Monday, October 01, 2012

Paper Clay Adventures

Right now I feel like I am participating in a mini, self-imposed, paper clay residency.  I got really fascinated by this when Rebecca Hutchinson taught at CSU Summer Arts in July.  Rebecca encouraged me to try this technique of stenciling, painting, and silk screening on a slab of plaster and then pouring a layer of paper clay slip on top.  I was so wrapped up in my installation project that I never got around to trying this out.  So now I am making up and giving it a whirl.

I want to expose a screen next but first I thought I would start off with a hand cut stencil.  I actually forgot about drawing directly on the plaster so I probably would have started with that.  Here I am using a thick porcelain slip made from my throwing leftovers to which I have added toilet paper.  I took a small amount of it and tinted it with turquoise stain.  

I had to let go of my ocd, perfectionistic tendencies with this whole process.  The stencil is not precise and the slip kind of likes to spread under the stencil a bit.

The crazy part is when you pick up the bucket of paper clay slip and pour a thick layer over the whole slab, obscuring the image in the process.  By the way, don't stop pouring and run to get your camera as the leading edge of the slip will start to dry out and will leave a line of demarcation after you pour the rest of the slip.  This line will have a tendency to want to crack later when you are manipulating the slab.  Good to know, just pour it all at once and spread it quickly and thick.

After a few hours, depending on weather (it was a hundred degrees when I did this), a half inch thick pour of slip will have turned into a quarter inch thick sheet that can be peeled pack from the plaster.  I was so excited to see that it actually worked and didn't tear.

I had some extra so I used a commercial stencil on this smaller plaster slab.

This close up shows the paper fibers pretty well.

So, I learned that it is good to plan what you are going to do with your sheet of clay before you make it so you aren't running around scratching your head while your sheet starts to dry.  I am not so sure that utilitarian pieces are the best use of this process but I didn't have a sculptural project in mind.  I also learned that paper clay cuts a whole lot easier with scissors than with a blade or wire.  

I love this "rolled" foot.  I enjoyed experimenting with this because it forced me to let go.  I also like that their where certain things the porcelain slab would and wouldn't do.  Because of this,  the evidence of the process is necessarily revealed such as the cracking of the surface of the clay as it was formed.  Hmm, I'm kind of liking this.  It will be interesting to see where it leads me.  

If you want to know more about working with paper clay, an excellant resource is Rosette Gault's book on the subject.