How to Make Clay

Learn how to make clay for your clay pot projects. Learn to choose the right pottery clay or mix custom clay recipes. Prepare clay from the ground or purchased from a ceramic art supplies store.



how to make homemade clay, clay sample

Local clay sample dug from the ground.

Why Would You Want to Make Your Own Clay?

Pro's:

1) It saves money.
2) You can customize it to fit your needs.
3) It's fun, educational, and challenging.

Con:

1) It's a lot of work.

Have A Great Story About Making Homemade Clay?

Have you tried your hand at digging or making homemade clay? Give us the "dirt." How did the clay turn out? Share your experience, tips, challenges and photos!

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What Other Visitors Have Said

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Homemade Ganesha Idol 
I'm fond of making new clay art items from raw clay. I have made all thees things by waste materials. Gaurav, Those are great. I absolutely love creating …

When digging clay, why dry it out first and then wet it again? 
Question: I watched several videos on how to prepare clay that I dug from the ground. They include the instructions to lay the clay out in the sun …

Why won't the red clay I dug up separate after screeninig? 
Question: I dug up some sticky red clay on my uncles farm, soaked it in water and ran it through a screen. I left it in a bucket so the clay would …

What is the effect of using different crushed rock when making clay? 
Question: I was making clay that I dug up on my uncles farm but I mixed it too wet. The problem is that it is winter here and I did not have any easy …

Did I Make Clay? Not rated yet
Hello Steve; I am new to making clay. I may have made a giant mistake. I had 2 gallons of muck from throwing the expensive bagged clay. I added 2# …

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Mixing Powdered Clay

The first way to make your own pottery clay is to learn how to make homemade clay from a powdered recipe. Premixed powdered clay is cheaper to buy and ship than premixed wet clay.

These can be found wherever you find ceramics supplies. Most pottery supply stores have several clay recipes to choose from.

Making Clay From a Recipe

You can also learn how to make clay using a custom recipe for homemade clay. Recipes for homemade clay can be found in ceramic magazines, books and on the internet.

Most clay recipes include 3-6 raw ingredients. Some common ingredients include: ball clay, talc, kaolin, fire clay, stoneware clay, silica and flint.

Digging Your Own Clay

If you're an adventurous soul, you may want to try digging your own pottery clay. Before ceramic pottery supplies could be purchased at the store, potters dug their own clay from the earth.

Clay is commonly found near lakes, river banks, and in clay deposits. Some areas even have established clay pits, where clay is regularly sourced.

The experience of digging the clay, processing it, and testing it's properties can be very rewarding. You gain a deeper understanding of your clay by connecting to it's source.

If nothing else it gives you a greater appreciation for the ready availability of prepared clay to modern day pottery artists.

Testing Clay

When learning how to make clay, learning how to test the clay body is important. There are four main tests I like to perform on each clay body in order to really get to know it.

They are: Workability, Shrinkage, Firing Temperature, and Absorption.

Workability- Otherwise known as plasticity or throwability. How far can the clay stretch before cracking?

Shrinkage- How much will the clay shrink when dried and fired? This ranges from 5-20%. Most wheel thrown pottery ranges from 8-15%.

Firing Temperature- At what firing cone does the clay mature? Cone 022-10.

Absorption- How quickly will the clay absorb moisture after it is fired to maturity. This ranges from about 2-12% for most electric pottery wheel pottery.

Learn step by step instructions for these four tests.

Safety

When learning how to make clay here are a few safety considerations.

1) Always follow the manufacturers recommendations when operating a clay mixer or a pug mill. 2) Avoid breathing clay dust. Wear an approved mask when working with powdered clay and clean up spilled powder with water.

3) When digging clay avoid polluted sources and test the clay for lead if creating functional pottery that will be used with food.

There truly are abundant resources for clay. Whether you are digging, mixing, or throwing clay straight out of the bag, Happy Potting.

Learn About Choosing the Right Pottery Clay

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This website was created by Steve McDonald. He is a writer, self-taught web designer, and lover of all things pottery. Connect with him on Google Plus.