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Hello!

 

I'm new to the community, and I've been trying to find information throughout the other threads, but haven't had too much luck...

 

I've been working with Sculpey polymer clays and glazes to make little charms and figurines, but have been wanting to move on to heavier clays and their beautiful glazes.I particularly love the look of porcelain, but I am a complete newbie, and don't know where to begin. I live in Seattle, so I am hoping to check out Seattle Potter Supply sometime this week, but I'd love to have an idea of what to get before I go.

 

Mostly, I will probably stick to making charms, ring holders, and bracelets at first, but I've always loved the idea of making my own dinnerware. I will be hand building everything, and most of the charms I make are fairly tiny (1" or smaller). The ring holders and bracelets would obviously be bigger, but probably nothing over 4", and everything should be less than 1/2" in thickness. 

 

I am wondering if there is any clay I should start with that could achieve a look similar to porcelain, or if I should try to jump into porcelain first. I am aware polymer clay has incredibly different properties, and that porcelain is notorious for being difficult to work with (cracking, shrinkage, slumping, etc). I am hoping that since the pieces I'd be making will be small and not too complex in form (I am fairly quick at forming them now), that it shouldn't pose too much of a problem.

 

Grolleg, Kutani, Dove, Awaji, and Crystal White Porcelains were some of the ones I was looking at that had descriptions that seemed to match my needs. But I also saw Alpine White, which is a stoneware, and wondered if that also might be what I am looking for.

 

I an image (the unicorn) of what I'd hope my work will eventually similarly translate to in ceramics.

 

Thank you!

post-73640-0-68201600-1451365359_thumb.png

post-73640-0-68201600-1451365359_thumb.png

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If you start working with clay that needs to be fired, then there is a huge commitment to kiln, glazes and learning. You don't mention any desire to throw. The scale of the unicorn could be done in a test kiln running on 120V. I got my test kiln from Seattle Pottery about 20+ years ago. It is a crucible. You need a heavier electric line capable of 28 amps or your plugs can get dangerously hot. 

The clay you choose does not need to be translucent, .So just pick one and begin.I have used the Dove porcelain and it seemed good for my needs at the time.

 

Marcia

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I have used the crystal white from Seattle Pottery and it is easy to work with and fires white. It looks grey until you fire it.

If you like working small, then get a small test kiln ... I am sure the folks there can advise you on which ones they see less often for repairs. These small kilns don't need all the special heavy duty wiring of large kilns.

Even I f you do move up to making dishes etc. and need a larger kiln ... the small kiln will always come in handy. I love having mine around for quick tests and small jobs.

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You might wanna check the temperature range of those clays before buying. Grolleg is a high-fire porcelain that has to be fired clear up to ^10, whereas Crystal White fires at ^5. Dove porcellain is practically impossible to throw with (even my instructors gave that stuff the bird), but there was another one...something like CK06 (don't quote me!) that is much easier to work with and isn't as finnicky as Crystal White.

 

Also, if I were you, I'd give Clay Art Center in Tacoma a call. I have personally found their clays to be superior to SPS, as have several others I know. It's super easy to find, too--just a hop off the freeway and straight ahead about five minutes. :) I exclusively use their clays in all my work, and their mid-range glazes are amazing. The also have EXQUISITE underglazes for decorative work. Highly recommended! :)

 

Also, remember that regular clay takes a minimum of two firings in a kiln. :) The first is the bisque, which turns the mud into that hard ware you need to be able to apply glaze to. It's at ^04 (that "0" is very important--^04 is MUCH cooler than ^4!), then you apply the glaze, and THEN you fire to the high temps to get the full shebang. Also, that gold stuff on the unicorn is called luster. It's applied onto already glazed ware and fired at a VERY cool temp. Be careful when using it, because those heavy metal fumes are NOT healthy. Dangerous stuff!

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If Tacoma isn't too far away, the Clay Art Center is staffed by friendly potters. I think they have earned a reputation of being better that SPS.

 

One 25 lb bag will last you a long time so the cost of porcelain. On small figurines the technical issues won't be an issue. It will carve and smooth very nicely.

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^Seeeeee?? I toldja! ^_^ And you don't have to brave that serpentine, train and semi-infested labyrinth Industrial District to get to it. Clay Art Center is literally five minutes off the freeway, straight ahead, on the left. They also have better prices of kiln furniture, like shelves and posts. ♥♥

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I have used the crystal white from Seattle Pottery and it is easy to work with and fires white. It looks grey until you fire it.

If you like working small, then get a small test kiln ... I am sure the folks there can advise you on which ones they see less often for repairs. These small kilns don't need all the special heavy duty wiring of large kilns.

Even I f you do move up to making dishes etc. and need a larger kiln ... the small kiln will always come in handy. I love having mine around for quick tests and small jobs.

