A sharing of ideas, techniques, successes and failures in the volatile world of pottery and family life.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The New Site is Up

Just a quickie to let you know we've been working on the website for Highlands Auto Exchange (this is why no pottery is being made).  The button is at the bottom of the left hand column.

I'd love some feedback on the general appearance, ease of navigation, picture quality, descriptions, or anything else you love or hate about it.

Thanks a bunch!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Where was I?

Oh, yeah.  Reclaiming.  Right.

Sorry but it's been a little crazy around here and my pottery is suffering for it.  I got into the studio on Mother's Day.  That's 2 weeks without a mud fix!  I don't know if I can manage much longer without some therapy.  (heavy sigh, drumming fingers anxiously)

Our used car lot will be opening June 1 and we still don't have our dealers license.  It's no wonder our country can't get it's head out of it's butt when the amount of paper (in our "paperless" society) we have to slog through to get the simplest things done (like an address change) creates such a mire that I just want to drive to Trenton and bang on someones head.  Sorry but it's making me a little crazy.  8D

Deep breath.  Back to some mental therapy, if not actual therapy.

Muddy Mud

The edges are pulling up.  Time to flip it.
Now it's time to make the clay.  The mud gets scooped out and spread evenly on the plaster boards to dry out a bit.  I usually spread it about a half inch thick.   Replace the lid on the bucket if you have enough for another round.

Depending on the humidity this step can take any where from one to three days.  This stage needs to be monitored closely or you'll end up RE-reclaiming if it gets too dry.


When the edges of the slab start pulling up from the board it's time to flip it over and dry it a little more.  I use a large plastic dry wall knife to help pry it off the board.

When the texture is like new clay it's ready for wedging and maybe a little Happy Dance!

Now, get reclaiming!  I feel better just writing about it!

Me?  I'm off to paint the sign for the new shop.  Stay tuned for some great before and after photos.  =D

Monday, May 14, 2012

And the Stirring Continues....

The clay's not at the right consistency yet.  =/

I shared my last post on one of my FB groups and several fellow potters said they use a paint mixer with a drill to mix their reclaimed clay.  Genius!  I've seen glaze mixed with one but it never occurred to me that it would work with clay.  When I asked Craig if we had one he came up with this baby -

...or so I thought.  I believe this is designed for mixing dry wall compound.  But it didn't fit in our corded drill and the cordless drill just didn't have enough oomph.

Look, Ma!  No hands!  It's stuck.
I also realized I probably didn't add enough water.  Not to worry.  I detached the drill, added more water and used the mixer with good old fashioned elbow grease.  Clean up was much easier!  Thank you Peeps!

I don't know about other types of artisans but potters seem to be a pretty ingenious bunch and very willing to share ideas, techniques and tricks.  No matter what barriers rise up before me there's always someone out there who's already figured out how to overcome it and posted it on YouTube or in a forum or blog somewhere.  Maybe it's because our craft isn't easy or inexpensive to pursue and out of necessity and financial constraints we have to come up with shortcuts and innovative ways to get her done.

If all I had to invest in were brushes, paints and canvas I'd have taken that trip to Italy by now and wouldn't have to take over half of the garage with my "stuff". Don't get me wrong.  I've tried painting but I'm mediocre at best and truly envy anyone who can create art in that medium.

I love my craft.  It's my therapy.  And though I feel like I'm just "mud-dling" through at times (very punny!) I have very supportive family, friends and cyber community to bolster me up and push me forward into uncharted (for me) territories.  Thank you all very much!  =D

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Recycle, Recycle, Reclaim

One of the things I love about the pottery process is there is very little waste.  I've often been called cheap but I prefer the word frugal or thrifty.  I just hate waste.  And I do want to do my part to save the planet.  OK!   I ADMIT IT!  I'M CHEAP!  ARE YA HAPPY NOW?  Geesh.

As long as the clay hasn't been fired it can be reclaimed.  I've seen many different processes and have taken bits from here and there to find a way that works in our small studio.  Short of picking up wet clay off of the floor (yes, clay can get dirty/contaminated), I recycle every little crumb a bit obsessively.

Bone dry scraps.
Everything from trimming scraps and failures on the wheel to pots that have cracked during drying or aren't up to snuff end will end up in the bucket.  But only dry clay goes in here.  Any pieces that aren't completely dry are left out to dry on a plaster board.

What we use:
Bone dry clay scraps
A 5 gallon bucket with lid
Hot water
Plaster boards

Clay's funny.  Wet clay submerged in water will retain its shape.  But if it's completely dried out it will "melt' when submerged.

A wet ball of clay just sits in the water.
A bone dry scrap dissolves in minutes.

The melted stuff is what we want.  If you try to reclaim wet clay the texture will be inconsistent and hard to throw no matter how well you wedge it.  The dry clay dissolves completely and will have a uniform consistency.

Adding hot water.
Once we have a significant amount of bone dry scraps we can start reclaiming.  I fill a 5 gallon bucket with the scraps.  It's easier to have the bucket where you'll be storing it during the process because once you start adding clay and water it's gonna get really heavy and sore backs aren't good.  Next start adding hot water.  Hot water dissolves the clay quicker but cold water works as well.  You'll hear the clay hissing and bubbling as it starts to break down.  I often quote the Wicked Witch of the West at this point:  "Look what you've done! I'm melting! Melting! Oh, what a world! What a world!".

Clay soup!
When about most of the clay is submerged I jiggle the bucket to help some of the air bubbles escape and settle the clay as it dissolves.  Then I cover the clay completely with water.  As it dissolves it'll absorb the water and turn into mud.  We like mud!

Keep the bucket tightly covered with the lid and let it sit over night.  Over the next few days I'll stir the clay several times a day.  This ensures every scrap gets dissolved completely.  Unfortunately, it's messy.  I use my hands so I can get all the way down to the bottom of the bucket and usually end up with thick mud up to my elbow.  Once I'm happy with the consistency I'll stop stirring and let it sit.  Excess water that hasn't been absorbed will rise to the top.  This I sponge off.   I've left the mud at this stage for weeks.  As long as the lid is on tight it'll be fine.

Probably this weekend I'll have another post with the final stage of the process so check back.  =D