Today we met at Sterling House to learn from the expert heart maker, the best way to make the perfect ceramic hearts. Despite her modesty, Patti, the president of the Newtown Hearts of Hope chapter, makes the most perfect hearts I have ever seen. Watching her make them is like watching a Master Class in sculpting. It's not that she has her technique perfected, but when she has each heart in her hand and is shaping and molding the edges, you can actually feel and see the love she is imparting into each one. It is not a tedious task for her, it is truly a labor of LOVE, and when you watch her, you see it and feel it, it really is something to behold!
So as she was setting us up, I took pictures so that the next time when we are doing this on our own, we hopefully will be able to remember all of the steps. Making these hearts is not as easy as one might thing.
Before you even begin to think about cutting into the 25 pound block of clay, you need to get everything set up ahead of time so you are not running around looking for the heart, the hole maker, the stamper, the water, the putty knife, the towels, the sheetrock, the pillowcases, the plastic to cover your table, the advil or aleve (because trust me your back is going to hurt after a few hours of this), and I know I am forgetting something. Oh yes, set the depth on the rolling table to the proper setting or your hearts will be too thin or too thick, and we need them to be as Goldilocks would say, Just right!
The clay comes in 50 pound boxes, so you will need to pull out a 25 pound block and lift it on to the table... this is one reason why your back will need Aleve.
Using the clay slicer, cut about a 1/2 inch of the clay slab, Patti makes it look so easy, trust me, my slices were not neat nor perfect like hers.
Place the clay slab on the pillow case. We use a pillowcase sandwiched in between the canvas because it leaves less imprint on the clay, which makes a nicer heart.
Cover the clay slab with the top layer of the pillowcase.
Cover the pillowcase with the canvas.
With the slab roller set to the appropriate thickness, turn the wheel and the canvas will be drawn through the wheels, flattening the clay.
Be careful to watch the end of the canvas to see if some clay is shooting out the back end. You may need to trim some clay off, you don't want it to get caught in the metal rollers.
Pull back the pillowcase and canvas and your clay is ready to be cut into hearts.
Before putting the clay on the plastic, Patti recommends putting a lot of water down first. This will make it easier to lift the hearts when they have all been cut in the rolled clay.
Be sure to WET the cutter and the straw each time before putting it into the clay. While the heart cutter is still in place, use the straw to make the hole, this seems to help in stopping the clay from cracking around the hole as it dries.
Time to cut another slab.
We don't waste the leftover clay, we rework it into the new piece very slowly and carefully so we don't get bubbles that will explode in the kiln when fired.
Rewet the plastic before putting the new rolled clay down!
Now it is our time to try making hearts! Good luck, Marianne!
Time to use the stamper!
Bobbi is a Master at stamping!
Three hours later and we have 55 hearts. These will have to dry for a week, then fired in a kiln.
And then one day, they will be turned into beautiful gifts of art that will be given out thanks to caring people like you.