Tuesday, February 18, 2014

part of the process

Sometimes people ask how I make a pot.  Sometimes, more often, in fact, they ask how long it takes me to make a particular pot.  I'm pretty sure when I get the second question they are fishing for the price/time ratio.  Usually I have a difficult time giving a straight answer. I'm not trying to be evasive, it's just that there are multiple steps involved.  Many times I get too absorbed in the current task to keep track of how long it took.  Plus, much of working in clay isn't directly related to the making of a particular item, but is still a necessary part of the process.  I've been making bowls lately for the Empty Bowls Project which is coming up in April here in Marietta, Ohio. Your typical bowl has to be trimmed.  This means when it dries to what potters call the leather-hard stage I turn it upside down on the wheel, center it, then trim a foot ring using a metal loop tool. The picture below shows a shallow tub of the shavings from one day's trimming plus some clay made from another day's shavings.
I try to keep up with this chore so I don't have a large amount of clay to recycle at one time. There are other ways of doing this.  My way has come about as a result of having a small space to work with and no special equipment like a pugmill. Once the shavings dry I transfer them to a plastic grocery bag.  I place the bag in a plastic bucket then add some slurry water from my throwing bucket.  You might wonder why I bother to dry the shavings only to add water again.  Somehow the shavings dissolve easier and more evenly after being allowed to first dry completely. This mixture turns into a nice goo after sitting for a couple of days.  I turn it out onto a few sheets of newspaper placed on top of a drying rack.  (That drying rack used to be kept in the bathroom for my son's bathtub toys!)  After a few days the goo dries enough so that I can place sheets of newspaper on top, flip it, then remove the damp newspaper.  I repeat this process one or two more times until the goo dries enough to become usable clay.  The clay, unlike blocks of purchased clay, has a lot of air pockets so it has to be wedged up or put in a couple of grocery bags and repeatedly slammed to the floor, or a combination of both methods.



  1. Your reclaiming process is so interesting! I seem to think us artists do all kinds of variations of this…. I just use plastic containers--- putting the pieces in that and adding water and in time, I take it out and put it on the plastic lid- forming mountains and then I set it out in the sun for a bit--- and change the form of the mountains. Then they'll dry enough equally-- and I'll wedge them. Might try the 'slapping them on the floor' technique. thanks!

    1. I do find that throwing the clay to the floor means less wedging effort. Hard on the grocery bags, though.


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