Over the millennia, the techniques of ceramics have not changed that much: clay is basically still dug from the ground, although we might buy it pre-packed, work is still fired in kilns that are not that far removed from those of our ancestors. While we now have electric kilns, woodfiring, anagama, raku and even pit-firing are still widely popular.

In the search for new techniques, paperclay is possibly an 'insiders' tip. Just what is paperclay? Paperclay is a mixture of clay and paper pulp.This mixture has many improved qualities over normal clay: it is lighter, as the paper burns away; it is very strong, both in the green state and after firing, due to the fiberous structure of the changed clay particles; it does not crack very easily -even when adding fresh clay to green ware, or even to bisqued ware (I have witnessed this myself!); waste paper can be utilised for the purpose. Get some detailed instructions how to make your own paperclay.

But it is not just a matter of adding paper pulp to clay. There are some questions to be considered: what type of paper is best? (in my experience newspaper is actually quite good); how much should be added? (this question must be answered through experimentation, but up to 50 % is feasible). The Department of Ceramics and Glass Design of the University of Finland offers some answers to these questions.

You can easily make paperclay yourself by mixing paper pulp with clay slip and then drying it out or by wedging in the pulp with the clay body. One can also purchase ready-made paperclay in some craft shops. There is even a product on the market called Creative Paperclay which doesn't need to be fired, but this is perhaps really moving too much away from the traditions of ceramic art. Still it is a new and different technique that could be checked out.

Paperclay has many uses from dollmaking, from the work of Marie Claude Dupont, to sculptural ceramic works, such as the work of Graham Hay. Paperclay is especially useful for sculptural work, as it has great strength and very large pieces can be made that remain relatively light.

One can hope that more information on and works in paperclay will emerge in the future.

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