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More on Paperclay
by Graham Hay

I have not wedged clay for four years now because the paper fibre allows air and moisture to easily escape and because dry scraps can easily be recycled. Dry scraps are thrown into a bucket of hot water and within an hour become a joining slip. The slip can also be used to build up texture or reinforce dry paperclay. Because of the increased organic material in paperclay, in summer I include detergent in the water to inhibit bacteria and make only enough slip for a day at a time.

Paperclay Sculpture by Grham HayOther changes arising from using paperclay include not using a damp cupboard because I want the individual pieces for a work to be dry before building. The ability of dry paperclay to absorb water quickly means that I soak the work where I need to change it or simply replace the section with plastic paperclay stuck on with paperclay slip. Stocks of dry paperclay parts left over from other works can be stored indefinitely until used in new works. If any resulting work is unsatisfactory it can be pulled apart and quickly rebuilt into a more desirable form. Surface detail has become increasingly important. With conventional clay, any intentional texture is often ruined by handling the soft work. As a result of this, and the functional vessel tradition, smooth surfaces have become the accepted norm. Paperclay enables different textures to be built up on the surfaces of the parts before drying and assembly. These surface textures are not lost when assembling the dry parts into the final work. In addition, joining drips can be left, shortening building times and providing interesting building clues. Whether these methods are only a personal style or an emerging aesthetic associated with paperclay, is currently unclear.

Transport of delicate unfired work is no longer a concern because of the additional strength the fibre brings to the dry clay. This has been useful when large pieces have been transported across town for firing. If the work breaks before firing it can be repaired quickly with paperclay slip, dried with a paint stripper and fired. Large decorative pieces designed for indoor spaces can even be left unfired since dry paperclay is a robust material. In this case, the surface can be painted and waterproofed with varnish, or burnished and polished with wax to give a warm and smooth surface. If kiln-fired, the clay reverts to a purely ceramic body on which conventional glazes appropriate for that clay can be used.

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