I want to clarify my previous post regarding the wiring for my larger test kiln. I think it is 1.5 cubic feet. It has melted plug outlets until I upgraded wiring. So I emphasize, get the correct wiring whenever you install a kiln. The kiln did not do this in Montana but I had new outlets put in for that kiln. In Brownsville, I plugged it into regular 120 outlet which melted firing a bisque. I would say the wiring at our home had been upgraded but it still wasn't good enough. I moved it to my newly built kiln shed with additionally upgraded wiring.It is old. I have changed the switch once and the coil once in 20+ years.

 

Marcia

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First you need to decide what cone you want to fire to. There are numerous clay bodies available for all cones. Buy your clay locally, if possible. Your supplier can help make recommendations. No reason you can't jump right into porcelain, especially with the size of work you will be making. If you haven't worked with real clay before, I recommend taking a class at your local art center or community college to learn the basics. It's not at all the same as polymer clay.

 

Any kiln should be on a breaker that is 25% greater than the actual draw of the kiln. There are several little 1 cubic-foot-ish sized kilns on the market that will run on a 20 amp, 120 volt circuit, and fire to cone 8-10. You can fit a ton of little charms in a kiln that size. Most household circuits are only 15 amps, so you'll probably have to upgrade a line if you go that route. Any kiln bigger than that will require 240 volt service.

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lovely unicorn!  what did you use to make it? 

 

you have not told us what your background or education in clay has been.  i suspect you have not even looked at the basic textbook type of natural clay work at your local library.

 

the step from polymer plastics to natural clay is as big as the difference between rowing a rowboat and captaining an ocean liner.  please get some basic knowledge of what you want and what it will take to get there before you go shopping.  the store will always be there.  your idea of what you want to buy could (will) change.

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Nobody mentioned porcelain shrinkage! About 10% at cone10, but I don't know about cone5.

 

Your tinys will be tinier, your holes will have to start out bigger.

 

Also, fired porcelain is more dense than polymer clay, so pieces will be heavier.

 

If you can take a class locally, it's the best place to experiment to find out what works for you.

 

Good luck!

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Hi!

 

For some reason, I thought my post didn't make it through as it hadn't shown up for me... But wow! Lots of information- thanks!

 

lovely unicorn!  what did you use to make it? 

 

you have not told us what your background or education in clay has been.  i suspect you have not even looked at the basic textbook type of natural clay work at your local library.

 

the step from polymer plastics to natural clay is as big as the difference between rowing a rowboat and captaining an ocean liner.  please get some basic knowledge of what you want and what it will take to get there before you go shopping.  the store will always be there.  your idea of what you want to buy could (will) change.

 

The unicorn wasn't made by me, it's the sort of look I am hoping to achieve some day; and I know it was made with porcelain, so that's why I was looking into porcelain to begin with. I am aware that the difference between polymer clay and natural clay is very, very different. Maybe I shouldn't have said that I'm a complete newbie... but I actually have been doing a lot of research over a few months on the types and different firing temperatures, compositions, and the chemical reactions that take place with the different clays, and I've really been looking into what would be best suited for my needs and the different ways to work with them. There is just a lot to learn, and I thought I'd have some luck with learning about the things that are specific to what I'd like to do on here. I have worked with natural clay before in school, but I've never bought my own or anything- I simply was curious about the different types and brands SPS offered. I already know what I'd like to make, and I'm not going to buy anything before I'm 100% comfortable with my decision or knowledge of the material or brand. This isn't the only place I'm going to looking for information- but it seemed reasonable to ask a community of people who know a lot about the material and mediums for some more supplemental information.

 

 

Nobody mentioned porcelain shrinkage! About 10% at cone10, but I don't know about cone5.

Your tinys will be tinier, your holes will have to start out bigger.

Also, fired porcelain is more dense than polymer clay, so pieces will be heavier.

If you can take a class locally, it's the best place to experiment to find out what works for you.

Good luck!

 

I have read about shrinkage! I know it will shrink both from drying and from vitrifying... but couldn't find out anything about them shrinking after a glazed firing (I'd assume not, but I'm not completely sure). I'm excited for the pieces to be heavier, actually! That's one of the main reasons I'd like to move on to this material instead. If I had time during regular people hours, I'd love to take a class.... but I do almost all of my creating and painting at night, and I doubt they anywhere would have classes at 1 AM :(.

 

 

First you need to decide what cone you want to fire to. There are numerous clay bodies available for all cones. Buy your clay locally, if possible. Your supplier can help make recommendations. No reason you can't jump right into porcelain, especially with the size of work you will be making. If you haven't worked with real clay before, I recommend taking a class at your local art center or community college to learn the basics. It's not at all the same as polymer clay.

