What Are Sponges Used for in Ceramics?

a picture of a potter holding sponges

Everything in the Ceramics aisle at the Art store can be confusing if you’ve never tried your hand at Pottery before. It’s even more complicated when you see a whole section of Sponges. You can’t possibly imagine how Sponges are used in Ceramics and why there are so many types.

There are plenty of ways to Use sponges in Ceramics. Some synthetic sponges are meant purely for clean-up and scrubbing purposes. Finishing Sponges are typically used to smooth the outer surface of the clay. A Sponge-on-a-stick can be very useful for soaking up excess water in Pottery.

As you may already know, there’s a lot more to Ceramics than molding clay by hand or using a Potter’s wheel. Sponges are far better to use in your studio then Rags. You will find they pick up the clay and work on the clay surfaces much easier.

So, let’s go over exactly what you might use a Sponge for when doing Ceramics.

Cleaning Your Workspace

No matter how skilled you are in Ceramics, there’s no way to completely avoid making a mess. But this mess normally doesn’t become a problem until your next Ceramics session. At that point, getting rid of the mess is even more complicated.

This “mess” comes in the form of dust and hardened clay. This can easily be avoided with a damp Sponge.

Why You Need a Sponge

When you work with clay that’s dried or in the process of drying, you’ll notice that it leaves dust remnants everywhere. Your hands are suddenly covered in a thin film of clay dust, and your workspace has suddenly turned white. This layer of dust seems to be everywhere when you’re working.

The Problem arises when this dust becomes airborne in your Studio and around your home. Breathing in too much of this Clay dust over a long period of time can cause breathing problems.

Everything your Clay touches will leave some clay residue. This is the nature of clay. There is no way of getting around it. That’s where the Sponge comes in.

How to Use the Sponge for This Purpose

To clean Clay off the surfaces in your Studio, you don’t need much more than a large synthetic sponge that’s been dipped in water and squeezed out. This will keep the dust from being picked up in the air and breathed in.

a picture of a potter sponge cleaning the pottery wheel

Sponges work like magic. Clay is sticky and Sponges pick up clay with the greatest of ease. It’s good to always have a Damp Sponge handy. Wiping up after every session is the best habit to go get into to help prevent those dry particles from floating in the air. For more helpful information about reducing Clay Dust in your studio read this article I wrote about Keeping the Dust down in your Studio.

Add and Remove Water

If you are a new Potter or have been around the wheel for a while, you know how important water is. The addition of water allows you to smooth out the surface of your clay.

Why You Need a Sponge

Using a sponge to add or remove water during the pottery making process is the most common way of doing it. You need to be aware of how much water you are squeezing from your sponge and also how long the water is sitting at the bottom of the pot, too much water sitting too long can be detrimental and will weaken your piece.

a picture of a potter applying water to clay

Water is necessary but if it sits too long it will start to weaken your clay causing it to collapse suddenly. The Sponge allows you to buy more time.

How to Use the Sponge for This Purpose

Pressing your Sponge on the bottom of your piece not only removes the excess water, it also compresses the clay particles. Once the clay particles are compressed, it takes longer for the water to penetrate and weaken the clay.

This Mudtool sponge Is great for adding and soaking up the water when throwing on the wheel. This Mudtool sponge Is their most popular . Almost every potter has one. It’s perfect for adding and soaking up the water when throwing on the wheel. 

When working with a taller piece sometimes your hand is too large to fit, or you’re unable to reach the bottom, a Sponge-on-a-stick is the only way to go. It’s a small wheel-shaped sponge attached to the end of a stick or wooden dowel that’s about a foot long. All you have to do is carefully slip the sponge end down into the bottom of your pot, and any excess water you can’t reach will be absorbed.


Disclaimer: We are ambassadors or affiliates for many of the brands we reference on the channel.  As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. The tools used in this video, and in all of Pottery Crafters videos, are tools I use daily. The tools are also optional, being that you may have, and use many of them already.


a picture of a potter using a sponge on a stick
👉 Check Current Pricing for Your Kemper Tools Sponge Holder
here on AMAZON

Adding Finishing Touches

You can absolutely get through an entire Ceramics project without using anything other than your hands. The problem is that it’s hard to get a completely smooth shape and structure when using just your fingers to smooth out the clay.

