Working with clay and making something out of it takes a lot of effort and patience to get the work accomplished successfully. While doing your pottery work, you may face a lot of problems regarding the process of drying and firing the clay & you may need to know about the techniques of firing and drying the clay to get the desired and fine results.
A common problem that most people go through while making their own pottery is getting the clay over dried while firing it into the kiln. Improper way of drying can lead to cracking of your clay. Hence, you need to understand whether your clay has properly dried or not.
Working with clay is not at all an easy task if you’re not properly acquainted with the drying process. If you are rushing towards drying of the clay, right after modeling, then it is not a good choice that you should make. You need to be much careful about it before putting the clay into the fire. Excessive drying also leads to cracking or warping. In this article, we will talk about how to dry the clay properly and avoid too much drying. So, let’s proceed.
Optimum drying of your clay is needed before firing
Drying your pottery is a slow process that you need to follow before putting the clay into the fire. Drying of your clay takes a lot of time. And how much time your clay will take, it depends on the size and thickness of your piece. Climate is also an essential factor that affects the drying process. Bone dry your pottery before putting it into the fire to avoid cracking.
You need to notice the changing color of your clay. The color of your pottery gets lighter as much as it gets dried. Your pottery also feels lighter as the process of drying proceeds, and the moisture evaporates gradually. The more complicated and thicker your piece is, the longer it takes to dry. Also, the materials present in your clay decide the time of drying. No matter how much time it takes, make sure you’re drying it properly before opting for firing.
Not only air-drying, but there are also many other ways to dry your clay faster before putting it into the fire.
The following table describes the different processes of drying your clay.
Alternative Ways of Clay Drying
|Blow Drying||Though it’s not safe enough to use a blow-dryer for clay drying as it emits hot air, it’s safe to use it from a distance with a low setting mode.|
|Heat Gun||Heat your clay for 15 minutes evenly by setting the temperature of your heat gun at 120°C. Try to maintain a distance of 5 inches.|
|Candling||In this process, you need to keep your kiln at the temperature of 180°C for 8-9 hours to dry out the moisture of your clay evenly.|
Dry your clay evenly
While drying, make sure you are drying every part of your pottery evenly. Leaving out any part leads to the breakage of that portion. Every part of the clay must be dried finely. Do the process slowly to achieve perfection.
If you’re following the process of rolling the slab, then you need to roll your slab in multiple directions to allow it to get dried equally from every side. Also, doing it upside down on the slab may help the clay to dry evenly. Try to keep your pottery away from the edge of the kiln to avoid breakage. Drying every part of your clay prevents your pottery from getting too much dry before firing.
Check the progress of your dryness quite often
Sometimes the clay may become too stiff, which makes it difficult for the sculpture to shape it. However, it doesn’t mean your clay is absolutely dry. You need to check the progress of the drying process quite often to know if it’s totally dry or not. In case it gets too dried, take a broomstick or any such other thing to poke and make a tiny hole in the clay. Fill the void with water and put it aside for one or two days. Work with it only after your pottery has absorbed proper moisture. After that, you can shape it and put it into the fire again. In this way, you can avoid excessive drying of the clay.
In an alternative way, you can put the clay into a bucket of water, set it aside for one or two days to let it get appropriately rehydrated. And then, work with it by air drying it and put the piece into the fire again. Too much stiffness and being prone to cracking can be reduced in this way.
Try to keep your clay moist enough before firing
Giving your clay, proper moisture after bone drying, helps in preventing over-drying of the clay. Also, you can keep your clay moist for a longer time in an old refrigerator by making holes in it. Putting the clay inside sealed bags like Spartan Industrial Clear Plastic Reclosable Zip Poly Bags by spraying water onto it helps in preventing drying of the clay. After that, working with the clay and putting it into fire ensures even drying of the clay. In this way, excessive drying can be avoided before firing your clay.
Additional tips that may help
The final result of your pottery work depends not only on how you are drying or firing it but also on the entire process as each and every step matter. You need to be sure about what type of clay you’re using, the moisture level of the clay, other materials present in the clay, etc. as all these influences the drying process and time. Try to use fine-quality clay, like AMACO High Fire Moist Non-Toxic Stoneware Clay, for better quality results. Before proceeding, know all the firing techniques for every condition to give your pottery an outstanding look.
Whether you’re firing the clay into a kiln, campfire, or oven, the first thing that you need to keep in your mind is the drying nature of your clay. The more you work with different types of clays, the more you become familiar with the quality of the clays. Just keep working with it and do as many experiments as you can to achieve perfection. Always try to avoid over-drying of the clay to ensure the longevity of your artwork. And by following the steps mentioned above, you can prevent excessive drying of your clay before firing. Happy sculpting!