 

Any kiln should be on a breaker that is 25% greater than the actual draw of the kiln. There are several little 1 cubic-foot-ish sized kilns on the market that will run on a 20 amp, 120 volt circuit, and fire to cone 8-10. You can fit a ton of little charms in a kiln that size. Most household circuits are only 15 amps, so you'll probably have to upgrade a line if you go that route. Any kiln bigger than that will require 240 volt service.

 

I wanted my clay to have a higher cone to be fired to so there'd be less chance for it to melt, and because I want it to be really strong. I'm interested in porcelain because it seems to fit all the qualities that I'd like for my pieces to have, but I just wasn't sure about where to begin with all the brands and different types available. I will be inquiring about using SPS's kiln, so I shouldn't need to get one myself (my circuit definitely wouldn't work with any of them as I can't even use a hair dryer!).

 

 

If Tacoma isn't too far away, the Clay Art Center is staffed by friendly potters. I think they have earned a reputation of being better that SPS.

 

One 25 lb bag will last you a long time so the cost of porcelain. On small figurines the technical issues won't be an issue. It will carve and smooth very nicely.

 

I will definitely look into them too! I heard about SPS through several friends, and it seemed to be perfect.... I'd always tried to smother my desire to do ceramics because I never have the space for a kiln, but after I heard about SPS, it seems like so many obstacles could be overcome! 

 

You might wanna check the temperature range of those clays before buying. Grolleg is a high-fire porcelain that has to be fired clear up to ^10, whereas Crystal White fires at ^5. Dove porcellain is practically impossible to throw with (even my instructors gave that stuff the bird), but there was another one...something like CK06 (don't quote me!) that is much easier to work with and isn't as finnicky as Crystal White.

Also, if I were you, I'd give Clay Art Center in Tacoma a call. I have personally found their clays to be superior to SPS, as have several others I know. It's super easy to find, too--just a hop off the freeway and straight ahead about five minutes. :) I exclusively use their clays in all my work, and their mid-range glazes are amazing. The also have EXQUISITE underglazes for decorative work. Highly recommended! :)

Also, remember that regular clay takes a minimum of two firings in a kiln. :) The first is the bisque, which turns the mud into that hard ware you need to be able to apply glaze to. It's at ^04 (that "0" is very important--^04 is MUCH cooler than ^4!), then you apply the glaze, and THEN you fire to the high temps to get the full shebang. Also, that gold stuff on the unicorn is called luster. It's applied onto already glazed ware and fired at a VERY cool temp. Be careful when using it, because those heavy metal fumes are NOT healthy. Dangerous stuff!

 

Yes, I will be talking to SPS about their kiln temps and what they can do before I do anything. Good thing I pretty much never plan on throwing anything! Even if I ever decided to do dinnerware, I love organic, freeform shapes, and hand building is too much fun! And I'll definitely check the Tacoma shop out as it seems like some of you prefer them. And yes, I am aware that there will be at least two firings, and of the luster! After doing a lot of printmaking, I kind of assume any fume is awful for you :)

 

 

If you start working with clay that needs to be fired, then there is a huge commitment to kiln, glazes and learning. You don't mention any desire to throw. The scale of the unicorn could be done in a test kiln running on 120V. I got my test kiln from Seattle Pottery about 20+ years ago. It is a crucible. You need a heavier electric line capable of 28 amps or your plugs can get dangerously hot. 

The clay you choose does not need to be translucent, .So just pick one and begin.I have used the Dove porcelain and it seemed good for my needs at the time.

 

Marcia

 

Part of the reason I decided I wanted to start working with ceramics is because I just recently learned about SPS and how they have kilns you can use, so it made me feel like I finally had the opportunity to do something I've wanted to for many years. Yeah, I don't have any desire to throw, as I love to hand build things! The only reason I wanted the clay to be translucent was because some of my pieces will have rather thin parts, and I'd love for them to be translucent. And I had also read that if you work with porcelain, you should only work with porcelain, because it will almost always get other clays mixed up into it... But we'll see!

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If you're looking at very small kilns, just be aware that some are designed for things like enamelling of metals - these won't get hot enough for porcelain. A good guide is that these just have an on/off switch without the firing controls you get on a pottery kiln. However I started using one of these at home to supplement evening classes, for doing Egyptian Paste/Faience, which they do well. This isn't as strong as fired clay, but a big benefot for jewellery is that it is much lighter. However it can be a challenge to work with unless you make a master and take moulds off it, and then mould the pieces.

 

On selecting clays, here in the UK many manufacturers will let you have samples of a couple of pounds for free or a low cost, and it is interesting to try a number of clays side by side to find one that you get on with - the manufacturer's descriptions are often so generic to appeal to everyone that they are meaningless "This is a wonderful white porcelain that you can use for throwing, hand building and anything else". Also, when I began I didn't realise what a big difference small amounts of changes in the moisture of the clay made to its workability. Again something to experiment with, but for hand building you need less water in the clay than for throwing.

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