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An easy source of fiber for the potter can be found in any man made paper.

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Abstract designs made from paper clay
Above are some examples of abstract designs that can be made with paper clay.
It would be very difficult to make this with ordinary clay.

Cellulose fiber is a hollow tube like structure which is an main part of all plants and trees.
It plays an important part in photosynthesis and osmosis.
It has an amazing ability to pull moisture into itself, acting like a sponge.
Different sources give a variety of fibers, the length and size of which depend on the type of tree or plant producing them.
An easy source of fiber for the potter can be found in any man made paper.
It can be torn into shreds and soaked in hot water, usually that is all that's necessary to break it down, but for extra speed an electric drill fitted with a mixing blade will definitely speed things up.

Shorter fibers which form the basis of tissue paper, blotting paper and newsprint are excellent as well as computer and photocopier paper.
All these break down easily in hot water.
If you can afford it, pure cotton and linen papers used by artists are best as they don't have lignin, a complex polymer associated with cellulose.
Being a cell wall stiffener, lignin is water resistant and can affect the amount of water needed to soak the paper.

Here is some of the different textures that can be made with paper clay.

Paper Clay Textures

Cardboard should be avoided as it contains glue and also shiny papers which contain kaolin and both of these do not break down easily in water.
A good test of whether a paper is suitable, is to see how it tears, the more easily it tears, the shorter and more suitable the fibers it contains.

Under magnification clay particles are tiny compared to cellulose fibers.
When clay slip and paper pulp are mixed together the platelets of clay are easily pulled into the fiber tubes.
The resulting complex network of fiber and clay slip gives the mixture important and unusual working characteristics that are benefit to pottery workers and sculptors.

Other materials such as nylon, fiberglass and sawdust have been mixed with clay, but nothing compares to paper pulp in its effect.
Paper fibers give a rough, slightly spiky surface which further enhances its binding qualities.
One very unfortunate disadvantage compared to nylon or fiberglass is that after about two weeks paper clay begins to STINK!
To avoid the decay of this plant matter, the pulp could be mixed as needed or stored in plastic bags in a deep freeze.

Any clay can be used.
It needs to be mixed well until smooth and creamy.
A deflocculant can reduce the amount of water and subsequently the time needed for evaporation and drying.
A quick and convenient clay that can be used is casting slip and this is an excellent way to use the slops and trimmings from the potter's wheel or from pouring ceramic molds.

Can you use paper clay on the wheel?
The answer is no.
It can't be thrown and cannot be wedged, but some people claim it can!
I guess my suggestion is just try it and see for yourself what kind of a result you get.

What Paper Clay Does Or Doesn't Do

It is impossible for large cracks to develop in paper clay as it dries.
Layering on dry slabs will not warp.
Excellent for layering in plaster molds.
Works well for the coiling technique.
Joining pieces can be done at any stage, dry to wet to leather hard all join well.
As the material dries it develops unbelievable tensile strength.
Fired and bisque pieces can be embedded into the soft slip.
Ceramic pieces can be bigger and stronger and up to 50% lighter in weight.
Behaves exactly like clay in the firing process, because it IS clay!
Can readily be poured in a mold.
Don't need a slab roller any more.

Procedures for making paper clay.

Hot water, tissue paper or copier paper is soaked and beaten with an electric drill mixer blade.
It will take more water, than you think!

The pulp is poured into a sieve and then squeezed by hand to remove most of the water.

Drop pulp into clay slip.
Use about l0% to 50% paper pulp.
A ruler simplifies measurement of volume.

Mix well by hand using a stick or mixer blade, the clay now looks like oatmeal porridge.
Poured onto a dry surface or plaster slab.

Paddle and plaster with a knife or flat stick to any thickness.
Thin edges will show the fine fibers.

When poured into a frame or mold the material lends itself to any shaping method. Sometimes will dry overnight.

Wet paper clay slip can be added to dry without any problems, and can be smoothed or textured to preference.

Thin and thick can be combined in one slab.

Hard dry slabs can be scored with a sharp knife and snapped over the edge of a table.
The cellulose fibers are visible to the eye.

Paper clay has the ability to stick to itself and be really strong no matter how dry or how wet.
It is possible to join anything of any thickness, at any angle, at anytime, using paper clay slip as a glue.
It will also join easily to ordinary clay.
It seems that nearly all rules of clay making can be broken.

It is best to make slabs on a dry plaster slab with a mixture of clay slip and 30% to 50% paper pulp.
Any clay slip can be used, but I find a readily accessible source from my wheel slops and trimmings which are easily soaked down.

lf clay is removed as slabs from the plaster block the following day, these can be rolled into tubes of any diameter for future construction, or it can be scraped away from the plaster while still wet and mixed by hand into a plastic state.
Coils can then be made or wheel throwing attempted.
While it is in the slop state it can be spread or poured into molds and left to dry out. Objects can be made solid with no problem.

