Ceramic clay is no longer a professional ceramic-making thing. Nowadays, such clay is used frequently for DIY projects by both children and adults. But not many of us know how to make clay for ceramics at home.
You can make ceramic clay by gathering clay soil and putting it in a container. Then add water to separate the clay from the sediment. Put the clay in a piece of fabric to remove the excess water to get the clay for ceramic.
Once you learn how to make ceramic clay, there is hardly any stopping next. It turns into a hobby and even an obsession. So if you would like to explore more regarding ceramic clay making, I urge you to read the entire article.
What Is Ceramic Clay Made Of?
Since I’m discussing the process of ceramic clay making, I thought clearing about the raw materials will help you understand everything better. Ceramic clay contains different types of ingredients as its raw material.
However, the essential one is clay. It contains organic materials and water. While most clay contains soil, you can opt for cornstarch and baking soda to make the clay at home.
Types Of Clay For Ceramics
The ceramic clay you see is not the same. Different types of clay are used to make different types of ceramic items. And judging by the way such clay is made, we can identify three types of clay.
Earthenware is the most commonly found clay around the world. This clay is sticky and suitable for making different objects very easily. It contains iron, enabling it to harden even at a low temperature.
Stoneware clay is hard and more durable. This ceramic clay is more suitable for making dinnerware. You may use ceramic coffee mugs and other kitchen items to make or heat food. They must be made of stoneware ceramic clay.
Porcelain ceramic is also known as kaolin. This one is the richest and purest of all three types. You may have also heard of them as the White Clay as they primarily appear in white. Such clay is widely used to manufacture glossy papers.
What Are 3 Properties Of Clay Ceramics?
There are three properties of ceramic clay, and here they are.
Plasticity is the clay’s shape, size, and particles altogether. It is also known as platelets. The platelets move around as the artist or potter moves the clay to shape it.
Thus, you cannot make ceramic clay without plasticity. This characteristic of clay makes it hold a form and allows the artist to change it.
Another property clay should have is porosity. This characteristic ensures the clay will not crack when it dries. These are fine, smooth platelets that help water evaporate without breaking the ceramic object.
It is the opposite of mud puddles, which crack in all directions when it dries up. On the contrary, ceramic clay should be porous enough not to let it happen.
Vetrocity is the last stage of ceramic construction. Yet, it is an essential part that ceramic clay must possess. Verification is the process where the ceramic becomes close to glasslike.
It allows the ceramic to hold its shape without deforming or becoming soft when melting at a high temperature. Other materials will do the opposite when they are to melt.
Stages Of Ceramic Clay
After you learn how to make clay for ceramics, you will witness the transformation yourself. But before that, let me explain them in short.
- Raw: This is the first stage of clay. You will find clay in both powder and lumpy forms. Clay of this stage is easier to store. You will find raw clay at the store or can make them yourself.
- Slip: You will mix the raw clay with water or other liquids at this stage. The purpose of making the clay runny or slippery is to join two pieces of hardened clay. You can also do it and add color to decorate the clay ceramic.
- Wet Clay: This is the stage where the main pottery work begins. It is also known as the plastic stage. The clay will stay damp and firm, which will allow you to give it any form you want.
- Leather-Hard Clay: It is called the leather-hard stage because of the way the clay feels under the touch. Yet, the clay is stretchable enough to change its shape.
- Dry Clay: You may know dry clay as greenware. The ceramic piece is already prepared and dried at this stage. Now, it is ready to be in the kiln.
- Bisque: This stage will give you a ceramic, which is no longer clay. It has already gone through the kiln once but is still porous enough to absorb water and glaze.
- Glaze Ware: By the time the clay reaches this stage, it is ready to be used. The ceramic is no longer porous, and a second firing has ensured the glaze is on the ceramic evenly. But you need to wait at least 24 hours before using the ceramics.
Ceramic Clay Ingredients
You have already learned about ceramic clay and its types. But what does the clay contain? What are the ingredients?
Ceramic clay contains water, silicon oxide, and aluminum oxide. The amount of silicon oxide present in clay is the most. Aluminum oxide holds the second position, and then water.
How To Make Clay For Ceramics?
If you are ready to make ceramic clay at home, you will find this part helpful. You can follow this step-by-step guide to make clay in the easiest way.
Step 1: Collect Clay Soil
Collect a good amount of soil from underneath the topsoil. You will find clay soil at least five to eight inches below the topsoil.
Collect the soil in a container where you can easily work on the mixture. Only two-thirds of the bucket should be full of soil.
Step 2: Add Water
Now add a generous amount of water to the soil container. Keep stirring the mixture the entire time so that there will be no lump left.
Step 3: Separate Clay Water
Then let the mixture sit for some time. Soon, you will notice the clay water floating on the top as the sediment lies at the bottom.
Do not shake the container at this point, and carefully pour the clay water into another container. Add water to the new container and repeat the process until you no longer see any sediment at the bottom.
Step 4: Separate The Clay
Let the clay water sit for 24 hours without any disturbance. You will see that the water has separated from the clay, which now sits at the bottom of the container.
Carefully pour the water out of the container. You may need to repeat the process a few times until there is no water floating on the clay.
Step 5: Process The Clay
Even if you removed the floating water, the clay still has plenty of water left inside. So you will have to pour all the clay into a fabric and press out the excess water. Then hang the fabric bag of clay for two to three days to allow the clay to harden.
Step 6: Final Check
Make sure to check the clay from time to time to know the consistency is right. If you are satisfied, take the clay out of the fabric bag, and it will be ready for you to work on.
How Do You Make Ceramic Clay Dry Faster?
Fast forwarding the drying process can result in uneven drying, damaging the piece. But a few tricks that can work if you do them right.
