Experiments with Paperclay

A few years ago I experimented with different types of paperclay (air dry and fired clay) on canvas, drywall – almost anything I could get my hands on. I have used paperclay (firing in a kiln) to repair scupture and relief with success. I felt it was a subject that needed revisiting as paperclay is being used today for large sculptural works for thinness translucency and strength. I need to distinguish the 2 main types of paperclay – air dry ( no firing required) and fired paperclay in a kiln. I have used both. Non firing paperclay is excellent for sculpting models for a mold, whereas I use fired paperclay to repair greenware and bisque sculpture and releif.

Here is some examples of Air dry paperclay on Canvas and drywall:

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The recipe for Air dry paperclay is as follows:

Paperclay: In a bowl combine
3/4 c. flour
1/2 c. cornstarch
1/2 c. salt
warm water  – mix with hands and knead until consistency of clay.
Paperclay recipe #2
1 pkg creative paperclay
2-3 tbsp wallpaper paste
2-3 tbsp water

cut paperclay into chunks  add water and paste. Mix and knead with hands until consistency of toothpaste let dry overnight. seal in ziploc bags

Paperclay Recipe for kiln firing methods:

You can use a variety of different papers and clays to get the effect you want such as stoneware or porcelains. It is by experiment and your favourite clays. The recommended paper to use is newsprint but any paper (with the exception of gloss papers) will do.  Thus ancient paper mixture allows the clay body to open up, lighten the weight and add strength. The recipe for this process is simple and easy – start by shredding the paper ( in a shredder works best and is faster than by hand) Soak overnight at least 24 hours. Next with a blender or drill with a mixing bit attachment mix the soaked paper until a thick paste consistency.  Add your clay in powdered form — 60 parts powdered clay to 40 parts paperclay.

For repairs on bisque or greenware:  Add  1part magic water, 2parts clay  mix until a slip consistency. next add 1 part toilet paper or tissue paper and mix until a smooth paste. glue the broken pieces together or with a small paintbrush paint the cracks with the mixture. let dry and sand with fine sandpaper **carefully***.

Magic Water : used by sculptors and potters to adhere wet clay together after scoring the pieces.
3 tbsp sodium silicate
1-5 tsp soda ash
1 gallon water

Spooze: (use: as above)
1/3 slip
1/3 Karo syrup
1/3 vinegar

Paperclay technique allows ceramists to create large thin forms to achieve translucency or luminous sculpture such as in porcelain. Reference: & for more information See The Art & Craft of Ceramics Techniques, Projects, Inspiration by Maria Dolors Ros i Frigoloa

A video with a great recipe :

Air dry paperclay:

1 roll of toilet paper
3/4 cup of white glue (Elmer’s glue-All)
1 cup of joint compound
1/2 cup white flour
2 tablespoons linseed oil

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14 comments on “Experiments with Paperclay

  1. Trina Greene says:

    If my clay is already purchased ready to go, i.e. w/ moisture in it, what would be the proportion of malleable clay to moist paper? I do not start w/ dry /powdered clay. Please answer soon as we want to experiment w/ building! Thanks. Trina Greene from New Paltz, NY 12561. PS Check out my website!

    • Pistrucci says:

