Folding a special booklet

DIY: Folding a special booklet

folded bookletSometimes budget is scarse and the wish to make an outstanding item is big.
At an event I had organized a friend and I wanted to give our audience a poem bundle. We both wanted to show off our skills – he as a poet and I as a designer.
There was just one minor problem: we didn’t have any money to spend. 😉

Problems can lead to great solutions. The end result was a folded booklet which made our guests really happy.

Form follows function

japanese folding styleThe poems of my friend have a specific style. The sentences are very short, hence a small page is an obvious choice. So the form dictates the found solution of the folded pages.

It’s not common for a text to influence the form that strong, but also with ‘normal’ text, you can make folded pages. Just make sure the columns are small and the letterfont is not too big. And I would use the pages on the other side as well in that case. I mean the pages I left blank, not the backside of the paper.

Pages at the inside

expanded modelFor the pages I chose paper of 100 grs of a good quality to have a nice feeling in my fingers when I hold it. The sheet is an A3 printed with a laser printer, and then cut longitudinally, resulting in two strips of 420×148,5mm.

The strip is folded a few times as a harmonica, resulting in 8 pages of 52,5×148,5 mm.

Cover is folded as well

cover

The cover is an A5 of 300 grs verge board. Verge paper means ‘ribbed paper’. It is produced by the mesh on which the paper is made, looks like lines in relief and gives the paper a cool look.

The outside could be this thick because it is not printed.
First, the cardboard is folded in half and then again just halfway, leaving space for the white pages to fit in.

A special folding mode

Sure, you can also make a booklet by folding some papers together and staple them, but this looks more special don’t you think? And our edition conteined just 30 copies, making it not too time consuming to make.

 Can you think of more occasions to use a folding booklet like this?  Let me know in the commentbox below.

DIY framing in Photoshop

DIY framing in Photoshop

Make your own remarkable frame

diy framing in photoshopThere are tons of free frames available on the Internet. They’re fun to use. But wouldn’t it be great to make your own frame? If you have a photo program that works with layers, it’s not that hard.

I have made the frame in the accompanying picture with a bristle brush. I love the imperfection of a handmade drawing. Of course there are ways to make it digitally though you will probably need a drawing tablet to get a similar result.

I’ll explain step by step how you can make a frame like the one shown here. And I’ll also give alternatives, so you know how you can customize it to your own liking.

I use Adobe Photoshop, but Photoshop Elements or any other program that works in layers will do. Gimp and PaintShopPro seem to give good results, although I don’t know them myself. I am an Apple user by religion 🙂

What do you need?
A picture you want to level up

red tulips
Tulip fields in april in Holland

The picture can either be a really good one, so you want it to stand out extraordinarily. Or it can be a picture that isn’t very good, but that has others reasons to be handled with extra care. For instance, it’s a picture that resembles great memories and you want to combine several of those memories into one image.

A self-made frame
Try to think in layers on forehand

painted frames
Self-made frames, paint on paper that was spanned on plywood

Although I adore my computer I am from the age of paint and stained fingers. So I make my frames with real paint or ink as in this example. But in any photo program there are tools to make similar quadrangles and spots in a digital way.

The tricky part when painting
Wet paper crinkles easily

crinkled paper
Wetted paper will not dry flat

Paper that is not supported in any way will stay bubbled after getting wet and drying. You can easily prevent this by adhering the paper on the edges. (Have a look at this painting in Museum Insel Hombroich – talk about crumbled paper!)

The easy way
Which is of course more expensive

If you can afford it, you can buy a block of quality paper. It’s quite expensive but the color and the surface are really grand. Because the sides are pressed together it doesn’t matter that the paper gets wet: it will dry flat every single time. It’s for sale in any good art supply store.

The difficult way

And more affordable with the same or even a better result

I use water-resistant plywood to span the paper. As you can see I pull the old layers of paper tape off and use the board several times.

