Because the process of working with clay is so enjoyable to us, it’s easy to forget that this material we love so much has some physical characteristics that, if not understood and respected, can do us harm. One of those characteristics is plasticity, which of course is a good thing—it’s what makes clay workable.
Heck, if clay wasn’t plastic, it would just be dirt! At the same time, that quality that sticks all those clay particles together makes a large lump of it fairly resistant to the pressure of a human hand—or foot, or elbow or head… Over time, the stress and pressure of pushing clay around can do damage to our joints and tissue. But this is why we have clay tools. They make our studio lives easier, they make our work better (if we use them right) and they maximize the physical effort of our bodies. In this post, Don Adamaitis demonstrates how to make a tool that can protect us from injury and make our working process more enjoyable. And it’s easy! — Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor.
Like many potters, I learned to pound out a large block of clay using the heel of my hand, a practice that can eventually damage the bones and nerves in the hand. A pounding pad can save this wear and tear on your hands. I remember seeing a similar tool during a tour of a pottery factory in the Netherlands; it wasn’t until I was back home that I realized the practical application to the studio potter. It’s great for roughing out a slab before using the rolling pin or slab roller, or for pushing clay into a mold.
2 cups of fine sand
1-inch compression clamp
6 inches of light wire
1 square foot of heavy plastic sheet (clay bag)
1 square foot of fabric (old t-shirt)
Place the sand in the center of the plastic sheet and fold to form a bag.Use the wire to tie the top, leaving as little air space in the bag as possible (fig. 1). Set the bag of sand in the center of the piece of cloth and form a cloth bag over the plastic bag of sand (fig. 2). Securely fasten the combined plastic and cloth “neck” with the compression clamp (fig. 3).
Carefully cut off the excess cloth and plastic material above the clamp with a knife or scissors (fig. 4). I have found that a serrated knife works well. Use the tape to cover the edges of the clamp and material to protect your hand.
Don Adamaitis has been an active potter since 1962 and resides in Vancouver, Washington.