Clay – What are ceramic sculptures made of ?

Clay is the most important tool in my trade. It’s worth noting, that clay also happens to be one of the oldest building materials used by mankind, and it’s thanks to it that great buildings of the past (or even whole cities) came to life. Even animals tend to use it as a material for their homes. For me – clay is my means of artistic expression.

What exactly is clay?
To put it simply – it’s powdered rocks. To be more precise – rocks with layered structure. The crucial ingredient responsible for the nature of sculptures such as mine is kaolin. It’s quite important for the clay to be of high quality. Clay can be further categorized into fat clay and lean clay. Fat clay is more plastic than lean clay and contains very little sand. Lean clay, due to the extra sand, makes the final product have a rougher surface.

Clay and its properties
Clay is able to accumulate heat, therefore it has a thermal capacity. A trait quite important for a building material. This, along with its’ mass, allows the rooms to stay warm at cool nights while cooling down the interiors during the heats. Clay also regulates its’ moisture to some extent. Lastly, it can suppress smells.

Preparation of the material
Another very important process is preparing the shapeless mass of clay for proper work. The clay has to be vented through while maintaining some sort of unity. If the mass stays too moist, it will be much harder for the clay to form a solid shape – resulting in the items deforming. After forming the desired shape, they are put in a ceramic kiln – using lower temperature at first. Afterwards, items are glazed and put back into a kiln. This time the temperature is around 1100 degrees Celsius. The whole process, along with the drying, can take over 20 hours.

No matter how experienced one is, the ceramic work continues to be a challenge. Every sub-process carries a risk that may damage the final product in one way or another. The sculpture can end up broken, the glazing can end up looking differently from the intended vision and so on. It’s a medium requiring not only technical knowledge and patience – it also requires the ability to cope with failures.

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9 Comments

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    3 May 2019

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