  1. Gather the following: plywood board, paper tape, a sheet of paper, a sponge and a bowl of water
  2. Use a sheet of good quality paper and wet it with a non-marking sponge. The paper will swell. Make sure the paper is wetted evenly
  3. Let it rest for a couple of minutes
  4. Tear the paper tape to the desired length. Wet the pieces of paper tape and let them rest for a moment too
  5. Place the paper on the plywood and rub it gently from the center to the sides
  6. Paste one long side with a strip of tape
  7. Rub the paper again on the board until it’s more or less flat and adhere the opposite side. And then the two short sides
  8. Let it dry completely, before you paint on it

spanning paper
I use water-resistant plywood to span the paper. As you can see I pull the old layers of paper tape off and use the board several times.

Good preparation is half the job

Collect the right tools for the other half of the job

tools of the artist
Usually I’ll try both ink and paint with different kind of brushes, because they will give a varied texture

Once the paper is tight and flat in front of you, draw all kind of frames on it.
The paper will swell again of course, but because of the paper tape it will dry up nicely time and again.

Sometimes I draw rectangles in the ratio of the photographs I am going to use. Sometimes I draw freeform shapes. You can do whatever is to your liking. Just make sure that the contrast between the color of the paper and the color of the ink or paint is high enough.

From old-fashioned to new media

Scanning, choosing, masking

making a frame diy
For the intro picture I chose a painted, stripy blot.

I scan all the frames I have made and choose which one to use after that. The reason to scan also the frames that are not completely right is to be able to digitally copy and paste parts of them.

Open the scan in your editing program.

magic wand in photoshop
The magic wand in Photoshop or another photo program

I am a huge fan of Adobe Photoshop, but any other photo editing program if fine too.
By varying the value of the magic wand you can select as much of the smudge as you want.

magic wand photoshop

Layers make my life so much easier

framing in photoshop

Copy the selection and paste it in a new layer on your picture.

masking in prhotoshop
I made the mask yellow so you can see what I selected

Invert the selection and activate the layer with the picture. And throw away the selected part.

frame diy photoshop
The result

I added another layer that I made yellow, well, kind of yellow. The main reason being that it supports the explanation. Generally I would make that layer white to make the spot stand out more.

Layering

My article about a selfmade card is also about layers in Photoshop.

Combining Ceramics with Linocut and Stencils

DIY: Combining Ceramics with Linocut and Stencils

The tricks of the trade

ceramics linocut stencilsUsually I make abstract sculptural ceramics, but occasionally I take a side road at making bowls. Not that these bowls can be used to put something in, because I always tend to make objects, but the starting point is better known to others than my abstract work.

The creativity of others, for instance someone like Escher, inspires me and I hope I can be an inspiration for people as well.
The techniques I will describe here are tips I got several years ago. There is so much possible with clay! It keeps amazing me. And it keeps me real enthusiastic about ceramics.

If you try new things, a new way of working or a new technique, you will not have instant result. Well, most of the times. But try and don’t give up and you will surprise yourself. I know I did.

(Drawings, bowl and photographs are mine © Hannie Mommers)

Designing and sketching

I always start with a drawing

sketch
Computer sketch of two variations of the bowl

I am more of a designer than an artist. Meaning I sketch and draw before I make anything. Other artists are more intuitive and start right away. Both ways of working are fine, I guess. I feel happiest when I make a plan on forehand.

Sketching can be by hand or by computer. For these lizard-bowls I sketched the lizard by hand, scanned it and made the layout by computer.

lizard bowl by hannie mommerslizard bowl by hannie mommersTwo of the results

Is imitation a form of flattery?

Inspiration is everywhere

Browse through books, visit websites

escherI found the inspiration for my bowls in a book about Escher.

There is a lot of talk in my profession about imitation and inspiration. I do not believe in plain imitation. If you do not know what you’re doing, even something that is an exact replica will have no soul.

But start with imitating and try to give it your own twist and you will discover new paths.

Reptiles – M.C. Escher
linotcut
Three pieces of linoleum

The linocut – Preparing

My idea was to use embossing that went from flat to higher parts. I cut three pieces of lino. In one I cut only the outlines (1), the next piece had more texture (2) and the latter had recessed portions (3).
With these linopieces I can press in the clay like a stamp.

My lino cutter of choice

I have my set since I attended the Academy of Visual Arts. So it must be 40 years old. Most of the time when I want to suggest a tool, it has been changed. This one rightfully hasn’t, as you can see. And why should it, it’s a marvelous set and with proper care, it’ll last for ages.

linocutter
A lot of my tools have a blue marking of tape. That way they don’t get lost if I attend a workshop!

