Elizabeth Hewitt on sat 6 jul 02
I'm requesting a recommendation.
I'm doing sculptures of small frogs, at the moment, with tiny delicate
toes. The toes are breaking off far too easily to suit me. I've been
using the same clay that I use for throwing and tiny wire armatures on
the most recent ones but there's the clay shrinkage issue to consider.
I've been doing some reading of the archives and from statements that
Snail has made, it doesn't sound like paper clay is the way to go. The
paper burning away in the firing was mentioned and the fact that there
would be even less clay for strength.
I'm concluding that sculpture clay is what I need but would like a
recommendation from someone who scuptures delicate pieces. I fire to
cone 6 usually but am not locked into it, and because of the parts, like
the eyes, that are very smooth, I don't think I could use something that
is heavily grogged. The glazes that I'm using are better on a darker
body as opposed to white or tan.
Does anyone have a preference and a source?
If you'd rather email privately instead of through the list, that's
Thank you for any help you can be.
Elizabeth Hewitt on sun 7 jul 02
I'm including Stephanie's entire post in case someone else could benefit
and missed it the first time.
This is a shot in the dark as 1) I don't know where you are, who your
supplier is.. 2) I don't really know how 'fragile and delicate' your
'fragile and delicate' is , and whether it is pushing the limits of what
any clay can successfully do .....but here are some thoughts which come
to mind, hope they might be of help!. 1.Is it possible this is a design
problem ? Is the cracking occurring because you have very thin frog toes
attached to a thicker piece (thin toes attached to thicker part of
vessel or sculpture.) Is there anyway you can make the transition from
thick to thin less drastic and more gradual? Are the thin parts bridging
a gap? i.e. a slender toes suspended in space, with air on all sides ?
Have you thought about putting a small 'pillow ' of clay under the
fragile parts, sort of a 'removable support that can be gently removed
after bisquing? (again, I don't know how small these are!) Put a barrier
such as paper between the 'toes' and the 'supports' to facilitate
removal. The supports, which are clay surrounding the fragile parts,
will also help slow down the drying of the toes as well as provide
structural support, and they will have same % shrinkage. 2. What about
beefing up the fragile toes , but making the beefier part not so
visible? For example instead of having a projecting piece shaped like a
long skinny letter "I" , think of an inverted "V" shape, with the tiny
part still visible , but a wider base underneath. 3. what about using 2
part epoxy for the toes? (this may be inappropriate for your pieces and
glazes , but who knows!!!) I have used this for fragile extensions, such
as tiny ribs , etc. East Valley epoxy is great and wonderful things can
be done with their pigments as well. 4. One sculpture clay I have used
which has good working properties, can go to cone 6, and seems to have a
smaller grog size than many is WSO, a whitish clay from Laguna. It may
still contain too much grog for your needs but might be worth a try.
Also you mentioned you prefer red clay..., possibly could put a red slip
made from your clay over the WSO???
Thanks, Stephanie. Lots of great suggestions. Many I'm already doing,
some I've only thought of and LOTS of new ideas to try. And yes, the
toes are very thin and fragile. The whole frog is small enough to fit in
the palm of your hand.so you can imagine how scrawny the toes are. The
first frogs that I made were whistles and I was so focused on the
whistles that the toes were not as accurate but sturdier. Since I
abandoned the whistles because I didn't like needing to compromise the
form to accommodate the whistle, I began refining the toes. Sometimes
maybe it's best not to refine something to death. ;-) Yes, they are tiny
little extensions of a thicker foot. A few of them, I made the mistake
of allowing them to dry, covered with plastic, but on hydrobats. The
poor lil toes had no choice but to dry fast and lift right up in queer
little positions. ;-) I'm enjoying creating them so much and ones are
enjoying receiving them..so I'm willing to try everything to make them
sturdier. I sold two to a cyberfriend recently and they arrived with two
toes broken from each froggie. She was less bothered than I was and
just glued them on..but I can't have that. I need to know that they
arrive intact and stay that way. I have thought of sculpting them
sitting on a lily pad which would eliminate the problem completely but
I'm not quite ready to concede. There's something alluring about holding
and handling them unencumbered by any landscaping, of sorts.
