today i’m telling you about my favorite tools, discovered over time and trial-and-error, that i can’t do without today. i will not talk about all the tools that are common to all ceramic techniques, but those that are particularly useful for nerikomi. if you are unsure of what the basic tools are in a ceramic studio, please check this out first.
For a long time I was doing all my mini coils with only my fingers ... Can I tell you how absurd I find that, now that I have a mini extruder in my toolbox! The little coils are a basic thing you will need to do to make a multitude of patterns, I use them a lot in my collages and also to make canes. There are other types of extruders but I recommend this one in particular because the pusher is screwed and therefore allows to have more power to work slightly harder clays, as well as the sillicone joint which does not leave traces of clay in the tube after emptying. This makes it easy to switch from one color to another without criss-cross contamination.
Imitation moins chère / Cheaper dupe (image 2)
ÉVITEZ LE MODÈLE SUR L’IMAGE 3, DO NOT GET A MODEL LIKE THE THIRD IMAGE
A variety of cookie cutters will allow you to create a multitude of patterns quickly. The absolute essential would be circles and ovals, because it is almost impossible to do them freehand with a knife. I have all sizes of circle cutters, from half a centimeters to 5 inches, and i use them all. On the other hand, squares, rectangles and diamonds can easily be done with a ruler and a knife (and it generally gives a better result because the cookie cutters have rounded corners.) There are cookie cutters for almost everything you can imagine from animal shapes to flowers, to cars, name it, have fun with it!
I accidentally bought cookie cutters like on the left image because my old were all rusted and wonky, without realizing that they were 3 times the price than the model on the right image in a professional kitchen supply store. At the time I thought that it was expensive for simple cookie cutters (I had paid around $ 40 unlike the ones I found today on Amazon) And I can tell you that the additional expense was really worth it! The circles like in the image on the right are made of a softer metal which deforms over time and they also rust very quickly. It’d difficult in a ceramics studio to keep your tools dry… Those of the image on the left image have not one small trace of rust for a couple years that I have used them, no deformation, and there is also a couple more sizes than the standard kit . In short, I strongly recommend that you look for this model with the fold in the metal, it's only a few dollars more (online tho, in a kitchen store you will pay more obviously.)
mini rolling pin
To integrate patterns into a clay slab you will need a mini rolling pin. There are all kinds on the market; plastic, glass, rubber, silicone ... and after experimenting with several, I find that the best material is wood. It doesn't stick much to clay. When it is too dirty it can starts to stick because clay stick to itself, so only sponge between few passes and you’ll be good. If you have experience in handbuilding pottery and are used to using another kind of maybe you’ll find this uneccessary but trust me on that one, colored clay is different, it is more wet and sticky. To be able to joint several pieces of colored clay together without using slip, you have to work with a lot of water. I really like this wood rolling pin on the right image in particular because it has a rounded end that allows you to roll on a slab without making streaks with the blunt edges. I would suggest to avoid models like the image on the middle, because there is only a straight edge.
A dough sheeter is very useful for making very thin sheets of clay for cutting shapes free hand into it or with cookie cutters for all kinds of cane pattern techniques. Although very useful to have, you can do the same with a regular rolling pin or a ceramic slab roller machine if you have one.
A precise x-acto is also extremely useful, essential even. I do not know of any other tool that will allow you to cut freehand patterns with the same accuracy, and it is also with this tool that I cut the segments in my large slabs to form them on my plaster forms. Replace the blade regularly for better efficiency.
laine d’acier fine
Fine steel wool, not the one for washing dishes, will replace sandpaper for dry finishing. To refine details or clean up colored clay surface contamination, steel wool has the advantage of morphing to the shape of the piece for much quicker and easier sanding. grades 1 and 0 are used to refine, grades 00 are used for sanding, and 000 or 0000 are used to remove all traces of sanding for a perfectly smooth and soft finish. You can skip this step and do everything in the bisque stage too. (see paragraph below) Skipping this step will avoid making dust, but bisque clay will obviously be more difficult to correct than raw clay. (steel wool like image on the left, not like image on the right.) You can get them with the link below or in hardware stores.
Diamonds pads for polishing
When working with several clay colors, it is inevitable that they mix on the surface and create a dirty layer. Despite cleaning the surfaces with a sponge or sanding, there will undoubtedly remain dirty traces that you did’nt get, that you will see appearing on bisque wear. These marvelous tools allow you to wet sand bisque pieces with the least effort compared to black sand papers which disintegrate quickly and are, in my opinion, very unpleasant to use. My studio mate Naomi introduced me to them when I moved there a year and a half ago and I was flabbergasted by how much better they work compared with the method that I had been taught. In short, do not waste your time with the black sand papers and go directly to those in diamond or in cerium, you will not regret it. It’s expensive, but they last a lot longer so it’s about the same, but you will definitely save time and energy.
I hope you were able to learn a thing or two today! When I started to work with colored clay, I did not use any of those despite several years of experience in ceramics. It's crazy to me when I think about it all the time wasted working with ineffective tools ... If you have a wonderful tool that I should know, let me know in the comments! I'm always looking for things that allow me to be more efficient in my production, because less time on repetitive tasks = more time to create!