Stamped parts

Combined with little hand built parts

linocut ceramics stampscaramics bowl
Stamped with respectively lino (1) and lino (2). I didn’t alter stamps (1) and (2) afterwards.

In bowl A I used one stamped part of lino (1), one of lino (2) and 4 of lino (3). The dish is made in a mold, making it easy to draw guidelines with pencil and positioning the stamped parts. When they are positioned the way I want, I can finish the rest of the platter. The plaster mold extracts moisture from the clay, so it dries. As soon as the form has shrunk loose, I can finish the back.

handbuild addition
This is one of the four stamps with lino (3)

Three of the four stamped parts of lino (3) were altered after assembling. Either a little tail is peeking out of the surface or the body is thickened. Or the head is lifted up completely. That is why these vessels can’t be used as bowls, the protruding parts would break by the first apple that was thrown into them.

Experiment, improving each time

handbuilt addition to the bowl
Bowl B has more resemblance to Escher’s drawing

In Bowl (B) I used the same stamps as in (A) and added drawings. These lizards don’t walk round behind each other, but vanish off in a spiral with the last one leaving a shadow behind.

Stencils and colored slibs

Supplemented by sgraffito and glaze

sgraffito colored slibs
Several techniques are used for the background

The background of Bowl (A) is decorated with leaves. If you want to make something like this, try to think in layers.
The bowl is made of white clay. Before the first firing I added an ochre layer of slib.
I cut leaves from paper (newspaper is ideal, because it’s thin and absorbs water) and while the clay is still moist I press them gently on the surface. If it won’t stick you can ‘paint’ them with water, just make sure it doesn’t get too wet.
The next layer I added was the green one. After drying the paper leafs can be peeled off.
The leaf veins are scratched, making them white. It’s a technique I call sgraffito, but I am not sure that is an English word as well?

After the first firing I have added more slibs as shadows. And glazed some of the leaves, leaving the others with a matte finish. I love the contrast between shiny and matt.

Clay tools from the kitchen drawer

DIY: Clay tools from the kitchen drawer

You can start making ceramics right away

using hands and a knifeWorking with your hands, and especially with clay, is a great way to relax. It is also a way to develop your creativity and very satisfying. And it is not very expensive at all.

Over the years I have collected a lot of professional tools for my clay processing – wire tools, knives, hole cutters, kidneys. But you can use cheap clay tools right away, because most of these utensils you have in your house anyway.

All you have to do is buy some clay and you’re set.

Within reach

Ceramics for the small purse

ceramics tools from the kitchen drawer
Most of these utensils are probably in your house too

If you’re just starting out with ceramics it is always advisable to first have a look in your kitchen drawer. It’s so funny that despite the professional knives I bought in the wholesale store, my favorite still is an old potato peeler. And I often prefer to work with toothpicks and skewers instead of with my wooden modeling tools.

pots and food containers
Cream pots and food containers

Dry hands

Clay dries your hands in no time. Besides rubbing my hands with cream every time I am finished for the day, it gives me a lot of containers. I use those to either store moist slip or dry pigments.

container and jar, cheap tools for ceramics
Food container and vegetable jar

So here is a list of tools and what you can use them for:

  1. Fork – to roughen the edges of slabs of clay or to make patterns with
  2. Spoon – dish up powder and glazes with the concave side and beat the clay into shape with the convex side (sometimes you get wooden cutlery at fast food restaurants –> they’re ideal, so take them with you from now on!)
  3. Knife – cutting and scratching
  4. Wooden washing brush – attach the stem to a big wooden bead, with the brush you can decorate by pushing it on a slab
  5. Mixer – to mix slips and pigments
  6. Plastic containers – air-tight storage of work in progress
  7. Fruit jars – for storage of different colored slips
  8. Wooden and metal skewers – to make holes or as modeling tools when your fingers are too big or not long enough to reach for a certain area
  9. Apple corer – perforate
  10. Waffle wipes – ideal for making little rolls
  11. Plastic foil – to wrap clay edges and prevent them from drying too soon
  12. Garbage bags – for covering your clay pieces when you are not working on them

more tools

And not from your drawer, but just as useful

  1. Old credit cards – some I use as they are, others I cut in shapes
  2. Cream-pots – to store pigments in
  3. Paint buckets – I have a couple on my table to rinse my hands and tools in, preventing toxic waste to flush down the drain
  4. Paint buckets with lids – air-tight storage of open clay packs
  5. Iron wire – to cut slabs
  6. Guitar string – to cut slabs
  7. Bulbs – for polishing

Can you add tools you found in the house and are usable for clay?

