The Secret to Keeping Slip Cups Clean and Usable

Clay is a mess; sometimes it’s beyond a mess and closer to a disaster. There isn’t a lot we can do about that, just because of the inherent nature of clay. However, there are a few things you can do to minimize the mess, and this video shows a super simple process to keep your slip cups (and your students) clean. It’s amazing how a cheap blender, old brushes, and some cheap, plastic containers can save your sanity.

For even more insider tips about teaching ceramics, check out AOE’s course Studio: Ceramics!

Where do you store slip in your room?

What other tricks do you have for keeping a ceramics area clean?


3 years ago

Timothy Bogatz

Tim is a high school teacher from Omaha, NE. His teaching and writing focus on the development of creativity, problem-solving, and higher-order thinking skills.


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  • Mr. Post

    One of the things I have learned about clay over the last 20 years is that if someone does something one way, another person will do it entirely different and still get good results.

    Since I teach elementary students, I don’t have a slop can for clay in my room. At the end of art, kids put their extra clay back into the bag and I blast it with 10-20 squirts from a spray bottle filled with water. This makes it workable for the next class.

    When I make coil pots with my students, I use really soft clay in my Bailey 4 inch extruder. I have a die that extrudes three coils at a time and I can make a large batch of them quickly and lay them on the counter for the kids to pick up as they need them. I don’t have them use clay slip to join the coils together. I just have them score the coils and add a little water with a brush. What makes them stick together is that I show them how to smooth every coil together on the inside of the pot. They can choose to leave the coils exposed on the outside of the pot or smooth those over too. The nice thing about using an extruder for coils is that every coil is nice and even and little kids can make taller pieces more easily.

    On the rare occasion that I do use slip, I don’t make it in a blender. I dry out small chunks of clay, about the size of golf balls. I let these little chunks get bone dry. Then I fill a small container half way with water and add a few of the dried out chunks to it. The dry clay soaks up the water and falls apart in a process called “slaking.” If there is excess water on the top I pour it off and what is left in the container is slip. No mixing, no muss, no fuss. This method relies on the fact that dry clay sucks up water and falls apart.

    Tim’s methods work great for him, my methods work for me and my students. There’s no absolute right or wrong way to “do” clay. If you have an understanding of the process and know what you are trying to achieve, there are many ways to approach managing clay and slip in you classroom.

    In my studio, I don’t use slip to attach anything – for attaching things, I use cider vinegar. It’s a mild acid and eats into the clay pieces it is attaching making them soft. I would use it in my art room, but many of the kids don’t like the smell. I personally like it, it reminds me of coloring Easter eggs.

    • Lisa

      Nice! Would love an extruder like that!