Here are some of my favorite tools of the moment, and what I’m using them to make.
I have several rolling pins, almost all purchased from Wal-Mart, that I use to roll out my slabs of clay. I would love to have a slab roller to make things move faster, but they are so expensive, and besides, it’s pretty fun to use a rolling pin to pound a lump of clay flat. And the repetitive rolling motion is kind of meditative, too.
After rolling out the clay with the pin, I roll the texture on with a roller like the one in the photo. I started using textured rollers a few years ago when introduced to the idea by a fellow grad student, who taught our class how to make our own—I love this solution to avoiding the sometimes messy imperfections of hand-rolled slabs, which often show fingerprints, warping, and unevenness: my pet peeves in slab building! While I have made several rollers out of clay that I carve into, the one pictured above is actually a candle holder that I found at Goodwill (my favorite place to shop for molds and texture tools). I love the clean lines it creates on the clay surface, and it’s become pretty much the only roller I use.
The pony roller is my most recent tool purchase, and it is completely worth its weight in gold (OK, it doesn’t really weigh that much!). You can roll it gently over the edge of the slab you want to use as the rim of a cup, for example, and it allows you to thin and angle the edge just enough to make it comfortable to drink out of, something you’d do with your fingers if you were throwing the pot on a wheel. I have mostly been using the pony roller to securely join the walls of my dishes (shown below) to their bottoms after letting them dry for a bit.
The needle tool I use to cut out my slabs (rectangles, circles, etc.) to build my pots. I use the modeling tool to smooth over the inside joints as I put things together—this one is nice and small and the end is rounded, so it gets into tight corners well. The hair dryer was another tip from a book, and it is necessary for me for a few reasons: I am impatient, and therefore work with wet slabs rather than waiting for them to dry to the leather hard stage, and I have the most humid studio in the world. So, I use the hair dryer to dry out the slabs just enough to make them not flop over when I stand them up to build a pot, and can remove some of the moisture after construction to speed the drying process along.
All of these tools were used to build the works in progress below.
Here are some additional tool favorites, and the piece that I made using them: