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Xmas present i don't know what to do with!

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Hi all.

I'm brand new to the forum - I usually work in glass but have been wanting to dabble with clay forever really.  At Xmas my son bought me a 10kg slab of Gedeo oven bake, fine natural clay for a ceramic kiln 1050/1922°, a small set of assorted tools and a beautifully smooth cake turntable!  Now  I was only planning on a little dabble at making ceramic beads but I don't know where to start now that I have these items in front of me. I don't want to open the clay in case I waste it, and I suspect the turntable will be good for decorating only ( i think he had plans to fit up a motor!).  The kiln is prob ok as I have one for glass but any and all suggestions welcomed.  


Oh and I have no income at the moment to spend on more equipment, I had brain surgery before Xmas and still recovering so unable to work. So any suggestions need to be cheap lol!  Sorry for the big ask....;-)

Edited by Beadysam

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You are correct; dont think of trying to affix a motor to the turntable/banding wheel; it would never work. It can be extremely helpful if you want to make hand built coil pots from it though.

It looks like the max temp for this clay is in the low fire range, which would be a cone 06-04. Your glass kiln could be possibly reach those temperatures, but it may reach more like a cone 010-012. Since I assume you are not going to be making any functional pots which you are going to be eating/drinking from, then the issues of not reaching maturity with your firings are a little less important. The other aspect to your kiln is how big is the chamber; this obviously limits what you can make in clay. You will have to fire at a different rate than what your glass is fired to; ceramics undergoes a lot of the same phases during glass firing, the biggest difference is that with clay, in the early stages of firing, you have to remove water and organic materials from your clay. A slower firing is better here than a faster one. If your kiln is a manual one, with a pyrometer, then you could easily find a firing schedule to follow, or likewise, if it is an automatic kiln with the ability to enter a ramp/hold schedule, you can find a schedule for this too. If your kiln cant reach 1850*F then your fired objects may be a little more fragile, but without knowing the range of your kiln, they may not be extremely fragile.

Most community studios wont fire work, which hasnt been made with clay they sold, or a customer they trust to know makes sound objects using the proper materials; risk to their kiln/student work is a reality. Asking community studios (if you have any near by) if they would consider firing your work may be helpful. If you make beads which take up zero room (unless your making hundreds of them) in their kiln, may cost you very little to fire. They may also be willing to let you watch a "beginners" class, which will walk through some of the basics of working with clay.

Not sure what kind of glass work you do; slumping, fusing, bead making......? 

Clay, especially if you are making small (less than 2" square), solid objects, can be very forgiving so dont get caught up in all the details of how to work with larger clay pieces. If you want to make flat, thin slabs (ornaments, tiles, that kind of thing), you will have to dry the clay a little slowly to avoid cracking. Clay does dry out as you work with it, so you will need to mist your work pieces periodically if they begin to dry out. There are plenty of instructional online sources which can walk you through the step by step processes; a little google searching will turn up a lot of info. Your local library may have a good collection of instructional books too.

You can use just about any "tools" you need, to manipulate the clay, carve, shape, etc. The tools that your son bought you are probably great, but dont overlook simple things you have laying around your house; a pencil, toothpicks, skewers, X-acto knives, and a whole assortment of garage tools can be great for decorating or sculpting without having to buy anything.

Dont worry about wasting the clay; keep it bagged up when not using it (it will dry with contact to air). Mist the block if it begins to dry out some. If it does dry out too much to use, you can reclaim it by adding water until its a slurry, then drying it out some, and mixing it up. Until it has been fired, clay is essentially never wasted.

Unless you want to glaze these pieces, it sounds like you have everything you need! Unglazed ceramic can be painted with a slew of materials. Acrylics and oil paints are an obvious, but water colors can work, colored pencils (sealed with acrylic spray), natural dies can stain the piece. Unglazed, but fired, ceramic can be lovely on its own. You could always buy some small containers of glazes/underglazes, but you're going to then need kiln furniture, and money will be spent.

Let your creative juices flow, and enjoy!

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Here is from their website: http://en.pebeo.com/Creative-leisure/Moulding-and-Modelling/Modelling

They have lots of videos as well that they call workshops, about projects and decorating.

If yours is like the oven baked clays I used decades ago, these feel and work really differently from natural clay and are very pricey.

And here is a youtube on using a different brand of oven bake clays: 


Edited by Gabby

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Hulk - yep that looks like the pack. I need to dig out my kiln manual to check what temp its happy at.  I programmed the kiln years ago when I got it and have not really looked at the instructions since.   I can always contact the manufacturer i suppose.

I've got a jen-ken kiln with optional bead door and Orton digital controller. I have entered a few different schedules  and just press the corresponding number and off it goes.   I don't think anyone in the UK sells these kilns and as far as I know when I had this one made it was the last one that would be sent from the US to UK due to breakage in transit. Shame  really, I spent about £400-£450 in total (Inc duty, tax etc) for a kiln that would cost £1000 in the UK.  The exchange rate was fab back then too.

Hitchmss - kiln chamber not massive, about large dinnerplate with a good wide margin for movement, it's pretty deep too.  It's a hex shape that many use for fusing small items, bowls, coasters, fused glass pictures/art.  Not big enough for any but the smallest of pots.  Unfortunately I can't find anywhere round here that does classes or taster days at a price i can afford at the moment, but I'm still looking.  Illness of late means I have zero income to buy glazes etc. Tools aren't a problen, I have tonnes of tools for glass that will transfer to ceramic work.  Cutters, dental tools, cuttlery,  texture plates etc etc etc

Tabby - thanks for the links, I will go now and have a browse.

ALL. - The main point you all seem to be making is - get stuck in and have fun!  Guess what I am doing tomorrow? Lol!   But thanks to you all for your help and advice.  No doubt I'll be asking many more silly questions soon if you'll forgive me?...lol!

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