An electric kiln is an effective way to fast-dry ceramic clay. You can increase the temperature to get the job done.
The blow dryer method is tricky but effective if you start blowing hot air with its lowest setting. Other than that, you can apply a heat gun in the same way. You can also place a fan a little far from the clay to dry it.
How To Smooth Ceramic Clay?
If there are rough or uneven areas left on the clay you work on, you can smoothen it out using only water and two paintbrushes. First, dip a hard-bristled brush in water and dab it in a towel to remove excess water.
Then gently apply the brush to the area you want to smoothen out. Then take the soft-bristled brush to work on that area in the same way again until it seems smooth.
How To Store Ceramic Clay?
Storing ceramic clay does not require many extra cautions. You can keep the clay in an airtight box or pack.
All you need to ensure is that the place you keep it is cool and dry. And during the cold season, make sure the clay is in a non-freezing temperature area.
How Do You Choose Ceramic Clay?
If you want to work with ceramic clay, the very first thing you need to know is how to choose it. That’s just another part of learning how to make clay for ceramics.
Not all clay works in the same way. So make sure you know what you will work on. For example, if you are making ceramic dinnerware or coffee mugs, stoneware will be the best choice.
The clay has to be suitable for how you will fire it. If it cannot tolerate the temperature you put it in, it will crack very easily.
Last but not least, are you sure you want to spend money on store-bought clay? Yes, such clay will ensure it matches your expectations. But if you are up for saving some money, you can make your own ceramic clay.
Best Clay For Ceramics
You can learn how to make clay for ceramic in a short time. But it takes a long time to recognize the best clay for ceramic. Recently I have made my list of such ceramic clay. And I hope you will find the list helpful.
AMACO High Fire Moist Non-Toxic Stoneware Clay
If you are looking for non-toxic clay that you can bake in a high fire, you can purchase the AMACO High Fire Moist Non-Toxic Stoneware Clay. This ceramic clay is suitable for making various items, such as dinnerware, mugs, sculpture, and planters.
The firing range of this ceramic clay is cone 5-10, but the recommended range is 5. You can even fire it at cone 4 for bisque firing.
The clay is non-toxic and will be food and microwave-safe if you fire it at the right temperature. This 50lbs clay package comes with two 25lbs packs, giving you options to store extra clay for later.
Rocky Mountain Low Fire Clay CT3
If you are a beginner or looking for flexible ceramic clay for kids, I recommend this low-fire pottery clay from Rocky Mountain. The smoothness of this clay makes it suitable for creating many things, including sculpture.
You can even let kids use this clay to work on various projects. The gray color clay will turn white after firing, making it perfect for painting.
The firing range is cone 6, which is low but suitable for various ceramic work. But don’t let that fool you because the clay will become hard once you fire it in the kiln.
ACTIVA Blackjack Low Fire Clay
It does not matter if you are a beginner or a pro, or whether you work with only hands or on the wheel. The ACTIVA Blackjack Low Fire Clay will meet your expectations. It is a blend of multiple natural clays, making it smooth and rich consistency.
The consistency gives you the chance to work on a huge range of small to big projects. Not only is the ceramic clay suitable for making pottery items, but it is also perfect for sculpting.
You can fire the clay at the 04-06 range. And once the clay is fired well, the gray color will turn white and paintable.
Differences Between Air Dry Clay And Ceramic Clay
The biggest difference between ceramic and air dry clay is that one needs to be baked or put in a kiln while the other doesn’t. Ceramic clay needs to be fired at a high temperature to harden it. On the other hand, air dry clay hardens at room temperature.
Another difference is that ceramic clay cannot be painted after firing. But air dry clay can be painted however you want. And even though ceramic clay is food safe, air dry clay isn’t.
What Is The Best Clay For Low Porosity Ceramics?
There are many types of ceramics available. Some of them are high porosity and require high fire. And the others require low fire as they have low porosity. And of all ceramic clays available, porcelain clay has the lowest porosity.
You may also know it as air-dry clay. It is smooth and soft to touch, making it suitable for DIY and professional works. And if you are looking for a low porosity clay, you can check out the DAS Air-Hardening Modeling Clay.
It is suitable for users of all ages and can be used in both studios and classrooms. And this clay will dry at room temperature in 24 hours and does not require any baking.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Is Ceramic Clay Waterproof?
No, not all ceramic clay is waterproof. Ceramic clay absorbs water, but you can make it waterproof by firing it at the right temperature. Another way of making ceramic clay waterproof is by applying latex sealer.
Q. Does Ceramic Clay Expire?
Generally, ceramic clay does not expire. However, it can become dry over time and become too hard to work with. The good thing is that you can always make it soft using a little water.
Q. Is Ceramic Clay Food Safe?
Ceramic clay is food safe as long as it is unglazed or baked correctly in a kiln. Glazed ceramic is not suitable for eating or drinking as it contains chemicals. The best way to learn if the ceramic clay is food safe is to look for a label that says it is.
Q. Is Ceramic Clay Toxic?
Ceramic clay can be toxic in certain cases. When this clay is fired in the kiln, it releases carbon monoxide, which is highly toxic. Inhaling the fume can cause oxygen starvation. Moreover, inhaling clay dust for a long time can cause respiratory issues.
Q. Is Clay Moist Or Dry?
Clay can be both moist and dry. Clay absorbs water slowly, which makes it moist. But it can become dry slowly as well and becomes dry and hard when fired.
As a hobbyist, I have got a lot of advantages from learning how to make clay for ceramics. It taught me about many types of ceramic clay and how to select the suitable clay for my projects.
And if you read this entire article, I believe that now you know everything about ceramic clay. Make sure to keep the extra clay in an airtight bag and keep it in a cool place. Even if it is a homemade ceramic clay, it can last a long time when stored properly.