These are some answers I received on another platform:

  1. Iron wire – to cut slabs
  2. Lace curtains or prints on material – press it in the clay for a relief
  3. Garlic press – you can make small squiggly bits of decoration
  4. Carpet protectors – for impressing large, evenly spaced holes into clay
  5. Pet combs – for impressing small, evenly spaced holes into clay
  6. Plastic tooth picks – the tip is finer than any wooden point I’ve seen and the ones I have are nicely rounded for better ergonomic effect.

clay tools
Tools from the shed

Of course this list is not exhaustive. There are many other tools, you can use. For example to stamp or carve with.
But I think I have listed the most important ones. Or do you have something to add that is a useful tip for ceramicists? Please put it in the comment box below. I would really appreciate your effort.

The bought items I use most

Going professional usually means buying tools anyway

bought tools for ceramics
Bought tools, collected in the course of the years

Despite all the tips I tell here and use myself, I can’t resist looking around in the shop whenever I need the raw materials. So I was thinking, what is the top 5 of the bought tools I use?

A trestle, one of the small plastic knifes, a small ribbon tool, a sgraffito knife and a cutting harp (I couldn’t find this one in the dictionary, so I am not sure the translation is right).

cutting harp
My favorite cutting harp and a self made tool with an old guitar string

Digging your own clay

digging your own clay
In another article I wrote about digging your own clay and preparing it.

Can the making of ceramic objects really be affordable?

How about a kiln?

kilnI started by stating “ceramics for the small purse”, but clay needs to be fired. At least once, and if you want to glaze it a second time as well.

In my early ceramics days I couldn’t afford a kiln, nor did I have room to put it. So I looked up ceramicists in the neighborhood and found one that rented his kiln.

If you are taking this up as a hobby, I would advise not to buy all the expensive stuff immediately, but look for solutions like this.

Have fun!

Can you add tools you found in the house and are usable for clay?

DIY How to smooth the surface of your clay object

DIY: How to smooth the surface of your clay object

Three affordable tips

ceramics tipCeramics can be produced in several ways. You can press clay in molds, hand build or merge slabs. Depending completion or decoration it can be necessary to smooth the surface as best as possible.

If you intend to use slip on the finished form, it’s best not to smooth the surface too thoroughly. When the clay molecules are pressed too tight against each other the engobe will not attach very well.

On the other hand, if you plan to put your work in the smoke kiln, it is better if the surface is polished. The smoother the better.

Tip 1 costs nothing, after all
we use plastic cards all the time

cards transformed to kidney forms

An expired bankcard, an access card to the gym or a gift card of the perfumery: when I check my wallet I have numerous cards I all got for free and are of no use. They’re really handy to smooth the clay surface with.
Since I have plenty of cards, I have cut several in shapes for specific projects.

And another tip – not for preening, but the opposite – I cut some with pinking shears to roughen the edges. I need those when I am building with slabs.

card to smooth surface
This works better than a mirette, because you can bend the card

Tip 2 costs a little, a tool I use a lot

ceramics tip wooden bead
One of the beads has a diameter of 3,5 cm and the other one of 5 cm.

With a wooden bead you can rub the clay into a mold, thus making both the inside and the outside clean and slick.
I used thick iron wire as a handle, until I got an old-fashioned washing brush from a friend. The stem fits perfectly around one of the beads.

using a wooden bead

Tip 3 – second life for failing light bulbs

light bulbs for polishing

In the beginning of my clay days I used a spoon to polish the skin of my ceramics and hated the metal stains that emerged.
Now I use a broken light bulb (not really broken, but just not functioning of course).
I have several kinds, so there is always a lamp that fits the surface.

avoid metal stains on ceramics
These gray spots arise when polishing with metal objects

Are these helphful tips for you? Please let me know in the commentbox below.

