As wannabe potters we generally do a lot of practice and with practice comes a lot of failures and lot of scraps. When I first started throwing pottery I pretty much kept everything, good, bad or incredibly ugly. Most of these, I am embarrassed to say, have wound up in my friends and relatives homes where I am sure they only come out when I come over!
But now that I got a few hundred pots under my belt I am more apt to throw a crappy piece into the clay recycle bucket. Not just bad pots can go into this bucket but all the left over scraps. Gather them up and throw them in. One little tip here… (and I don’t mean to be sarcastic), but I am talking about raw clay, pre-bisqued!!
The ultimate in recycling!
Don’t wait until you completely run out of clay to start this process because you will be waiting for your clay and that is no fun at all. I buy 50lb boxes of clay in two 25 lb bags. My rule of thumb is when I open the second bag I recycle my bucket of scraps.
While throwing and trimming I always gather up the scraps and dump them into a 2 gallon bucket I picked up at our local hardware store. I got mine with a lid because I have discovered that fly’s go exploring and get stuck in the wet clay. Yuck.
When I am done throwing and ready to clean up my wheel (confession here… I don’t clean up every time I throw. I generally leave it until I either can’t stand it or can’t find my wheel) I gather up all the scraps and toss them into this bucket. I don’t really care whether there is water in this bucket. Put the crap in, wet or dry. I read somewhere that you should let this clay completely dry out, and when you are ready to start recycling add water and let it sit, but that requires too much advance planning for me!.
So throw the scraps in the bucket and don’t forget the throwing water. It goes in there too.
Eventually my bucket gets filled up.
If there is no water in the bucket at this time I add some to cover all the clay. A couple of days later I plunge my hand into this mess and squish and stir to get it feeling a little more homogeneous.
Stinky Clay Alert If you have had water in the bucket the whole time it may stink a little like mold. THIS IS GOOD!!! The clay is not bad. It actually is bacteria and it makes the clay work really nice. If you really hate it add a drop or two of Clorox.
Time to let it dry
Since I only have about a gallon of clay to recycle at a time I don’t bother with all the fancy forms, Plaster of Paris molds and other things I read about. I use canvas!
The reason I use a piece of canvas is that it is easier to lift the drying clay to flip it over.
Now start piling the clay onto the canvas like below. I would have taken a picture of doing this but I am by myself and it would have made a huge mess of my camera. Spread the clay out as good as you can. The thinner the clay the faster it will dry.
I have had clay take up to a week to dry so check it often. If you poke it with your finger and your finger comes away muddy let it dry more.
You will know when the clay is workable. When it drys out gather a bunch up and wedge it out.
As a rule of thumb I wedge it while it is still a tad soft and put it in a plastic bag and let it sit a few more days and then wedge it and use it.
Side Note: I have no idea whether mixing clay’s is a good idea but I sometimes do, especially if I just have a small bit of one clay. Of course make sure it matches your firing range. All my clay is cone 6 so I don’t worry about it but you sure don’t want to mix a low fire clay with a high fire clay.
So that is how I do it.
How do you do it. Let us know in the comment field below!!
Practice, Practice, Practice