The Magic of Paper Clay | Big Ceramic Store


Anyone working in ceramics knows how demanding clay can be. You have to keep your edges wet, and attach wet to wet. You have to make your pieces thick enough to support their weight. You have to dry it slowly, and green ware can sometimes crack before you have a chance to fire it. The list goes on and on.

Well it turns out that if you add paper fiber to your clay body, a lot of these limitations disappear.

One way to make paper clay is to do it yourself. You select the right paper (without shiny coatings, for example), soak the paper in water, then use a paint mixer to blend the mixture into pulp. Then you wedge this paper pulp into your clay. As a start, you might add about 5% pulp by volume.

Sound like a lot of work? Yes it does! That's why you can also buy commercially pugged paper clay. This comes in 25# bags, just like the clay you are used to. It feels and works the same as regular clay, but it is stronger, things attach easier, the finished pieces are lighter, and the paper burns out in the firing so it looks just like regular clay.

And the best part, at least for a lot of people, is that you can attach new wet clay to already dried clay! Imagine that!

When doing sculptures, paper clay is more forgiving in other ways too. You don't have to worry so much about keeping the thickness absolutely consistent to avoid cracking. The pieces support themselves better without collapsing. Flat pieces warp less. You can simply take your clay to limits far beyond what you previously thought possible!

Ceramic Paper Clays blend premium high or low fire clays (such as stoneware, porcelain or earthen wares, terra cottas, etc.) with lesser fraction of choice pulp. The fired and glazed ceramic is indistinguishable to the naked eye from a non-paper traditional clay. Pulp burns out in firing similar to wax. (Since people usually use paper clay in sculptures, we are selling a popular sculpture/Raku blend. This is also great for coiling, pinching, and handbuilding.)

How Strong is Strong?:
Handle bone dry ware with ease. Move large dry unfired works anywhere... drive them in the back seat of a car. Some work may not need firing!
Survive and Thrive:
98% of repairs to bone dry make it... even broken legs, etc.
Rapid or Force Drying OK:
Dry harden pots in direct sun, near heaters, or warm (below 200F) kilns. Thermal shock of Raku and freezing OK for most.
Build custom hollow armatures in minutes:
Fold 2D soft cutout shapes into 3D. Later your quickie hollow Paper Clay armatures will be dry and hard enough to support new layers of soft Paper Clay. Moisten the surface with water, and go. Open air or sun harden between wet dry episodes until the work appears finished.
Coil up and up:
Sometimes it makes sense not to score. Bone dry, air hard Paper Clay coil shapes stay put. To quick seal between coils... just sponge, brush, or dip a coat of slip (watered down mash of Paper Clay) right over the dry. Voila! Gaps are filled, neat and even. Ready for color and/or a kiln.
Reduce or end warp:
Tile makers and muralists appreciate this feature for slab assembly projects. Paper fibers hidden deep inside the clay draw moisture evenly from within to assist a much more "even" open air drying and shrinking process.
Dry to Dry Assembly:
Stir or mash your favorite blend of Paper Clay in water until it turns to a paste adhesive we call slip. Liberally apply the slip to the two pieces of dried Paper Clay and press them together. In minutes you have a strong join. To cut a dried slab of Paper Clay, score a needle line on the surface then snap it apart like glass. Box constructions with bone dry parts assemble securely in minutes. When box side slabs dry out flat before assembly they stay flat after.
Single Fire Glaze Option:
Why pay more for bisque? Dry paper fiber hidden in bone dry paper clay absorbs almost as much water as a bisque. Meantime the extra green strength allows handling dipping, burnishing, rubbing applying terra sigillata and etc. to bone dry ware. Stoneware reduction, wood fire, electric, gas, pit, all methods suitable.

While paper clay feels pretty much like regular clay, I have found that it dulls your tools faster. Some people are sensitive to mold, and paper clay does mold more easily than regular clay, especially if it is kept very wet (such as when reconstituting scraps).

You might not be able to find Paper Clay at your local clay supplier, That is because it is patented, and clay manufacturers must pay license fees to the inventor. But a number of clay companies do license and manufacture it.

Max's White P'Clay Sculpture / Raku body