Dyeing with plants, a natural way of coloring

DIY: Dyeing with plants, a natural way of coloring

Colors from your garden

dyeing with plantsGenerally, when thinking of gardening, one will think of flowers for beauty and vegetables to eat.
But wouldn’t it be fantastic to see vegetation as a way to make your own colors?

As a ceramicist I am interested in the way colors are produced. I have been making my own colored slibs for years now, but writing my article about the coloring of clay aroused my interest in natural coloring in general once again.

I can’t garden myself anymore because of a back problem, but we have a public garden in my village with a tremendous explanation about all the features of plants.

Textile coloring

Dye it yourself

natural colorsUntil 1850 the only way to dye fabric was using plants. The old textile workers didn’t write their recipes down because of the competition, which is a pity of course. But nowadays renewed attention for handmade and old-fashioned crafts creates a revival and reinventing of the tested recipes.

If you want to use your own garden for dyeing plants you can make two choices:

  1. You chose only plants that will give the colors you are after;
  2. You plant flowers that will give you joy the whole summer because of their flowers and can be used as coloring plants as a bonus gift.

You can make almost every color with plants, except the really bright ‘plastic’ ones. The colors will always have a natural character.

Tip: Plants that are for human consumption, generally don’t give long lasting colors

Birch
Bark

birch
Amount: 100% – Mordant: 5% potassium dichromate, 7% tartaric acid – Color: red/brown

Parts of the plants you can use

They all give either a different shade or a different color

The useable parts of plants for dyeing are the roots, leaves, flowers or bark. These will color your fabric in a different shade or even a different color. Not all parts give colors that last long.
Also you can use wood, lichens or fungi.

Some plants will give you a clue up front what color to expect from them. For instance berries or beets provide a red tone. But for a lot of plants you’ll have to experiment to find out the color.

In the old ‘Dye it Yourself’-books a general tip is not to pick plants that grow near highways, because of the lead. Most petrol doesn’t have lead anymore, but it might still be a good advice.

Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare)

Leaves

tansy
Amount: 200% – Mordant: 15% ardum – Color: lemon yellow

Several conditions will have their influence on the color

  1. Kind of plants
  2. Parts of plants
  3. Percentage used in regard to the fabric
  4. Gathering place
  5. Fresh or dried plants
  6. Soaked or not
  7. Boiled or not
  8. Time of dyeing
  9. Season of gathering
  10. Mordant
  11. Developer
  12. Temperature
  13. Cooling down in the dye bath or out of it

Woad (Isatis Tinctoris)
Whole plant

woad dyeing with plants
Amount: 200% – Mordant: 6% Oxalic acid – Color: blue/purple

A direction
Not a manual

What I share here are just a few guidelines. I am a strong supporter of experiment, so I won’t give you a lot of recipes. Well, not only because of the experiment, but also because I haven’t done this enough to be precise about the outcome.

  1. Cut the material in the smallest pieces possible
  2. If the material is soft (like leaves), soaking a night in cold water will suffice
  3. Firmer material, like birch, is best soaked first and then boiled for an hour
  4. Don’t wrap the dyeing material, but be sure it’s loose in the cauldron

Onions
Peeling

onions
Amount: 100% – Mordant: 5% iron sulphate, 7% tartaric acid – Color: yellow/brown

To keep in mind
Natural coloring is mainly for animal products like wool and silk. You can color vegetal products like coton, but the colors will look faded.

A recipe for yellow
Just an example

Ingredients:

  • 100 % Fabric (this can be a t-shirt, a pillowcase or sheep wool)
  • 400% Onionskins (400 grams on each 100 gram of fabric)
  • 20% Alum mordant (ask your drugstore or craft store)

Use enough water – the fabric must be able to ‘swim’.

Preparation of the mordant:

  • Use a kettle or pan of stainless steel or enamel
  • Solve the alum in hot water (20 gram on each 100 gram of fabric)
  • Put it in water of 80 to 90 degrees C
  • Wet the fabric and stir it in the mordant bath for half an hour on 90 degrees C (don’t let it boil)

Preparation of the dyeing plants:

  • Put it in a pan and boil it like a soup
  • Either let it simmer on the fire for an hour or put it to rest for a night
  • Sift it

Dyeing:

  • Mix the dye and the fabric and heat up to 90 degrees C
  • Let it brew for 45 to 60 minutes

Finishing:

  • Cool the material down either in or out of the kettle
  • Rinse two times in lukewarm water with vinegar to fix the color
  • Rinse more until the material no longer sends off color
  • Dry

Beautiful blue

Pigments are also pretty on the wall

pigmentLittle Big Bang, a poster I saw somewhere.

