plain finicky, like some porcelains.
Sometimes it's the potter not the clay that is the problem.
Some clays are difficult until well aged.
Some clays are too wet.( probably not in your case)

Are you wedging before throwing? How does it feel when wedging?
Try wedging a few 1.5 # balls, place very damp face cloth/towel on it. Place in air tight bag and revisit in a week. Place a few balls with no damp towel in other air tight bag.

In a week or so re wedge and throw from each bag. If clay behaves better. Your clay was dry.
As always in pottery frequent testing is the norm.

Better solution is to have a experienced potter throw your clay and give opinion.
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#6 Biglou13

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Posted 24 March 2014 - 02:28 PM

If block is too dry
I like to poke a few holes into block with back of wooden spoon. Almost to bottom.
Pour water in holes. In 2 days pour out water, cover with wet rag seal bag well. Let sit. Then try again

The best clay .........

Prolly the one that's in front of you. There are varying qualities of clays but become familiar with technique before considering various clays nuances.

At on time l found that slightly groged clay behaved better for me and the what was in my head transmitted to my hands an clay better.

Further into my quest of 1000 cylinders, 1000 bowls. I no longer think so. I still love grog but now for different reasons.
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#7 CecRR

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Posted 24 March 2014 - 02:52 PM

Im in a very remote area. I havent found anything local. I contacted our little local school, and thats how I found the one small shop that I did find. I ordered my clay a couple weeks before I really started using it.

 

It seems fairly wet, but wedging it seems to dry it more? It feels okay when I begin wedging, then it seems to stiffen up. Should I be wetting my hands a bit hear and there while I wedge?

 

I'll have to give the advice from Pres a try. Because ive flopped quite a bit i do have a pile of really wet clay. Should I try to incorporate the two? Should I put it all in a bag together and let it sit? Will they mix well if I just try to wedge them with out sitting together, or will I just make a mess? 

 

As for grog, Im afraid of it. The skin on my hands if very sensitive, and I fear grog will chew them up too much.



#8 Biglou13

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Posted 24 March 2014 - 03:38 PM

Try wedging some of the flopped clay an clay out of bag , like pres says, cut and slam if u have wire otherwise just wedge
Depending on how wet may make a bit of mess.
If flopped clay is to wet let sit out.
I'm betting on your clay is a bit dry.
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#9 mregecko

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Posted 24 March 2014 - 05:31 PM

I will say, ungrogged b-mix can be a pain in the rear to throw in my experience. I have some arthritis in my right elbow from a sports-injury, and I had to stop throwing with it because it required so much pressure to throw with. It didn't matter how wet it was or how much I wedged, it was just a very stiff / unforgiving clay. Also, it cracked like the dickens. (This is their ^10 and ^6, ungrogged b-mixes)

 

I'm not sure what cone you're firing to, but I'd say go with their grogged b-mix. Much easier to work with. At ^10, their black mountain clay is great to throw with. It's a manganese-rich dark clay body, very forgiving, and very beautiful. 



#10 bciskepottery

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Posted 24 March 2014 - 07:12 PM

Laguna's B-Mix 5 or 10 and Aardvark's Bee-Mix 5 or 10 are not the same clay bodies. Laguna makes/sells three brands: Laguna, Miller, and Axner. Aardvark is a separate company. B-Mix/Bee-Mix seem to fall in that category of porcelaineous stonewares, somewhat dense, and - like porcelains - rather thirsty. I use Highwater's Little Loafers and it falls into that category.

I'm not sure I'd use that type of clay for beginning (or returning after several years away). A stoneware with some grog is more forgiving while you and your hands are relearning the muscle memory used during throwing.

Couple of suggestions: before using the clay, take the bag and, from about knee-high or waist-high, drop it on the floor -- all six sides (yep, top and bottom). That will waken the clay up from its sleep. If you push the clay with your finger, it should be more pliable. When throwing a body like B-Mix/Bee-Mix/Little Loafers, you might use a sponge on the outside of the clay rather than splashing water on the clay. And minimize getting water on the inside to avoid S cracks as the pots dry. A sponge will let you control the amount of water you add to the clay. These are thirsty clay bodies, but they don't know when to stop drinking until they are just too wobbly and soft to throw. When using the sponge be careful not to remove too much fine particle clay. If throwing a stoneware with grog, you don't want to use the sponge as you will wash away the fine particle clay and end up with rough feeling pots.

