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Clay Damp Boxes - My new best friend

Meagan Chaney Gumpert - Monday, March 21, 2011
Anyone who has worked with clay knows there is a lot of process involved. Certain things need to be done at certain times. But what do you do if your time and the clay’s time aren’t in sync?

Well, I’ve used Damp Boxes and kept clay wet for up to a year in these babies. And I’m finding this method is perfect for the brief intervals of time I’m able to sneak out to the studio. It’s a cheep and easy solution.

In a nutshell, it works because of the way plaster absorbs water. If plaster is dryer than clay, it will draw moisture from the clay. If the plaster has been soaked I water, then it keeps the clay from drying out and maintains a humid atmosphere within the box.

I cut these circles out in early October before Cooper was born. When I finally got around to turning them into Minis, it was the end of January but the clay was still perfect to work with!

Here’s how to make a Damp Box:

  1. Fill bottom of plastic tubs with 1 -1 ½” of mixed plaster. Plaster mixing guidelines here.
  1. Allow plaster to set/dry.
  1. Add water. How much?? Depends on the size of the box. I add water till there is 1/8” of water and then wait till that is absorbed. With a new damp box, it could take several rounds of adding water and letting it absorb. My damp boxes are 7 years old, so I occasionally add more water to “recharge” them. Basically, you want it to be wet without having pools of water on top.
I've also heard of people using styrofoam coolers or old refrigerators to help control the drying process. What about you?

kari m commented on 21-Mar-2013 03:55 PM
THANK YOU from art teachers all over PINELLAS COUNTY, FL. Great idea!!!
Louise B commented on 22-May-2015 12:13 PM
What a great idea! I live in AZ so I'm fighting arid conditions constantly. Thanks, Louise
Dennis c commented on 09-Jun-2016 11:52 PM
have you had any problems with spalding or plaster working into your clay body?
Meagan Chaney Gumpert commented on 13-Jun-2016 07:43 AM
Hi Dennis,

Thank you for contacting me! Fortunately, no. I haven't had any problems with plaster getting into my clay body. I did make sure there weren't any thin flakes of plaster along the sides of the boxes. And, recently, I replaced all the plaster. After a few years, the plaster slab was cracked and broken, so I thought it best to pour a new one with less chance of pieces breaking off into my clay. Best of luck to you!

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