Slab Construction Technique Using Internal Support

Victoria Sexton

Page Four

 

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Putting the Piece Back Together

           

        21                    22                    23

Apply slip to the edge of the top and bottom and put them together carefully.  (21)    (22)    (23)   Notice I do not score the edge surfaces as many artists have been trained to do.  I find scoring is not as effective as adding slip to seam lines.
                 

        24                    25                     26                      27

Using a tool, knit the top and bottom together, add a small coil of clay to the seam line, and smooth it out.  (24)    (25)   A serrated rib can be useful in leveling out a seam line.  (26)  Use the flat edge of the rib to completely smooth the surface of the sculpture.  (27)  (This illustration still needs additional smoothing.)

It is important to do a good job joining the top and bottom together.  If done carelessly, a crack can occur after the piece dries or during the firing.

 

Final Steps

  

        28

If the piece is closed at the top as this one is, it will need to have a vent hole.  This allows heated expanding air to escape when the piece is fired.  A nostril hole is the perfect place for a vent hole in this piece.  (28)

Before placing the piece in the kiln, Iíll let it dry thoroughly, but slowly.  Sometimes Iíll loosely place a plastic bag or a piece of fabric over it to allow it to dry evenly.  Before firing, I will let my work dry out in the kiln overnight with the kiln bottom element on low.  After working with clay for over 25 years I find that if a piece cracks or pops in a kiln, it is due to the piece not being thoroughly dry as opposed to having air pockets in the clay.  My work is fired in a standard Skutt electric kiln at cone 04 for about eight hours.  Because this work is so uneven in thickness, it is best to fire slowly.  Work should be allowed to cool slowly for the same reason.

This technique can be used to make much larger pieces.  Right now, I am limited by the size of my kiln.  If you decide to make larger pieces, I suggest using chopped nylon fibers to give strength to the clay slabs.  You can buy nylon fibers through a ceramic supply outlet or you can just go buy nylon rope, fray it and cut it into 1/2Ē lengths.

 

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