I recently had an attempt at working clay by hand. I was taken through the whole process from ball of clay to the final glazed piece. This experience has given me vital knowledge into how clay is worked and has allowed me to decide if it is to be a potential material for my final design.
As can be seen from the image below the clay has dried at a lighter tone and has shrunk by 12%, both factors I was expecting. From this I have learned how the clay reacted while subjected to heat in the kiln. Understanding how the clay will react is very important, as I wish to design my pieces to precise measurements.
I conducted user trials using my freshly made cups (a later post will explain this process more vividly). There were two major bits of feedback, one positive one negative. The positive feedback came from the clays heat properties, the cups seemed to heat up nicely and maintain that heat much longer than the other cups of similar volume. With this information I know that I can be confidant in the heat properties of my design. The negative feedback was due to the cups shape. The cups were created to four slightly different designs, so I could test which was more positively perceived. As they were all designed as scent cups and not be drank form the users seemed to struggle to drink from them, due to their longs thin shape. I understand now that this must be remedied, if the cups are to be changed to drinking vessels, and the removal of the scent cup from my design is inevitable.
The image below shows the style of finish I am trying to achieve; now I know what is possible. This finish has a smooth texture but with a matt finish, allowing the pieces to be pleasant to drink from. The clay used for this design is called Yxing clay, derived from the Yxing region within the Jiangsu province of china. I intend to potentially slip cast this material.