Small Clay Lidded Box Demonstration - Simple Slab Construction Clay Tutorial
Start with some clay. Choose the type of clay that is specific to your
needs (certain clays are better for wheel throwing, others for raku,
etc.). Also remember to use a clay that can withstand the temperatures
that you intend to fire them at (use high-fire clays if you intend to
put a high-fire glaze on later). Use either de-aired clay or wedge the
clay. Wedging clay is a process wherein the clay is thrown against a
hard surface (usually covered in canvas to keep the clay from sticking)
repeatedly to remove all air pockets. Once the clay is wedged, place the
clay on the work surface. The work surface should be a material that
will not easily adhere to the clay (plastic bats work well - buy them at
any clay supply store).
Using a rolling pin, flatten the clay until it is approximately 1/4 inch
thick. Make sure the clay does not get stuck to the work surface by
routinely lifting it up from the surface while rolling it flat. If,
while rolling the clay, bubbles start to form under the surface of the
clay, then the clay was not wedged properly. Wedge the clay again, then
use the rolling pin.
Once you have determined how the piece will look, begin cutting out the
pieces. Use a sharp knife that will not cause too much drag against the
clay, deforming the edges and sides of each piece. This picture shows
the front and back pieces being cut. Remove the excess and put these
pieces aside. If you take a break, cover the clay pieces with a plastic
bag to keep them from drying out. If the clay starts to dry out, mist it
with water. Don't overdo it or the clay will get soggy and will not
hold its shape.
Once all of the pieces are cut, place them in the positions that they
will occupy once the work is constructed. This picture shows the center
piece is the bottom of the box, and (from the top moving clockwise) the
back, right side, front, and the left side of the box.
Use the needle tool to score the areas where clay will be seamed to
clay. This step is crucial to making sure the seams bond and the piece
holds together. This picture shows the bottom of the box being scored so
the front, back and sides can be attached.
Using a paint brush, apply slip to the scored areas of clay. The slip
fills in potential air pockets, and also helps to adhere the two pieces
of clay together.
Score and apply the slip to the edges of the pieces of clay that will be
attached to the bottom of the box. Both surfaces of clay that are being
bonded should be scored with slip applied.
Place the two pieces of clay together, and press them together firmly.
Once the pieces have formed a bond, use a modeling tool to smooth out
the seam and smooth any edges.
Repeat the steps on this page until all of the pieces of the main box are attached.
To make legs for this piece, get four small pieces of clay that are the
same size. Roll them around on the work surface until you get smooth,
Score and slip the bottom of the box where the legs will be attached.
Then score and slip the tops of the legs. Attach all of the legs to the
bottom of the box.
Now that the basic structure has been built, add any design details you
like. There are many methods - the one to the right shows entaglio, or
cutting a detail into the clay. If you wish to have a smoother-surfaced
box, be sure to smooth the surface before adding any details.
Another way to add detail is by building a pattern up on the clay
surface. Place any pattern you choose however you choose on your
artwork. Be sure to score and slip where needed.
Once you know how your pattern will look, you can start designing the
lid. The process for buildling the lid is the same as building the box,
the only difference here is the rounded top. This lid will be
constructed of three parts, the rounded top, and two crescent shaped
Once the structure of the lid is laid out, you can begin the pattern for
it as well. Just as the legs were added to the box, a simple spherical
detail is added to the top of the lid.
Finish the detailing of each piece and let dry. If you add detail to the
lid while it is on the box, be sure the two parts have not adhered
themselves to each other. If they do, use the needle tool to break the