When joining two pieces of clay, you’ll have the best chance of them staying joined if you score (rough up the surfaces to be joined) and then slip (paint both scored surfaces with a mixture of clay and water). Clay can sometimes have a mind of its own so this step is a small price to pay to get successful results!
Don’t skip the slip!
But I’ll confess… when I was only teaching an occasional clay project with my classes, I would often “skip the slip” and just use water – incorrectly assuming that some “attachment malfunctions” were to be expected. Or, if I was really prepared, I would make some slip before class by adding a little water to some soft clay and mixing it with a fork or a wire whisk. Then I’d store the slip in individual plastic containers – but it would usually dry out before I had a chance to use it again with the next project down the road.
The secret to perfect slip
Well, I’m here to tell you there’s a better way! All you need is an old blender that you can designate for slip and some plastic storage containers with screw-top lids.
Used blenders are easy to find at your local thrift store. It doesn’t even need to be very powerful. And if it already looks a little worse for the wear, all the better, since you’re not using it for food anyway! If you have a “FreeCycle” or another type of sharing/reusing community in your area, you may even be able to find a used blender for free. (Just make sure you don’t use your good blender from home!)
How to make slip
To make your slip, simply drop some clay scraps in your blender, add just enough water to cover it, and let it sit overnight. Then blend it up the next morning. If it’s too thin, add more clay…. too thick, add a little water. I like our slip to be thick but still pourable. (Important! Make sure your slip is made from the same clay you’re using it with!)
How to store your slip
For storing slip, I like the 16 oz. plastic containers with screw-on lids that come in packs of 2 from the Dollar Tree. With a screw-on lid, you can get a tighter seal than you can with snap-on lids, which means your slip will still be usable the next time you need to use it. Rather than giving each student their own individual container of slip, I just have groups of 2, 3, or 4 all share a bigger one. Storing a larger amount of slip in a bigger container keeps it from drying out so quickly. Even after the summer break, all I need to do is stir in a little water and our slip is ready to go.
For applying slip
We use the red-handled paintbrushes that come in the Prang watercolor sets for applying slip since we never use those brushes for painting. They’re just the right size for slip and the red handles make them easy to keep separate from our good brushes.
Don’t forget a scoring tool
You can make a cheap and effective scoring tool by laying a few toothpicks side by side and taping them together with masking tape. A stiff toothbrush will work, too, but it takes a little more effort to clean it afterward.
Kids of all ages love working with clay! The easier you can make it on yourself as the teacher, the more you’ll enjoy it, too!
For more helpful info check out “Creating with Clay: Tools, Techniques, & Tips for Success” in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store. Or try my newest clay resource, “Ceramic Leaf Plates”, for a fun project for grades 3 and up.