At first it seemed like all the ideas I had were limited to straight, flat-sided forms once the slabs had been made, but I quickly realized that I could make any shape or form that I wanted.
I leave my slabs to go bone-dry on the plaster slab because they do not warp and I am able to stack them on edge for storage and future use.

I decided to re-soak a paper clay slab by totally immersing it in water in a shallow tub, leaving it for at least three hours.
The clay and fibers absorbed water until the large slab becomes flexible enough to wrap around into any shape.
If a slab is left in water overnight it becomes very sloppy at the surface, but still holds together in one piece and is extremely flexible.
Paper clay can be dried out and softened many times without ill effects.

Hard surfaces can be plastered and modeled on with more sloppy clay.
Fired or glazed ceramic objects and bits of any kind can be pressed into thick paper clay while it is still wet.
It all dries together without the cracking usually associated with shrinkage.

Texture is easily controlled too.
Paper clay dries with a characteristic lumpy porridge surface.
At any stage this can be smoothed with a very fine sponge or, depending on the water content, with rough sandpaper or a file.
Imprinting works well, but carving is definitely hindered by the cellulose fibers clinging to each other in the mix.


Special considerations are recommended if bisque firing is done in an electric kiln. The paper fiber starts to burn away at 300 degrees and can fill the studio or kiln shed with unpleasant fumes.
This smoking can continue up to 500 degrees.
It's important to fire slowly during this period, between 5OO degrees and 75O degrees per hour and to fire with vents and door open if possible.
The room needs to also be well ventilated, other than just doors.
There is not the same problem when firing with wood, oil or gas, as the fumes go up the flue.
Once the paper is burnt away the firing can continue as normal.

After bisque firing the appearance and texture are normal in everyway.
The fired clay looks and acts as clay always does.
The minute spaces formerly occupied by the cellulose fibers cannot be seen by the naked eye and the only noticeable difference will be a lightness in weight, especially when the mix is 50/50 paper to clay.

Glazing can proceed as it always does because the fibers are gone and play no part in the ceramic process.
Any glaze can be used and the results will be as brilliant or depressing as they always are.
Salt glaze, and raku reduction or pit firing can proceed as normal.

You will enjoy working with this material.
Your hands will be covered in sludge, and you can be so adventurous, joining and building with little or no technical skill.
None of the ordinary clay rules apply at the construction stage.
Lifting and moving work is less of a problem and breakages seldom occur.

This can open up the mind to structures and forms that flow in a natural way, especially in the sculptural area.
A bold, adventurous approach with seemingly impossible assemblages can be tried.
Fragility is a thing of the past with structures remaining strong though its pieces may be arranged and rearranged many times.

Paper clay offers endless possibilities.
Information and knowledge on this topic is only at the beginning stage, with new methods and discoveries emerging weekly.

Paper clay storage

Top: Paper clay can be stored as bone hard rolls, tubes, slabs and also crushed waste ready for recycling.

Attaching wet and dry clay

Above: The working of wet and hard, dry pieces together.
Last photo demonstrates a joint defying breakage and gravity.

Molding paper clay slip

Working with paper clay is the best medium for beginners, because there are no rules to follow and just about any shape can be made with no trouble.
The best part of it is the durability it has.
Greenware and pottery break so easy that sometimes if a beginner starts there and breaks a piece after working on it many hours they get frustrated and quit.
The main thing is to just relax and have fun

There are a few who learn by observation...the rest have to pee on the electric fence and find out for themselves.

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Have you ever come up with a good idea while working with your handmade pottery and thought that you would like to share it with others? You have? Well, why not send it to us and we will add it to the tips page for all to see.

Handmade pottery can be a very gratifying hobby that produces fun and satisfying results. For many people it's an enjoyable release that is created by working an inanimate mound of clay into a beautiful work of art that you made through your artistic abilities.

The best way of starting out is to take a few lessons from Youtube. You will probably waste quite a bit in materials when you first get started. Figuring out how to truly make handmade pottery correctly and shape into what you want it to be can be quite an ordeal. The different tools that a normal shop will have can be fun to try. You will soon see which ones you like to use the most and then when you are ready you will know which ones to buy.

With the help of the internet, you can now purchase most if not all of your ceramic and pottery tools and supplies online. We are located far from any well supplied dealers and yet working with reliable ceramic and pottery suppliers online has allowed us to recieve most of our orders within a timely manner.

When you get all set up, just enjoy the hobby and have fun at it. Some people get pretty serious and start selling their creations at craft fairs and small stores, but others just like to create items for themselves, relatives, and friends. Whichever kind of handmade pottery you desire to endeavor, enjoy the hobby and have fun doing it.

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