Orientation for the Tri-County Arts Council Clay Studio

1. Hours of operation and studio use: 

The Tri-County Arts Council is open from 12:00 noon to 6:00pm Tuesday through Friday, Saturday is 12:00 to 5:00pm. The clay studio is available for use during that time UNLESS there is a class scheduled for the space, please check calendar of events on the wall or on the blog: blog.myartscouncil.net. Most Sundays are Open Studio times from 1:00pm to 4:00pm, but you must sign up ahead of time on the website under Services.

*** Be sure to sign in on the clipboard by the blackboard when you use the studio space, very important to the continued operation of the space. ***

Most important thing to remember is: this is a shared studio space and everyone is responsible for putting tools away and cleaning up your work area when you leave.

2. Storage

Members will be given ½ a shelf, on one of the black shelf units on the eastern wall. This is where you can keep you clay, any personal supplies and your clay pieces as they progress though the making/glazing process. Your name will be put on the magnetic strip with dry erase marker.

3.Clay and tool supplies

You can purchase clay from the council, pay at the register in the gallery space.

Tan Speckled Stoneware Cone 6, new from manufacturer, in 25 lb. bags     $31.25

Tan Speckled Stoneware Cone 6, reclaimed in-house, in 15 lb. bags             $ 9.75

White Sanded Stoneware Cone 6, new from manufacturer, in 25 lb. bags     $31.25

It is the members responsibility to keep their clay in workable condition. Clay not used in a finished piece; that has been drying out while working the clay, should be sprayed down with water before putting it back in the bag. Clay that gets too hard to use, should be dried out completely before putting it in the reclaim bin in the sink room. The clay is reclaimed and run through the pugmill by a staff member.

The studio has wedging tables and hand tools divided for use by clay type. Clay with Iron in it (the Tan Speckled Stoneware) is generally referred to as Brown Clay, needs to be kept separate from the non-Iron bearing clay generally referred to as White Clay (it is gray in the raw state). The white clay has a small reclaim bucket under the clay sink. Currently, members using White clay are reclaiming the clay on their own. Make sure you are using the correct tools and canvases for the clay you are using.  We also ask that you clean your tools after you are done using them before you put them back on the shelf.

4. Wheel Throwing and Hand Building

When working with the clay whether hand building or throwing on the wheels, it is important to remember to leave enough time to properly clean your work areas.

For hand building that means putting away all your work and covering it with plastic when necessary (the studio has a roll of dry cleaner plastic for that purpose as well as sheets laying around). Please put back all tools and plaster molds, it is recommended that you leave clay on a plaster mold for only a few hours as the clay dries too fast and is prone to cracking.

Try to keep all work on clay in the soft or leather hard stage to keep the dust down.  If you must sand a piece of bone-dry clay we ask that you do that outside the studio.  Small scraps can be put in the reclaim garbage can in the sink room. Larger pieces of hard clay should be dried out first before reclaiming, the clay slakes down more completely this way.

For wheel throwing, we ask that you wipe down the wheel when you are finished with your throwing session, there are sponges, buckets and towels in the sink room.  Please clean off your tools and bats in the clay sink, the batts can be left to drain at the sink but please return the tools to the shelf. If you have lumps of soft clay, it is better to re-wedge them on the plaster tables than to put them in the reclaim garbage can because they remain lumps of clay. Please attend to work still on the throwing batts in a timely fashion because work left on batts, warps the batts and leaves mildew marks on them.

5. The Firing Process

As members complete pieces of clay, this is our process for moving work through the kiln firings. When the piece is at least leather hard it can go on the bisque shelf (shelf next to the wall, in front of the kilns) to be fired.  We ask that you wait till it is leather hard so the staff members can safely handle your work with out altering it. Raw or “green” clay ready to be bisque fired, goes on the left of the shelf and bisque ware with low fire glazes on them to the right. Check the signs.

When the pieces are done being fired in the kiln, they will be unloaded to the cart on wheels, this is where you can pick up your bisque ware and after the glaze firing, where you can pick up your finished pieces.

If there are problems with your pieces that keep us from firing them, we (the staff) will put them on the top of the cart.  Reasons for not firing include broke or cracked work, no name on the piece or a problem with the glaze application (see below).

Therefore, it is very important that you sign your pieces with a printed first and/or last name or at the very least 3 initials: first, middle and last names. A dull pencil or old ball point pen are the best tools for signing leather hard clay. Some people like to date their pieces as well but that is optional.

6. Glazing your pieces

Be sure to handle your bisque pieces with clean hands, oil or grease on your hands can get on your bisque ware and then it won’t accept the water-based glaze. Sometimes the problem isn’t visible until you take your piece out to the glaze kiln and there is a “bald” spot where the glaze slid off in the firing.

Then, you need to rinse off your bisque ware before firing, this removes and dust or small particles of fired clay that remain on your pieces after the bisque firing.

Before you start glazing you need to decide which glazes temperature you will be using and not to mix them. High Fire Glazes fire at Cone 5 (2185° F) to Cone 6 (2232°F) and Low Fire Glazes fire at Cone 06 (1830°F) to Cone 05 (1914°F). Glazes are clearly label, as are the samples, please study the boards before deciding.  You can layer glazes within the firing range. The white binder shows examples from AMACO on what various glazes look like on top of one another. It is important to let the glazes dry between applications. It is a good idea to keep tract of what glazes you are putting on your bisque pieces. You may want to re-create a glaze great combination or you may never want to make that mistake again, glazing is very much an experimental part of ceramics.

It is also very important that you “dry foot” your ceramic pieces before placing them on the glazing shelf to be fired. Dry footing means there is no glaze residue on the bottoms of your pieces AND at least 1/4in. up the side of the piece. If you use a runny glaze like Palladium or use a runny combination of glazes, it is better to go up 3/8 to 1/2in.  This dry footing allows the glaze room to run down the side of the piece without attaching the pot to the kiln shelf.  This situation is bad for both your piece and the kiln shelf and the shelves are very expensive. If you leave glaze on the bottom of your pieces or they are not cleaned off high enough up the side, this will be reason enough to be placed on the problem shelf.

The same is true for where clay touches clay on lidded pieces.  The lid must be clean of glaze where it touches the container and the seat of the lid must be clean of glaze. If not clean the lid will fuse onto the pot by way of molten glaze.

In order to help with dry footing, the studio supplies several kinds of resist (Wax and Latex) to help keep your bottoms clean if you are using dipping as your method of glaze application. Resist is not necessary if you are brushing on your glazes you just need to remember not to brush your glaze below the suggested dry footing space. It is a good practice to take a regular #2 pencil and the turn table, draw a line around the bottom of the pot. If you use the resist, it is very important that you wash your brushes with dish soap and water, as soon as possible.

When brushing glaze, it is important that you use a clean brush for each different glaze that you use and to wash the brushes with soap and water when finished.  This studio uses chip brushes for glazing, the natural bristles hold the glaze well.

When using the dipping glazes in the 5-gallon buckets it is very important that the glazes be mixed with the drill (with the mixer attachment) to stir up the glazes before dipping.  Ceramic glazes are basically minerals in water, they fall out of suspension very quickly. It is good to get in the habit of mixing them up before using them.  The mixer attachment needs to be cleaned before putting it into a new glaze, this can be achieved by putting the mixer attachment in a bucket of water and give it a quick pulse.