Nina's Textile Trail 2

– Textiles 1: Mixed Media for Textiles

MMT Part 3 Molding & Casting – Paper Clay


(paper workbook p36-40)

Material:  Paper clay

At the beginning of this assignment as I was gathering books for research, I came across Rosette Gault’s The New Ceramics Paperclay Art & Practice published in 2013 by Bloomsbury in my local library and was excited by the apparent properties and potential of paper clay.  I was hooked, read it from cover to cover and made more notes than was perhaps necessary!

When my friend gave me a crash course in paper making, she also made a clay-like substance with paper pulp, water and whiting, omitting to add the pva and sawdust from the recipe.  It wasn’t fit for purpose at the time but after four or five days, the water had evaporated off and she gave it to me to try out.  It was quite difficult to use and a bit crumbly when dry, but I was excited by the result, (previously posted 27th January 2016)

and couldn’t wait to try again, with more of a cook’s approach to the recipe!

Back to Rosette Gault’s book, she describes paperclay as follows:

Paperclay ceramic, as an artist’s medium, is a waterbased compound of clay minerals and cellulose fibre that hardens in the open air and/or can be fired and glazed in kilns”

Paperclay properties and potential:

  • Cellulose fibre and clay shrink at near equivalent rate.
  • Paperclay expands, contracts according to moisture content.
  • Dry or ‘green’ (unfired) paperclay feel harder and denser than cardboard but softer than wood.
  • Used soft, impressions of texture or contour can be taken.  Once hard, can be used as stamps.
  • Items can be dipped or coated.  Dry between layers. Dip string, papercuts, knitting, chicken wire.
  • Pipe from piping bag or squirt from syringe, cast slip or press leathersoft into moulds.
  • Cut leathersoft clay with scissors or blade, fold or drape to dry
  • Treat as fabric or paper, imprint texture, apply surface colour, cut, fold, stretch, drape.
  • Stable when bone dry.
  • Wet and dry combine easily so dry parts can be cut, joined, contoured, carved and altered.
  • Dry can also be worked with power and dremel tools, sawn or carved.
  • Can be collaged flat, dry, cut out, torn from slabs, layers combined to form relief.
  • Fold, pleat, pin, stretch, drape like fabric.
  • Any size can be finished without firing.

All information taken from The New Ceramic, Paperclay Art & Practice by Rosette Gault and published by Bloomsbury Publishing plc.

Excited by paperclay’s apparent versatility, I was delighted to come across Paola Paronetto’s work,  the quirky, characterful shapes, the matt texture, subtle, limited colour palette, the fragility of the fine edges, the tactile nature invites me to hold it and examine the texture with my fingertips, the simple but striking compositions remind me of Moretti.  The corrugated cardboard-like finish is fragile but somehow strong, I imagine their paper/porcelain lightness and wonder if they seem or feel strong in reality.  Paronetto’s pieces are fired during which the paper is burned away. Working at home, samples would be finished unfired.

Gizella Warburton’s work, below, appeals.  Although not paper clay, but referred to as mixed media or paper cloth and thread, the properties are similar and I feel drawn to the tactility of of her work and the materials.  I imagine the lightness and warmth of unfired paper clay would be replicated in the combination of paper cloth, paint and thread used in her pieces. Once again, the limited palette, the simple but highly textured surfaces, both visual and actual beg to be examined, delicately traced with the finger tips, the bowl like shapes cupped in the hands.

Within her artist statement, she explains:

My work explores an intuitive response to linear, textural and light detail within landscape and surface. Abstract compositions evolve through the tactile and contemplative process of drawing with paper cloth and thread. Mark making is an intrinsic part of my practice: shadowed, scratched, stained, scarred, pierced, wrapped and stitched…

Sara Ransford‘s paperclay work (above) is so detailed,  a myriad of finely rolled sheets or tiny formed pieces, with repetition bringing unity to her work.

Safety Considerations:

Paperclay is non-toxic but as with all art materials, those with skin allergies may want to wear gloves and test a small sample first.

IMG_3535 (24 North Street, Clapham)

The above caught my eye in North Street Potters, Clapham.  They are perhaps porcelain rather than paper clay porcelain but their delicate, fine nature allowing a tealight to highlight the impressed pattern inspired me to try impressing thinly rolled paper clay.

Further inspiration for paperclay samples:


Sampling with bought paper clay

Using small pieces, the clay was easy to roll out directly onto the kitchen worktop. Wrapped natural samples from Assignment 2 were impressed into the clay.


A spatula eased the clay off the kitchen worktop and into some left over packaging to create shallow saucer like shapes.  It took three days to dry fully and the result is some lightweight, thinly rolled, textured and fairly robust pieces.  It was an easy, clean process, successful in capturing texture.

Graphite and oil pastels were used to highlight the surface.


They were light enough to be joined with stitch, a needle pierces the paper clay but thinking of  Assignment 2’s experiments with staples and Jane Neal’s hanging pierced paper led me to try staples which would show the versatility of paper  versus air-drying clay. The shallow disks were easily joined with staples, a combination of materials worthy of further exploration.

Exploring the surfaces by drawing helped me to understand the nature of the marks.


The structure is lightweight and quite delicate.  So much so that the initial linen thread used to hang the stapled piece seemed a bit heavy and was replaced with a fine wire which disappeared into the background.

I enjoyed working with the paper clay.  When wet, it was pliable but not sticky, relatively easy to roll thinly, to tear and to impress with texture.  The dried clay is still slightly flexible and durable.  It may tear if forced, but not readily.  Finer feathered edges might be possible.  The lightness and warmth of the material is appealing.

Mark making into the clay was quite absorbing and the fossil-like flower shape produced by the free machined stitching suggests drawing with sewing machine on soluble materials offers lots of possibility for creating texture.


The graphite and shades of grey oil pastels rubbed into the surface harmonised with the thin, lightweight shapes.  The torn edges and negative space added to the interest and could be developed.


Whilst stapling, I realised the shallow saucer like shapes could be joined to form a bowl-like structure and both sides of the clay could be textured.


I am still very keen to make my own paper clay or paper-mache clay but time constraints limited me on this occasion.  Refining recipes for my own clay, whilst developing ideas and techniques,  I could happily lose myself in this material.

Just before submitting this assignment, I decadently attended a paper clay workshop run by Claire Ireland at West Dean College.  (what a beautiful location and fabulous day experience)

Experimenting with Paper Clay – Taster Day – West Dean College – 3rd July, 2016

The day concentrated on experimenting with porcelain paper clay pouring slip.  It was thoroughly enjoyable and informative and I left 23 pieces there for firing.  End results to follow in due course.


Added 26th September, 2016, fired paper clay, what exciting results!  So fine and delicate, if I had a kiln, I’d explore this further.

Hessian and scrim, good texture, but not as exiting as leaves.


and the potential to pipe lacy designs:

Paper clay doesn’t need to be fired, but is transformed into such beautiful, delicate porcelain like pieces.




Gault, Rosette (2013) The New Ceramics Paperclay Art & Practice, Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, London



5 thoughts on “MMT Part 3 Molding & Casting – Paper Clay

  1. ah – I just can’t wait to join all of you on MMT… looks SO much fun. The surfaces you have created here are really exiting!

  2. Look forward to you joining us. You will be bringing so much with you from your ATV experience.

  3. Exciting work, I love those bowl shapes at the top of the post.

  4. Pingback: MMT4 – Monoprinting – Exercise 1 Mark-making | Nina's Textile Trail 2

  5. Pingback: Monoprinting with Paper Clay Slip | Nina's Textile Trail 2

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