In comments:

Addition from someone on another platform:
I like them but if you use metal salts as a mordant they can be hazardous to your health (if you don’t take precautions) and aren’t really that great for the environment if you dump it down the drain (it depends on what you use). I love indigo dyes but keeping a dye vat going can be very tricky.

Shades of clay. How to use the color of clay itself

DIY: Shades of clay How to use the color of clay itself

Dutch Design in a pure form

shades of claySince the 70s Dutch Design is a major export article. And that design covers all areas, like graphic design, industrial design and architecture.

Some great schools were accountable for the high level of their students. To name a few: the Delft University of Technology, the Design Academy Eindhoven and the Academy for Art and Design St. Joost in Breda.

I had my education at the Academy of Visual Arts in Tilburg and at St. Joost, where I learned to have an inquisitive attitude. And it gives me a real boost if I see this spirit in others.

Ceramics on display at the museum Boymans van Beuningen
(Pictures are mine unless otherwise stated © Hannie Mommers)

Clay is in the ground

Does old-fashioned craft still exist in the 21st century?

delft blue tiles
Old-fashioned tiles at the exhibition ‘Hand Made’ in museum Boymans van Beuningen, Rotterdam, the Netherlands

Nowadays some young people think every item comes from the store or the factory. They see no connection with the soil or with the cultivation of the land. I once was at an exhibition of home spun wool and what I remember most of that exhibition is that one of the participants said she had discovered that sheep eat grass in the meadow!
Duh.

But of course there is also a large group of (young and old) people that want to live consciously in regard to the environment and consider how fragile our planet is.

When you are a designer and you are interested in sustainability you might want to do the same as this Dutch girl did. Lonny van Ryswyck decided to go back to the roots for her graduation project for the Design Academy Eindhoven.

Sheer clay- Pure colors

steenfabriek gilze
An abandoned brick factory in Gilze, the Netherlands, is rebuild to a beautiful exhibition center

Armed with a bucket and a shovel van Ryswyck traveled through the Netherlands and scooped clay in different regions. These regions used to be areas of clay extractions for household and industrial purposes. For example Makkum, in Friesland, the north of the Netherlands, was famous for its tiles in the 17th century. Or Gilze, which is near my hometown, used to have large brick factories.

Clay consists of minerals with traces of metal oxides and organic matter. At each site the clay has a different composition, which will cause different colors and a different degree of shrinkage. Van Ryswyck did a meticulous examination of these disparities. She made a study of the composites, so now she knows what causes the colors.

She made molds for cups and saucers, thus making it visible that the shrinkage varies. The end result is a ceramic set with a beautiful variation of brown, ochre and white of which not one pair has the same size.

To top it off she stamped the names of the regions in the objects. You can imagine why I as a graphic designer and ceramist am so delighted with this project and its end products.

tableware by atelierNL
Beautiful sets of tableware by AtelierNL © Photography: Royal Tichelaar Makkum

Can green be commercial?
Quality comes fast, my father used to say

A couple of years ago I heard Lonny in a lecture. She is really passionate about her work and rightly proud of it. And I am so happy for her that a factory – Koninklijke Tichelaar Makkum – has taken an interest in her designs and has put it into production.

If you dig clay you can also dug it

Do it yourself

clay in a riverbank

It’s not that hard to shovel your own clay and prepare it.

  1. Dig up clay from a field or from an area near a river
  2. Let it rest outside for a winter. This is called ‘let the clay rot’
  3. Break it in small pieces and ground it
  4. Add water and sift it in order to remove plant debris and little stones
  5. Let it rest for a while and pour the water that comes on top
  6. Let the clay dry to kneadable thickness. You can do this by either warmth or spread it on plaster plates
  7. Knead or grind it into uniform composition
  8. Store it cool and moist
  9. Before working with the clay you can add grog or paper to your liking. Depending of course on what you want to make with it.

