For a beginner, working with clay can seem like a daunting prospect. The feel of this cold, wet material can be a little strange at first, but once you know the basics, you can build up your skills and make pretty much anything you like!
There are a few terms and processes that are key in building anything in clay. Firstly, when you attach one piece of clay to another you must ‘slip and score’. This is the process of scoring the clay in crosshatches and adding water to both halves. This acts like a lock and key, which bonds the two parts together. If you don’t do this, when the clay dries, it will break apart and separate. We do this to each of the animals that we attach to the mugs we make over at Yas Ming Ceramics.
The second thing to remember is to make sure you don’t trap air in the clay. If you do leave air in, then it will expand as it gets hotter, and will cause your work to explode during the firing process in the kiln. This is best to be avoided!
Each of our products go through a firing three times. The first firing is called a ‘bisque fire’ or ‘biscuit’. This removes all the water from the clay, leaving it ready for the glaze to be applied. Once the glaze is applied it goes into another firing where the powdery glaze reacts with the heat and turns into the glass-like finish that can be eaten and drunk from. The last time our own products go into the kiln, we add our ‘back stamp’ onto the bottom.
If you are a beginner, we would recommend you start with hand-building techniques like pinch pots. To make these you start with a ball of clay and push your thumb in three quarters of the way down, and then pinch with your index and middle finger around the outside to create a bowl shape.
Coil pots are another useful starter piece – these are slightly more difficult than a ‘pinch pot’, but give you a bigger vessel. Starting off with a disc of clay for the bottom you create long ‘sausages’ of clay and layer them up; slipping and scoring in-between each layer. You can keep the coils showing as part of the design, or you can smooth then as you go.
Experimenting is key!
Yas Ming Ceramics make beautiful ceramics, including animal heads and bums mugs which can be seen in the images above. We sell these wonderful sippies on our site, and whether you want your tea to come with some oink, or want to have a friendly chum, filled with pens on your desk, these ceramic pieces are great. Yas Ming Ceramics is a collaboration between Yasmin Dilekkya and Ming Wai Sun. You can see more of their work on their website www.yas-ming.co.uk. Yasmin Dilekkya kindly wrote this post for us.