© 2010 Laura Jacquemond. All rights reserved. bluebeads

How To Make Egyptian Paste

Perhaps I should have called this post something else, like My Egyptian Paste Results, My Egyptain Paste Experiment, because this is me trying out Mitsy’s tutorial from back in April, entitled How to Make Egyptian Paste? By the way, Mitsy, of ArtMind, posts a wealth of tutorials and how to’s on her blog. I imagine her workspace divided into two sections: her studio on one side and a laboratory for experimentation, its documentation and its diffusion to everyone who wants to try new processes and media on the other!

I love ceramics and all things Egyptian, especially the lovely turquoise objects made from a self-glazing low-fire clay body. You know, the beads, small dishes and shabti dolls you see in museums. So here’s how it went for me:

I prepared some dishes I had made by putting a coat of bat wash on the inside bottom so that my objects wouldn’t stick.

I then prepared my first recipe: It’s Sylvia Hyman’s recipe, and it’s the first one Mitsy tries in her tutorial too. She has listed all the ingredients and amounts in her post. I was able to get everything from my ceramic supplier. The copper Carbonate was very expensive and only sold in large quantities, and Mitsy was nice enough to send me a small amount in the mail. Don’t forget to wear a mask, goggles and gloves since breathing in these ingredients is TOXIC.

I mixed my ingredients in a plastic bag, and then added water.

The resulting clay was a little too wet (too much water) but I let it set a bit on my work table and then worked it around in my hands to get it dry enough to shape but not so dry it would crack.

I made lots of beads and lined them up on a bat washed tray.

Some of the clay I rolled out into discs and printed with lace to get an interesting texture.

I cut a few crescent moons from the textured discs.

I loaded a second dish with beads and the moons and put a few beads on a wire from ceramic stilts.

The next day, I tried a second recipe. This one is not in Mitsy’s tutorial, so I’ll give it here:
36 gm feldspar
12 gm kaolin (China Clay)
2 gm bentonite
6 gm Natriumbicarbonate
2-3 gm copper carbonate

This second recipe was easier to work with, kept its shape better but dried out faster, so I had to work faster.

Using a tiny cookie cutter, I cut out fish shapes and loaded them on to the two other dishes.

I fired to 980°C.

This is what I found this morning. Look at the blue, lovely and shiny.

However, the bat wash stuck where the bead was in contact with it.

The beads on the wire were completely stuck to the metal. I can’t get them off. But I do love the color and the way the glaze pooled at the bottom.

On the other hand, the flat objects, moons and fish did not stick to the bat washed dishes. When I took them from the kiln, they seemed to be stuck, but as they cooled, they came right off.

All of the objects made with the first recipe turned out the same blue.

However, for the fish, the colors go from dark turquoise to a much lighter one. Perhaps I didn’t mix my dry ingredients thoroughly.

The second recipe (the fish) is slightly darker than the first (the moon). I added one extra gram (4 grams total) of copper carbonate to the mix, so I guess that made the difference.

I really enjoyed working with Egyptain paste from start to finish, and when I make more I think I’ll go with the second recipe, and stick to 3 gm copper carbonate. If I want to make beads, I’ll have to get the stilts with metal points for firing. The beads would have been pretty enough to use in a necklace!

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  1. akande olufunke
    Posted 20 Sep ’12 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    Your glazed pieces are beautiful.I.want to work on egyptian paste stringing them on nickel wire in the kiln.

  2. Raquel
    Posted 3 May ’13 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    thx for sharing your tests, saw this on potters.org
    thought you might want to try..
    I bought some from Nasco, about fifteen bucks for a 5 lb box, dry (usual
    disclaimers). I mix small amounts with water in a ziplock plastic baggy.
    I’ve mostly made beads with it. The first time, I put kiln wash on the
    bead wire, but the bead holes were too large for my taste. For the next
    batch, I pierced the beads with a needle tool & strung them on a string
    soaked with wax resist. This kept the glaze from forming on the inside of
    the bead. When I was ready to fire them, I restrung them on thin Kanthal
    wire, which I supported between 4 posts (2 sets of one on top of another).
    This worked well, no dripping or sticking.

    I also used it with my 6th grade class (sixth graders study Egypt). The
    kids made whatever they wanted (Egyptian-type stuff), some made Ankhs, some
    made small pyramids, & others made amulets and fetishes. I fired them on
    stilts when possible, the rest I fired on some “sand” called Ione Green
    that a friend gave me. Again – no dripping or sticking!

  3. Hazel
    Posted 11 Nov ’13 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

    You people are wonderful. I could never do this. Or, maybe I wish I’d done it years ago. I am reading Robin Hopper’s book, “Making Marks” just to learn a bit about pottery. The reason I am posting this is to say I’m wondering about something. Many years ago, when we bought jewelry that pretended to be what it was not – and fooled a lot of people into spending unwisely – they said “it’s just paste”. Does anyone know? Is there a connection between the term Egyptian Paste and what was called “just paste” jewelry? Or, is this only coincidence?

    • Posted 26 Jul ’14 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

      Paste jewelry as far as I know has always meant, not the real thing. As in not a real Diamond but maybe rhinestone that looks like a Diamond. Egyptian Paste is a substance by itself, as the posts above say.

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