Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Making Paper Clay

There are several ceramic artists who I love to admire from afar.  One of my FAVORITES, is Merry ArtToones. She is an AMAZING sculptor!  We have a virtual/Facebook relationship and she has always been willing to help me out and answer any questions I have.  Well, I found out that she uses paper clay for her sculptures. Turns out paper clay is just as strong as your typical clay, but weighs less. With sculptures, and even wall murals/hangings, weight can play a very important part in the finished product.  
DISCLOSURE --  Before we get started, I thought it might be worth noting that paper clay...and paper mache...are two VERY different animals...

Since I have my pugmill, I figured I'd make my own.  But do you think that I could find a recipe for what the ratio should be for paper pulp in relation to wet or dry clay??  NO!  SO, without further adieu...Here is what I've done thus far.  I will be working on sculptures and performing various tests with this clay and will be posting updates on its durability for the foreseeable future.

STEP 1:  Make paper pulp. I did this by soaking some torn up newspaper in a bucket of water overnight.  Then I used my little bullet style blender to turn this wet mess into paper pulp.  Took all but 5 seconds in the blender to make this pulp.  It was awesome.  
**I also added 2 cap fulls of bleach to roughly 4 pounds of paper pulp to prevent/inhibit bacterial growth**  
I stored the created pulp in an old Folgers coffee container.. you know, the plastic ones? Those make GREAT storage containers for glaze...slip...and now paper pulp! :-D

STEP 2:   Mix clay body in the pugmill.  I started off with roughly 17 pounds of bone dry scrap clay.  I've decided to use Laguna #65 for this project. It is a white stoneware with minimal grog.  (Add 6 cups of water.)

STEP 3:  Add paper pulp to the pugmill.  I started off with adding 3 pounds of the pulp to the mixture.  And MIX

The totals I used was 3 pounds of wet paper pulp, 21.5 pounds of dry scrap clay, and 6 cups of water.  Now, keep in mind I started this process on 3 Mar 2014.  I would add the water, mix it in the pugmill for 30 minutes at a time, then stop.  Go to other things..get back to the clay.  In all honesty, I think this process actually helped the mixing of the clay, as it allowed the paper pulp to really dissolve and become well mixed with the clay.  While extruding the clay, I was not able to notice any of the newspaper pulp...which is a good thing I'm that would mean the fibers are completely mixed/interspersed within the clay...which would be great!

I was able to extrude 17 pounds of clay, but then me being me...I scraped the insides of the pugmill to get the residual clay out, as well as the nozzle and ended up with the extra 7 pounds of clay.  The TOTAL amount of paper clay I was able to create was roughly 24 pounds.  

I have been talking with a representative from Laguna about creating my own paper clay, and this is what he had to say:
"Most paper clays contain approx. 3-5%of dry “paper” to the dry Clay mix.  It is very important the blend the ‘paper’ and clay thoroughly when dry and then add water as needed. This is generally done in something like a dough mixer or “Soldner” mixer so everything can become equally “wetted”.  "
to make paper clay in your type of mixer/pugger with shredded paper, your method is pretty much how you have to go about it. There are a number of web sites that go into more detail, but yes, you can break down paper in water and then add it to the clay mix.    For a typical mix, the water makes up 25-30 % of the mix, paper 3-5% of the dry weight and the rest is clay.

The pulp we use is a dry material direct from the mill before they turn it into paper, so Ideally you mix the dry first and then add the water. This give you better dispersion of the materials.

You may find that you need to run yours thru the mill a few times to get a good mix---"

The ratio of paper pulp to clay that I used is: 1:7 (1 pound of paper pulp to 7 pounds of clay)

Stay tuned, as I will be providing the following stats as they become available (i.e. I get to play with new clay and experiment! :-D )

The shrinkage rate for this clay is as follows--
Wet to Bone Dry:
Bone Dry to Bisque:
Bisque to Glaze:
TOTAL shrinkage:


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