Clay in Place with Shantel Wright

Ceramics instructor Shantel Wright has some ideas for you to #LACStayCreative!

A BIG VIRTUAL HELLO to everyone! I hope you are all staying safe and as sane as possible. I am currently missing my students and colleagues tremendously. Like many of you, I am also working with limited resources and thought it would be fun to share some of what I’ve been working on with you.

These last few weeks I have probably spent more time in my house than I have in the last several years combined. I have what I refer to as my “studio,” which is really just my garage with a wheel, a worktable, and the tools I have collected over years of working in clay. I have always wondered how many of those tools I actually needed to purchase. I try to urge my students to think outside the box in terms of texture and surface tools and being at home (A LOT), I have started to notice how much I gravitate toward my “usual” five-ish pottery tools, then usually find something non-pottery-related to do other jobs.

So if you don’t currently have access to the tools you think you need, here are some things that are not clay tools that definitely could or should be:

  1. A tablespoon and funnel made the perfect forms and coddle for a simple mold I needed recently. The tablespoon was the perfect size for the half sphere I needed so I squished some clay in it, and popped it right back out. I make a lot of molds but do not like applying plaster with my hands. I thought I could handle it, and changed my mind once I had started. I am sure there were many, many things that would have worked to hold the plaster in place, but look how beautifully this worked! It’s the little victories, right?
  1. Weird or cheap hobby store stencils usually make me cringe a tiny bit, so I have had these for years and never used them. Because these are plastic they are great for painting under-glaze onto (for use as a stamp) or for using as a stencil, and are super easy to clean up. If you were ever into card making, or scrapbooking you are pretty much ready to go!


  1. Wallpaper! Or really any flat, somewhat durable material. Wax paper works similarly. Personally, I happen to have a massive book of wallpaper samples. This one appealed to me so I cut out the shapes with an exacto blade. It wasn’t as clean of a stencil as I was looking for, but after some touch-up it is definitely a start.
  1. DIY stamps out of pretty much anything you can dip in under-glaze (or your chosen medium). My favorites are currently linoleum; this is a fun way to layer different shapes if you have access to print block linoleum and simple carving/cutting tools. The ends of dowel rods (or just scrap wood) can be shaped with sandpaper to become a custom texture tool or stamp. Both of these give their own variable texture and line quality to the decoration, which I love. On these planters, I used both.

   P.S. That is from the tablespoon!

  1. Drywall tape (I don’t even remember why I have this) is currently the one experiment I am most excited about. I have been rolling it onto the surface as smoothly as possible, and brushing under-glaze into it. Not only does it add some texture to the surface but it is utterly satisfying to peel off when the under-glaze dries. I am looking forward to using this much more.

You do not always have to look far for inspiration. If you have been stuck in a rut, like I am every few days, I hope I at least gave you a few new things to try. Some very overlooked, silly objects really do produce surprising and beautiful results.

Stay safe, #LACStayCreative, and stay playful!

Shantel Wright