Thanks again. When I get it all worked out, I'll send a brief post as
my contribution to anyone else needing the information. There must be
others out there with froggie toe problems. Lol
Snail Scott on sun 7 jul 02
At 04:15 PM 7/6/02 -0400, you wrote:
>I'm requesting a recommendation.
>I'm doing sculptures of small frogs, at the moment, with tiny delicate
>toes. The toes are breaking off far too easily to suit me...
>I'm concluding that sculpture clay is what I need but would like a
>recommendation from someone who scuptures delicate pieces. I fire to
>cone 6...The glazes that I'm using are better on a darker
>body as opposed to white or tan.
When I did detailed miniature work, I used porcelain.
It gives great detail, and fires quite hard and dense.
It is also easy to re-wet and carve small areas.
Although I generally used plain ol' white porcelain,
you don't have to. Oxides and stains work very well to
add color, and in oxidation, the firing temp remains
fairly constant even with iron added. (B-mix is a bit
grittier, but acts more like a stoneware, so that might
be a good compromise if you dislike porcelain.) Just
wedge in some body stains to some small quantities of
clay and see what you like. You may find several colors
that suit you.
Mercy Langford on sun 7 jul 02
Hi- I alsowork withporcelain clay for my sculptures. I do not do miniatures
but I love working with porcelain clay. You can work on it for along time
before it gets dry and feels great to touch. Recently I bought some low fire
clay and did not like it. Just felt so rough. good luck-mercy
Elizabeth Hewitt on sun 7 jul 02
When I did detailed miniature work, I used porcelain. It gives great
detail, and fires quite hard and dense. It is also easy to re-wet and
carve small areas. Although I generally used plain ol' white porcelain,
you don't have to. Oxides and stains work very well to add color, and in
oxidation, the firing temp remains fairly constant even with iron added.
(B-mix is a bit grittier, but acts more like a stoneware, so that might
be a good compromise if you dislike porcelain.) Just wedge in some body
stains to some small quantities of clay and see what you like. You may
find several colors that suit you. -Snail
Thanks for your advice. Actually I love porcelain but had not thought of
using it. I love throwing porcelain and carving on green ware bowls but
I've had so much warping, I have shied away from it. I have some white
stoneware and porcelain that I mixed to help avoid the warping, maybe
I'll start with that and see if they hold their shape. I do think I have
to alter the design also to make the toes less vulnerable.
And to Stephani..sorry, I see I misspelled your name about six times in
Elizabeth Hewitt on tue 9 jul 02
>>I used to do really tiny stuff, and for the ridiculously small parts,
I let the porcelain stiffen and even dry, then used pins and cut-down
dental tools to carve and refine the form, adding just a tiny droplet of
water where needed to aid the process.<<
I think what you have said here is key. The reason I say that..with bits
of clay as small as these toes, it's really hard to compress it enough
so that it has the strength it should have even for its small size. When
I first began making the frogs, I made the feet boxy, sliced slits
between what would become the toes and shaped them in somewhat the way
you have mentioned, though I wasn't waiting as long for them to stiffen
or dry. On the more recent ones, I did more actual modeling of the toes
and refining them. They don't look compressed to me like the clay would
if I left more clay and followed your procedure above.
I've had a lot of really good suggestions and ideas.I've really enjoyed
hearing what your experience has been along these lines. I have printed
them out and it sounds to me like it's going to take a bit of this
suggestion and a bit of that one.putting together a winning combination
for me. I'm certain I can do it but as all the problem solving issues
with clay, it takes time, ingenuity and willingness to take counsel from
ones more experienced.
I do appreciate this wonderful source of help and hope I can contribute
in order to be of help to other members. And even though I love throwing
pottery and working with glazes, it was fun to communicate about
sculpting issues for a change.