With my plan to learn slab building set, I found my first step in the process to be gathering supplies. Here is where I started:
I have always purchased my clay from a local Regina business called Lakeview Pottery. As I am learning a new skill, I decided to work with clay that I am already familiar with, which is a medium temperature Plainsman clay called M340. It is a smooth, light-coloured clay that is one of the most popular options to use.
A sponge is an essential tool for working with clay. It allows you to apply varying amounts of water to add moisture or smooth out edges. From my wheel-throwing experience, I have always enjoyed using a round sponge, however many potters use cubed or rectangular sponges as well.
A wire tool is used to cut the clay from the original large (and deceivingly heavy) block.
I have used wood and metal ribs in the past for wheel throwing, however, have never used a rubber rib. The rubber rib has two purposes:
- Compress the clay. This helps in the firing process to reduce the likelihood of cracks developing while firing, which from experience is heartbreaking!
- Smooth the clay. This allows a person to smooth any bumps or dints in the clay without adding the moisture of water as a sponge would.
As I have not used a rubber rib before, I needed to purchase one. I ended up purchasing a rib and pin tool set from Amazon.
Wooden Modeling Knife
This can be used to cut and trim the clay out of the slabs. As clay sticks to many surfaces, a wooden modeling knife is essential as wood is one of the few materials that does not adhere to the clay.
A pin tool is essentially a thin pokey metal stick. Similarly to the wooden modeling knife, the pin tool can be used to cut or trim clay from the slab. It is also used to score (see video below). This is a technique where you scratch the surface of the clay as a way to securely attached pieces of clay together.
Wood or Fabric Surface
These two types of surfaces ensure the clay will not stick and your project goes smoothly!
Depending on what you are making, you may want to use a template to trace while cutting out the slab. I currently don’t have any templates, however after a quick Pinterest search, there are many templates that can be printed out. I would imagine that you could also create your own or do this freehand.
Wooden Rolling Pin/Slab Roller
Two ways that I have learned how to create a slab are:
1. Roll out the clay the old-fashioned way with a wooden rolling pin. This would look very similar to rolling out dough while baking. Pottery Wheel on Youtube does a great job of demonstrating how to roll out a slab and what surfaces to roll on!
2. Using a slab roller is another tool that can be used to easily create a consistently flat slab. These tools are generally very expensive however, I am fortunate enough to work at a school that already has one. Therefore, I am going to practice and learn how to roll our slabs with both techniques!
With all of my supplies officially gathered, I decided to test out these two slabrolling techniques, and here is how they went:
After trying both techniques, I definitely prefer using the slab roller. It is simple, more consistent, and reliable in creating an even slab. With access to the slab roller at my school, I will likely use this as my main slab technique. However, it is nice to have an alternate way to create a slab in the event that I do not have access to my school’s clay room!
Stay tuned, as I start finding templates for mugs and begin to build next week!