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.|
What we use:
Bone dry clay scraps
A 5 gallon bucket with lid
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.|
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