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drying time of sculptures

updated fri 13 jul 01


Karen Shapiro on sat 30 jun 01

Hi fellow sculpting Clayarters!

I've been wondering about other people's drying
procedures, since it's finally gotten into my thick
little head that my slab-built pieces (which are
raku-fired to boot) tend to crack frequently at stress
points because I don't dry them slowly enough. Since
I earn a living at this, my patience is slim when it
comes to time delays and I'm afraid that I'm rushing
this at a heavy cost. Even though this is what I do
for a living, it has only been my "gig" for a few
years, so I would appreciate feedback from those of
you with what I lack -- more experience and education!
thanks folks!

Karen in Gualala

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Mike Gordon on sat 30 jun 01

I'm guessing that by stress points you mean the seams between two slabs,
at their joints. I don't do slab work but I stress to my students to
score and put a small coil along all joints. Its acts like a weld.Then
they dry in an open room with no special care. I suppose you could put
them in a cupboard where air movement is at a minimum, too. Mike Gordon
in Walnut Creek,Ca.

Marie Gibbons on sat 30 jun 01

I also use slab construction for alot of my work, and am very impatient...
usually i will loosley drape a finished piece for a day at most, sometimes as
soon as i am finished it is just out in the air drying... sometimes with a
fan on it to speed things up. I work with raku c from laguana..
when i connect my seams i usually bevel the edges so they overlapp each
other, and then also run a coil over the seam area both inside and out...
knock on wood ... i can't remember the last time i got any cracks.

marie gibbons

Snail Scott on sat 30 jun 01

At 08:18 AM 6/30/01 -0700, you wrote:
>I've been wondering about other people's drying

To 'quick dry' without getting the extreme
unevenness in moisture that you get just
sitting work out in the air and drafts,
you can make a newspaper 'tent' for each
piece. The newspaper is porous and lets
moisture escape, but more slowly than air
drying, so that the moisture content of the
piece has more time to equalize. It also
keeps out the drafts that contribute to the
too-rapid drying of edges and exposed bits.

Just tape the paper together around the
edges, and make sure there's no gap at the
bottom or elsewhere.

It's not as even as a long, slow drying
while wrapped in fabric under plastic, and
not as fast as 'bare air', but it's a fair
compromise. To slow the speed of drying
use extra layers of paper, and to speed up
the process poke small holes evenly all
over the 'tent'.

Jean Cappadonna Nichols on sat 30 jun 01

I produce large sculptures using slab and coil (and sometimes both)
construction. It is really important to dry slowly if you work large. As I
finish a section at the end of each day, I mist lightly with water and then
cover with multiple layers of plastic. Next day, I unwrap, test the clay for
stiffness, spray if necessary, and rewrap the portion I'm NOT working on. I
always keep the rim moist for the next layer of clay to be attached. I brush
water on the edges of my slabs before scoring and slipping. I weld the two
slabs together as if they were coils, fill in with a coil both inside and
out. After the piece is complete, I mist the whole piece lightly, and rewrap
tightly and allow it to sit overnight to distribute the moisture evenly. The
next day, I remove the wrapping, allow the piece to sit unwrapped for an
hour, then cover it loosely with a large plastic dropcloth. An old sheet can
also be used instead but I prefer the plastic as it acts as a damp room by
retaining the humidity. Next day, same routine -- one hour out, then cover.
This continues until the piece begins to show signs of becoming drier in
thinner places than in the thicker spots, usually in two-three days. I will
then remove the wrap and allow the piece to dry completely. After it dries, I
replace the dropcloth to keep the piece dust free until time for surface
treatment or bisque firing. Sounds anal, but works like a charm. I use Nan
Smith's Sculpture Clay, purchased from Axner, but I have also used this same
procedure with stoneware, whiteware, standard red and even paperclay.

Good luck,
Jean Cappadonna-Nichols
in steamy hot southwestern Florida where the herons, ducks and turtles are
loving the rainy season, the tourists are gone and so far, no hurricanes!

Jim Tabor on wed 11 jul 01

I believe the nylon fibers in a clay paste for attachments kept my last complex
sculpture together at stress points. I also used fiberglass mesh sold as window
screen at the building supply store in many of the larger sections. The form was a
complex composition of 3 standing figures 34" in wet clay. Fired shrinkage of
about 11%. It was left covered in plastic until dry.