And these rigid edges can ruin an otherwise beautiful piece.

Why You Need a Sponge

You’ll want to invest in something called a “Finishing Sponge” if you truly value a smooth piece. These sponges are meant to be less porous and less absorbent than other types of sponges, meaning they’re used because of their firm smooth surface.

But you also need to think about why a sponge helps in finishing.

Think about all the times you used a tool to engrave a design into your leather hard clay. If only it were easy to guarantee that those little pesky beads of clay weren’t sitting along every corner of your engraved design.

your sponge will smooth out your leather hard clay when you are adding pieces to your clay or smoothing out marks in your clay. 

A finishing sponge will help you to give every single piece of your clay a smooth appearance. That includes any remaining fingerprints, those annoying pieces of clay that never seem to roll off, and even uneven shapes.

How to Use the Sponge for This Purpose

The last thing you want to do is soak your sponge in a bowl of water and then start rubbing it against your clay sculpture.

a picture of a potter smoothing out clay with the smoothing sponge

What you’ll do is simply wet the sponge, squeeze it out, and glide it over the surface of your clay in each area. 

But the problem is reaching those hard to reach spots in smaller pieces with crevices that need to be smoothed.

If you’re working on a piece with minor details that need to be smoothed out, it’s a good idea to get a smaller sponge with a narrower width. You can buy smaller sponges or even cut a sponge you already have into smaller pieces for this purpose too.

Or, you might want to invest in a tiny sponge that’s mounted on a stick to get a little more precision when smoothing out your piece, especially if it’s at the bottom of a pot you’ve made.

Sponge Decorating

There is no shortage of uses when it comes to using a sponge during your next pottery making project. Using a sponge to dab on Glaze or Underglaze is another way to avoid those unsightly Brushstrokes and create a unique look.

Whether you’re Underglazing or Glazing your Ceramics project, Sponge Glazing is a fun way to decorate your pottery. This assortment of Natural Sea & Synthetic Sponges is a great addition to your decorating supplies.

👉 Sponges – Natural Sea & Synthetic Sponges
Check Current Pricing for your Natural Sea & Synthetic Sponges
on Amazon


Other Uses For Your Sponge

a picture of a potter throwing with a sponge

Sponges work great and are necessary to use in all stages of pottery making:

When shaping on the wheel and Hand building the sponge is like an extension of your hand, helping to support and mold the clay when your fingers seem to just dig in and mark up your clay.

If you have any sharp edges or marks you want to get rid of at the bone-dry stage of your clay do not use your nail or a tool. That may chip your most delicate bone-dry clay. A damp sponge is the way to smooth out any sharp edges or unwanted marks.

a picture of a potter cleaning bisque ware

Wiping your bisque ware with a clean damp Sponge works the best at getting any dust particles off your clay. It does the job well without getting your pottery too wet, so you can start glazing right away.

A damp sponge is the easiest way to get any unwanted glaze off the bottom of yourpottery, or any other area for that matter.

Conclusion

Sponges are an essential part of Pottery making. They are used to clean up your workspace, make the surface of your pottery smooth, clean up extra water that’s sitting in and around your piece, and decorate with.

The problem is that one sponge probably can’t fulfill all these roles due to shape, size, and absorbency. So, you’ll want to make sure that you have at least one sponge for each of these purposes to make your Ceramics journey just a little bit easier. A Potter can never have too many Sponges.

If you want to learn how to Sponge Glaze I have you covered.
 Head on over to my Sponge Glazing Post where I give some basic tips and techniques on Sponge Glazing.

You can also go to our YouTube Channel potterycrafters.com, for not only a few sponge glazing videos, but a lot more How-to Pottery making videos


Bonus Sponge Glazing Videos


Watch my Sponge Glazing Basics Video on Youtube

And my Underglazing With a Sponge Video on Youtube


Sources

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