What is product design?

Have a look at how designers think.
It’s so great to leaf through design books and see all the marvelous products people came up with.

How to make the perfect slabs of clay

DIY: How to make the perfect slabs of clay

Ever tried to roll clay on cloth?

slabs of clayIf you did, you probably will have noticed that it’s hard to keep the cloth tight and flat.
To make slabs of clay, I used to roll the clay on a piece of textile, supported by two wood slats.

There is nothing wrong with that method. Just that the fabric doesn’t always behave the way I want it to behave. It often crinkles, making lines in the slabs I don’t want.

Then one day somebody gave me this tip. I thought it was ‘the egg of Columbus‘. (Do you use this expression in your country as well?)

(Art and pictures © Hannie Mommers)

My work, using slabs of clay

pennekrats - hannie mommers
Pennekrats” – 37x47x10 cm (2x)

Staple the cloth to a board
And you won’t get wrinkles in the slabs anymore

making slabs of clay
How it used to be

Once I heard this tip, I couldn’t believe I never thought of it myself. It’s so simple, yet so effective.
OK, I do know there are machines that make slabs even more perfectly than mine.
But these machines have 2 downsides:

  1. I can’t afford them (I don’t want these toys, but the industrial kind)
  2. my atelier is too small to have room for such a machine.

board to make slabs of clayOne of my boards

One board, two laths, one rag. And some handiwork

What you need:

  1. Waterproof plywood
  2. Slats in various thicknesses, 2 per thickness
    I have 5mm, 7mm and 8 mm
  3. Sturdy fabric
    I bought denim on the market that has just a little bit of texture. The less texture the better.
  4. Stapler
  5. Hammer
  6. Nails
  7. Driving punch
  8. Roller
  9. Clay

Tip: Make sure the width of the board matches the length of the roller!

Pay special attention to the stapling
This is how your board will last for years

diagram for the stapling
Diagram for the sequence of the stapling

Wet the fabric before you start stapling it to the board. That way you can tighten it much better.

Staple it following the pattern in the drawing. Start at one long side, pull the fabric very tight on the other long side and staple it there. Then the two short sides. After that fix the cloth at the corners. And finally staple in between at a distance of approximately 5cm.

board for slabs of clay
Staple the fabric on the sides

board
Different boards for different thicknesses of slabs

Let the textile dry thoroughly and hammer the slats on the long sides of the board. It’s very important that the width of the board matches the length of your roller! Drive the nails into the wood with the punch so they won’t hinder the roller in any way.

Make as many boards as you need thicknesses. I have three boards and made a fourth one without the slats for thicknesses I don’t need very often.

Once in a while I put my boards outside against the wall of my workshop and spray them clean with a garden hose.

This is how I build my Pages of Clay

DIY How to make the perfect clay rolls

DIY: How to make the perfect clay rolls

The secret of the waffle cloth

ceramics tip clay rollsI am a ceramicist and make sculptural, abstract art. In a lot of my work I need rolls of clay. These can be thick, even rolls. Or rolls that vary from thick to thin.

I used to roll them in between two hands. Usually ending up with lumpy and strange looking things. Not too bad, but certainly not perfect.

Here is my look behind the scenes.

(Art and pictures © Hannie Mommers)

A simple solution, yet very effective

Do try this at home. Take a simple waffle cloth – I have several in different colors, not that the colors are of any importance – and wet it. Put it flat on the table and roll a little piece of clay on it.
Piece of cake.

iTips026Chimney6_007Even, thick rolls that I used in the piece on the right. An extra touch is the use of two colors of clay.

From thick to thin

And trust me, it can go really thin with this method.

rolls from thick to thinwith the use of rolls
As you can see in the pictures I use several textures of waffle cloth.

The big series: Reaching for the sky

reaching for the sky hannie mommers
“Reaching for the sky 4” – 23x23x137 cm

All the rolls for these series of very large built forms were made using this technique.


I made this YouTube video when my company celebrated its 25th anniversary

Try several

Although I am very faithfull, once used to a certain brand, I occasionally buy different kinds as well. Just to try it. Some deteriorate too easily, others just have the perfect texture and sustainability.