clay

Clay Mixing

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As we began preparing for classes one of our top priorities was to get clay.  We are pretty young as a studio and so many of the things basic to a studio need to be acquired.  We’re also as a pretty young business and we don’t have a lot of capital, so getting what we needed on the cheap was another priority.  Fortunately we had two resources to pull from.  From my former business we had about 400 lb. of a clay body called 200.  This clay is a brick body from the local manufacturer that my ex-husband and I would screen and mix into a workable throwing body.  We also had about 400 lb. of soldate 60 scraps left over from previous sculpture projects.  The soldate is a Laguna Clay body with a 60 grit sand, it is a fantastic hand building body.  On the surface this is a simple solution to our needs, but the condition of all that clay was nowhere near usable.

The 200 had been bagged in 30 lb. lumps that dried out completely, The body is very open because of the brick grog and so has a much shorter storage life than other clay bodies.  So that is where Gabe began,  taking those large heavy blocks of clay and breaking them apart and then crushing the bits to be slaked down in water.

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The clay was allowed to soak in the water for a few days so that it could be totally saturated. Gabe then put together a drying frame to prepare the clay for mixing.  The frame was 2×2’s and a large piece of canvas.  This size was needed so we could get it through the door, the wet clay should not be allowed to freeze as it pulls the moisture inside to the surface, making the clay a slimy mess.  We filled the drying frame with the slaked clay in batches of about 200lb.

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But of course the project took place at the end of December and the beginning of January so freezing was a part of this project.  The ice crystals cutting through the super wet clay was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.  Of course it did need to be remixed a bit, but because it was so wet, this was not too much of a problemclay mixing 5

Once the 200 was bagged and waiting, it was time for the soldate.  Gabe’s job here was not as tough as the soldate was in slightly better shape.  Some did have to be slaked down, but much of it could be mixed straight from the scrap bags.  It did all need to be weighed as the plan for the new clay body was a straight 50/50 mixture.

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One the soldate was prepped and bagged we were ready to begin mixing.  The pug mill was loaded with about 150 lb. at a time, 75 of 200 and 75 of soldate.  An even mixture was a priority so the clay was run in 4 batches and then bagged again at 25 lb.  He then re ran them through again, one bag from each batch.clay mixing 2

As the batches ran, it was my job to weigh, wedge and bag the clay.

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Once the mixing was finished it needed to age, though we were forced to use it for classes right away.  After waiting a couple of weeks I sat down at the wheel to give it a try.  This is a 10 lb. pot,  the clay is still young, but aging into a great clay body.photo-7

and here are some small vases for the same project, more words on this to come.

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