There are several states of clay, each one has its own “personality”.
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Wet clay is what comes right out of the bag. This is best stage for sculpting & throwing Pottery.
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Wet clay is moldable in your hands. Even after being separated it will reintegrate easily.
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Next stage is leatherhard. It is dryer and will probably break/crack if you bend it too much.
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Leatherhard is the best stage for smoothing and carving. It is cool to touch.
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Leatherhard clay takes details well without changing the shape of your whole piece when you carve.
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A leatherhard slab with not bend when you (carefully) pick it up. It is stiff but still workable.
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It gets its name because it feels like leather! This is the strongest unfired clay will be.
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You can keep clay at any stage by spraying with water and wrapping it well in plastic.
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This is bone dry clay. It is very brittle, a lighter color, and is room temperature.
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When clay is bone dry you can still scratch into it a little bit, but it’s more difficult to work.
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You can carefully make small changes by smoothing the clay to refine.
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Bone dry clay is very delicate and breaks easily in your hands.
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You can rehydrate clay by adding water.
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Within hours, the clay will break down and become very soft.
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At this stage the clay is called slip. The clay particles float throughout the water.
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You can use dried scraps and shavings to add to the slip as you work.
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A slip bucket will have thicker mud at the bottom of the container.
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Slip is what we use as a “glue” in ceramics. The consistency can range from watery-peanut butter.
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Hopefully that helps you understand the states of clay and how you can work with them!
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