Paper clay recipe and Balinese dream

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This is the finished plaque I have been working on for the last week; it is yet to be kiln fired  and glazed, but this is as far as I think I’ll go with the clay work.

I made it using paper clay, which is basically normal clay mixed with cellulose fibers to make it lighter and stronger. Adding paper pulp and other fibers  to clay reduces shrinkage in the drying stage and strengthens joints. It also makes it easier for wet and dry pieces to be joined together without the piece cracking.

I bought the clay for this sculpture ready made, but sometimes I make my own paper clay.

The easiest way is to use dry bits of scrap clay and then add water so it dissolves and revert back to slip…

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…like this. You can see an earlier discarded attempt to catch the  face I used in the sculpture above. I love the way she’s softly dissolving in the water…

You can then mix the clay slip with ripped up newspapers, egg cartons or toilet paper. The proportion of clay slip to paper pulp varies, but a typical sample would be 4:1. The clay slip and paper pulp are mixed thoroughly together, with the best results achieved using a blender or electric mixer. The blended mixture is then laid out on plaster batts to dry a little so it can be wedged into balls of clay. The proportions can vary from 5% to 25%; you may need to experiment a bit to find out what suits your work best.

Making your own paper clay is economical and versatile, as any clay body can be used.
But the shelf life of homemade paper clay is only about two weeks, so it needs to be used up quickly; if kept for longer, the organic cellulose starts to break down and decay which makes it unhealthy to use. Besides, the paper clay loses its special properties when the structure of the cellulose fibers break down ; toilet paper is more prone to rapid decay. To prolong the shelf life, you can add a small amount of disinfectant (but not bleach) to the wet mixture before drying it out on the plaster batts. You can also roll out thin sheets of paper clay and let it dry out completely. When you want to use it, you just moisten it up with a damp cloth.

www.annakeiller.com

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About Anna

I am a ceramic sculptor living on the South coast near London, England. My work is influenced by my experience of the earth as a living being and seeing how we are all connected with eachother and with the things that surround us. I create ceramic torsos using molochite clay which I often smokefire in galvanised dustbins. I also make House Gods to protect and amuse, and Fat Birds - little smokefired sculptures that tell the story about what it is like to be a fat bird at peace with its surroundings.
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17 Responses to Paper clay recipe and Balinese dream

  1. rthepotter says:

    I like the plaque – and also find the dissolving one fascinating. And I keep meaning to experiment with paper clay (might even do it one day) so thanks for the instructions 🙂

    Like

    • Anna says:

      Hi, I have a huge, but HUGE, sack of paper fibers, and would be happy to send you some if you like? Saves soaking news/loo paper. It’s rather like the grey paper fluff stuff you get inside some padded envelopes.

      Like

      • rthepotter says:

        Very kind offer – probably best not to put you to the trouble though, as I’m failing to squish clay into my schedule 😦 Too many other things are putting themselves into the spare moments…

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  2. Alastair says:

    I can’t just press like on this because I don’t “like” it, I “LOVE” it. It is bloody awesome

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  3. Sonel says:

    It must be so amazing to see your work Anna! How I would love to be there when you create these stunning sculptures! Great work as usual hon! Love it! 😀 *hugs*

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  4. fascinating! Love your plaque & the stuff about paper clay…I would love to have the time to try it…

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    • Anna says:

      Thank you for the compliment! living in Perth – do you ever nip across to Indonesia? I am sooo jealous of the proximity…

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      • I’ve been there once in my many decades, no. I’m way too broke to do anything like that and could not get the time off work without losing my job. But there’s heaps in Perth of the style. I possess a Garuda mask & a blainese dragon. I also love the shaodw puppets. Jakarta smells of shit, diesel, and cloves 🙂

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      • Anna says:

        Mmm, and coconut oil, woodsmoke and frangipani flowers…

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      • not so much 🙂 Not unless you are near them, or in one of the overrun tourist resorts….yes, I can be a bit of a cynic aobut such things

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      • Anna says:

        …depends where u go, granted. Lousy government, nasty corruption, severe logging issues; ah we’re all in the gutter, m’dear. But just look at those stars!

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      • you see the stars more clearly in Perth than Indonesia – especially at the moment with more of the precious forest laid waste for bloody palm oil. That’s what hurts – the beauty you imagine was there about 50 years ago. Gone now, under the feet of tourists and global corporate greed :-/

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      • oh I’m being suvh a downer, aren’t I? Sorry. I just know what *was* there, and how it’s become a playground for drunken bloody Australians. There are still places, yes, but developers will get there too…

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  5. Mary Maude says:

    Hi Anna, I love this piece. I have a series of plaques planned and would so appreciate if you could recommend a book or two that explain how to make paper clay.

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    • Anna says:

      Hi, Mary Maude. Thanks for your lovely comment, but as for books, I’m sorry I tend to just dive in and experiment for myself. ..I am sure there must be books available about how to make plaques – and you have the paper clay recipe above. You can also buy ready made paper clay if you want to make it easy for yourself to start with…Good luck
      Anna

      Like

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