      Hi Trina! Thankyou for sending your url ( Trinasculpture.com -check it out everyone -fantastic work)
      – I really enjoyed peaking at your work -absolutely beautiful. I love to see other artists and sculptors creative work – it is so inspirational!!!
      I was telling a friend of mine Emily Morgan (also a wonderful sculptor emilysculpts.wordpress.com) how artists need to encourage each other and inspire one another. Being an artist is a feat all on its own and helping each other is so important.
      In answer to your question – I also use wet clay as I do not necessarily have powdered form on hand either. Although you can let a block of clay dry out for the purpose of making paperclay.
      You can use paperclay in so many ways – as a canvas for painting, large sculpture / repair of cracks and breakage (in the bisque stage) which can be fired as many x as necessary at cone 018 until the piece is repaired(repair greenware and bisque by filling cracks with paperclay, adding several layers of thin slip and sanding when dried -fire to cone018) —THAN you can fire your piece up to the clay’s full firing range (determined by your choice of clay for the recipe).
      When I mix my paperclay I generally use magic water mixed with tissue paper and wet clay for repairs (a looser slip consistency and fill cracks with a paintbrush). For sculpture I add 50% wetclay to 50% paperpulp- Use less water and more paper (the consistency of very thick oatmeal) added to the wet clay until the consistency of very soft clay) If you want it to be a bit drier for larger sculptures – leave it to air dry for several hours or overnight before you sculpt with the clay. Often the moisture content is dependent on the specific project (size). My personal preference is a 50/50 (wetclay to paper ratio) or a 60/40 (dry clay ratio).
      I love paperclay the applications are endless. I am currently using paperclay as a substrate for my paintings which can be used with the aamco underglaze watercolors, fired glazes etc as well as regular acrylic , encaustic and oil painting mediums. I will be posting more on that work soon. If you need any more information let me know!
      I will also be experimenting with other new products on the market (glass clay, metal clay and porcelain canvas) which you might be also interested in. There is and exceptional video by Robin Hopper Link here:
      http://ceramicartsdaily.org/bookstore/robin-hopper-inspiration-interpretation/
      If you do not already have a subscription to ceramicartsdaily.org I highly recommend their site as they have excellent resources and information. There is a architectural ceramics conference in Seattle in June from the 24th to the 26th that looks to be very informative and inspiring.
      link here:
      http://ceramicartsdaily.org/potters-council/tilearchitectural-ceramics/
      Thanks again for sharing,
      Angela

  2. Trina Greene says:

    In case my other message didn’t go out, if I start w/ moistened malleable clay, what percentage of moist paper to moist clay do I use? I don’t order clay as dry powder…..

  3. […] Experiments with Paperclay В« Pistrucci Artworks Blog Apr 2, 2011 … Paperclay Recipe for kiln firing methods: … 3 Responses to Experiments with Paperclay … […]

  4. Gregg Byers says:

    Hello, stumbled onto your site. I am just beginning work with paper clay (the air drying type) and want to strengthen it so that when I am creating half masks and sanding edges, etc., the clay doesn’t break. So I am wondering if I knead a portion of Elmers Glue into the clay…would that keep it from breaking so readily? Thanks for any reply you might have. My email is gobyers@gmail.com if you wish to reply there. Again thanks for any help you can give me.
    gb

    • Pistrucci says:

      HI, The glue should work fine – I would test first for consistency and drying time. You might also try these other methods that might work better for your specific project. An armature such as wire mesh, coat hangers or soft wire, a poly fresco mixture of wood glue and premixed drywall mud, or last but not least add fibres to the mixutre and put a top layer of paperclay without the fibres for smooth finish.
      Let me know how it works and I would love to see a photo of your work and post for other artists to see the process.thanks Pistrucci Artworks

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  8. suzy says:

    Hi, Can i add unfired paperclay onto my bisque sculpture vase the bottom broke and needs a new bottom so i can then re fire to bisque and glaze i have put too much work in it to let go ,and need to try if i can ,is there any size that one can repaire
    Thank you Suzy.

    • Pistrucci says:

      Yes absolutely – make sure you sculpt and work the new clay into the work and sand and finish the piece with burnishing to incorporate the pieces together. I score the bisque really well and keep adding the clay before putting the pieces together. Also make sure you dry the vase thoroughly prior to firing – you can bisque again and add more paperclay until all of the cracks are completely gone before you glaze and fire to temperature. I would do a china fire 018.

  9. purvi patel says:

    Hi,
    Your pieces are very interesting.
    How do you stick your paper clay sculpture pieces on the canvas? Does it stick well?

    • Pistrucci says:

      HI, yes it sticks really well – no need for glue as it is in the paperclay already.
      give it a try – great for texture and relief.
      Cheers! Angela

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