Slab Clay Art Projects

Written by jake essene
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Slab Clay Art Projects
Use slab clay techniques to create relief art. (clay art image by kastock from

The slab clay technique uses flat slabs of clay to quickly create three dimensional objects as well as intricately detailed reliefs. Both inexperienced and accomplished clay artisans can use the slab clay technique to produce a virtually unlimited range of art objects. This technique does not require sophisticated tools or a potter's wheel, making it ideal for classroom or home projects.

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Preparing the Clay

Prepare the clay by flattening a section with a rolling pin. The thickness of the clay should be even and as deep as the project requires. For instance, a landscape relief sculpture may require a thick slab of clay so the artist can produce a deeply three-dimensional scene. Conversely, a Christmas tree ornament will require a thin, delicate slab, because anything heavier may fall off the branch.

Create a Mug: Preparation

Cut out a 4 inches by 12 inches slab of clay. Cut a circular disc of clay 3 1/2 inches in diameter. Cut a strip of clay 4 1/2 inches long by 1 1/2 inches wide. Each slab should be 1/4 inch thick. Prepare a slip mixture -- this is very wet, sticky clay that will be used as a paste to fuse the clay slabs together.

Create a Mug: Construction

Wrap the largest slab around a glass cup, and trim as needed so that the edges slightly overlap. Apply the slip to the edges and bond both ends together. Apply slip to the disc and fuse it to the bottom of the mug's body. Then bend the strip of clay into a handle and affix it to the mug with slip. Using the glass cup inside the mug for support, smooth any imperfections and ensure that all seams are tightly bonded. Remove the glass cup from the mug and use slip to seal all interior seams. Follow the clay's instructions for drying or firing.

Relief: Preparation

Roll a 1 inch thick slab of clay, then gather tools you will use to sculpt the clay. These tools do not need to be true clay-sculpting tools, but can be any hard object that has the right shape. For instance, a fork's prong can trace thin lines, poke tiny holes or apply scrapes. The end of the fork handle can create scalloped impressions, shovel depressions or push clay into heaps. Other natural objects can create realistic textures, such as rocks and bark.

Relief: Shaping the Clay

Plan the scene to be sculpted, and identify the foreground, the middle ground and background. Trace the main objects and scenery onto the flat clay slab, then begin to sculpt the clay. The foreground objects should rise the highest from the surface of the clay. The background scenery should be carved deeply into the slab to give the illusion of distance and dimension. Take the clay carved from the background and add it to the foreground objects. Follow the clay's instructions for drying or firing.

Christmas Tree Decorations

Roll a thin, 1/8 inch slab of clay. Trace shapes, such as Christmas presents, Santa or Christmas balls, onto the clay with a pointed tool, and then cut the shapes from the clay with a knife. Illustrate details and apply textures to the clay with the tools. Punch a small hole at the top centre of each ornament so it can be hooked onto the tree. Follow the clay's instructions for drying or firing.

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