Specialist pottery tools can be expensive and when you need a tool for every task in pottery making, price can quickly add up. Cake decorating tools can easily be utilised to decorate clay pieces and they are often cheaper in comparison. They can be great fun to experiment with and produce unique decoration on your clay creations! Amazon, Craft shops and local kitchenware providers are useful places to source new tools.
Piping clay is one of my favourite decorating technique, there is a variety of nozzles available but I recommend to buy a full set as it is helpful to experiment with as many as you can (and you will need the piping bags). One thing to consider is the added texture should be carefully positioned onto functional pieces for hygiene reasons. However on decorative work feel free to experiment. It can take a lot of practice to produce piping that your'e happy with. Learning to apply the correct amount of pressure takes time as clay slip is a different consistency to buttercream or frosting.
The clay slip that I use is first dried, then soaked and sieved. I allow this to dry to a consistency that I'm happy with to begin piping. Drying work with clay piping on it is the most crucial step because the slip has a high water content compared to the wall of the vessel you have applied it to, it will need to be dried slowly so the water content can even out so covering with plastic is a good idea.
Cake Icing Comb
These are an alternative to pattern ribs used to shape the profile of clay when throwing on the potter's wheel. There are sets with several designs that can be fun to experiment with and can create some great results. They tend to be a bit too tall for my use so I have cut mine down (carefully with an electric jigsaw then sanded to smooth). They can also be applied to hand building to add texture by scraping while the clay work is on a whirler. I found my set on amazon.
Chocolate and Sugar Craft Moulds
These silicone moulds are similar to plaster sprig moulds but there is a lot more variety. A disadvantage of the cake decorating moulds is that the clay relief from the mould is harder to release because silicone cannot absorb water like plaster sprig moulds. They are still useful to give a uniform repeat motif you can use in your work again and again. The Cake Decorating Company has a large selection of moulds.
I have even made my own moulds using sealant silicone from the DIY shop. You can shape and carve your design into clay and pump a layer of silicone on top, allow to dry and it's ready to use. This allows you to create an entirely custom and unique motif to use in your work.
Cookie cutters are a great options to start you off. Roll out your clay to about half a centimetre on an unvarnished wood base like plywood (so the clay does not stick). Lift the clay slab off carefully each time you roll over it. Then compress the clay with a metal rib over the slab.
There is such a huge variety of cutters available, usually plastic or metal. Stainless steel is better as it's sharper than plastic and does not rust. Maybe choose a design that you like for all year round, not just for Christmas. Bird designs are a great option and they would look good outside too in your garden. Be careful to push out the clay from a cutter that has thin sections with a paint brush so it doesn't get stuck and break off. One design I enjoy using is this rocking horse cutter for Christmas Events from Lakeland. There are also plenty of cutter you can find online, just pick your favourite and start rolling out those slabs!
Meri Meri have some gorgeous trendy designs like these Cactus cutters to create single hanging decorations or even bunting. Once cut out, make sure to cut a hole at the top to hang. Decorate as desired, for example you can could experiment with textures, stains, underglaze and slips.
Whirlers are essential for hand-building and useful when decorating clay pieces. It is useful to centre the work like on a potter's wheel and then you can turn the clay work to decorate in a fluid movement. Cake turntables to ice and decorate cakes are a great cheaper alternative to potter's whirlers. Plastic Cake turntables tend to range from £10 -£20 where as metal potters whirlers/banding wheels range £50 - £100+
Many thanks for reading my first EVER blog post!
By Christina Goodall