If the clay seems dried out of the box, open the bag, about a half-cup to cup of water, and reseal. Then set the bag into a five gallon bucket and fill the bucket with water until it reaches the top of the clay in the bag. The water pressure from the bucket will rehydrate the clay using the water inside the bag. Let it sit overnight or day or two. Avoid poking holes in the clay block and filling with water; that only creates the potential for bothersome air bubbles when you go to wedge the clay.

#11 High Bridge Pottery

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Posted 25 March 2014 - 02:02 PM

I love a slight groggy clay. Can move it so much more without any complaints.

 

Your first post sounds like I feel when I try to throw porcelain after using stoneware forever. Hard, dries out fast and feels strange.



#12 Nancy S.

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Posted 29 March 2014 - 08:36 PM

Grab a handful of your "fresh" clay, roll it into a coil, and twist it into a circle/s-shape. If it cracks, it's too dry!

 

You can certainly "marry" your floppy wet clay with the stuff in the bag. Slice up your bagged clay and alternate the slices with some floppy clay, seal up the bag for a while, then wedge it all together. Won't ruin it at all! I have no experience with Aardvark's clays, but the ones I've used have no problem being mixed up like this. I do it all the time. :)

 

Standard Ceramic (out of Pittsburgh, PA) has some good clays for beginners. But I'm not sure where you are....

 

Best to find a local supplier where you can pick up clay. It's heavy, which means shipping can be expensive. Coyote Clay ships theirs in USPS flat-rate boxes, but that's still $17 (+/-) extra for 50 lbs of clay.



#13 alabama

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Posted 30 March 2014 - 04:57 PM

Im looking for recommendations on a good soft clay to begin throwing with. .... The clay just doesnt like to move. .... They dont give info on their website as to how soft or plastic their clay bodies are. Any help would be much appreciated. TIA

Hey,

      Say you live in a remote area?  I can only think of two - Area 51 and Bermuda Triangle.  You should be able to ship clay on a military transport

to either one.:)   I've had "issues" with about two clays, one was Lizzela because we fired it to cone 10 to 12 and the other was a Porcelain B-Mix.

For really white porcelain clays I use Highwater Helios to make 17th century copies of cobalt blue on white Westerwald pottery...Everything else

is Trinity Clay's red or white stoneware.  I use several different kinds of clays for throwing and though unorthadox this is how I evaluate each kind and get them ready to throw.

I cut a 5 lb amount and try wedging, if it wedges I still want to find out how soft it is so I stand it on one end (cone shaped) and take a standard wire tool and pull thru If the wire pulls thru without the clay falling over, I know it is soft enough to throw...if I have to hold the clay up, then I slice 1/4 inch thick pieces and wet each one all the way down to the table.  If it is still too stiff, I wedge and repeat with the water and wedge it again.  At some point the wire tool will

easily slice thru with little resistance, and then I know its ok to throw with that 5 lbs.  If I'm going to throw the rest of the 20  lbs later, at that point, I'll

add some water to the bag and allow it to sit overnight and to test it, I wedge it back up and pull a wire tool thru it, and add more water if necessary.

I prefer throwing and teaching with soft clays and think that its easier to learn that way.  I seldom if ever used clay straight from the bag, but I know some do.

Try some of the different ways and see which one suits your needs.

See you all later,

Alabama



#14 potterbeth

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Posted 02 April 2014 - 10:41 AM

If you slightly pre-moisten your wedging surface, it won't rob moisture from your clay. This works well if your clay feels just right out of the bag.

 

You know how your wedging surface looks after you've started wedging, damp but not shiny wet? Aim for that. Too much water will cause your clay to slide around and get your hands covered wth sticky clay.






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