Sharing tips and experiences can be one of the best ways for artists to improve in a relatively new medium like metal clay. I have a tip for pre-fire finishing pieces with baby wipes that I hope many readers will try and find helpful.
Pre-fire finishing with files and sandpaper is the most common approach for smoothing edges, flattening surfaces, refining shapes, and removing imperfections. Filing and sanding takes a fair bit of skill, especially if beginner mistakes of scarring the finish or breaking a delicate piece are to be avoided.
In Meredith Arnold’s class in Tucson, I learned a new technique that was easier, faster, and saved me the trouble of trying to find the right size file to fit into those tiny, little spaces. When I sat down at Meredith’s table, she laid out all of the supplies and out popped baby wipes! I couldn’t imagine what we would be doing with those, but I was hopeful it wasn’t for their namesake purpose. She explained that we would use them to wipe the dried clay and smooth the edges. Wow! What an idea!
This is how you do it. Let your piece dry. You can use the baby wipe in the moist condition that it comes out of the original packaging, or my preference is to allow the baby wipes to dry a bit before using. You may add water to any dry baby wipe to get your desired level of moistness. Any brand of baby wipes works, but I prefer the thicker sheets. I’ve never experienced pieces cracking during the firing phase as a result of wiping them with a moistened baby wipe.
Wrap the baby wipe around readily available items like shaping tools or, my favorite, your finger to achieve the desired filing shape. Smooth the edges of the piece first, and leave the focal surfaces until the end. This allows imperfections on the most important surfaces to be cleaned up last. A simple back-and-forth rubbing motion works great. Be aware, as the clay absorbs the moisture from the baby wipe, more clay will be removed faster. Very little pressure is required to smooth the piece, which reduces the risk of breakage. As you would take care with a file or sandpaper, make sure you don’t remove the artistry of your texture or design features by being over-zealous with the baby wipes. The piece should be allowed to dry completely before firing. The end result after firing will be a finish on your piece as smooth as a baby’s bottom.
In addition to being easy and producing a great finish, the baby wipe technique has the healthy benefit of creating no airborne metal dust to breathe. I like to use the baby wipes to clean the metal clay residue and dust from my fingernails, hands, work surfaces and tools. Baby wipes can be reused and recycled.
Adding the baby wipe technique to your repertoire will allow you to select the pre-fire finishing method that best suits your project. Learning new skills has been the key to my ever-increasing enjoyment of metal clay. This has been true since my first metal clay class three years ago with Cindy Pankopf who inspired me to sculpt with passion. I hope others find this helpful, and I’d like to thank Metal Clay Today for providing an excellent forum for the community to share ideas.
Benefits of baby wipe pre-fire finishing
Easy to perform
Low risk of breakage
Creates a very smooth surface
By Carrie Story -Divine Ornaments