Friday, January 18, 2013

Clay Lady

I seem to be on a clay kick lately...which I'm liking and disliking.  I LOVE working with clay, but my patience gets pushed to the edge with students when they don't think while using it.  I HATE wasted clay, just as much as I HATE trying to reclaim all the wasted clay.  (Case in point, I have just finished the slab poinsettia unit with 4th grade, the checkerboard unit with 5th, and 6th is currently doing clay projects....I can't tell you how many kids were asking me how to score and slip clay!  I hate to admit it, but I nearly lost my patience!)

When I started teaching in this classroom, there were 3 FULL bins of dried out clay, plus 6-8 boxes of unopened, dried out clay.  How do you deal with dry clay?  Do you reclaim it?  How do you reclaim clay?  My first two years, I hate to admit it, but I threw out some perfectly good, hard clay.  I just didn't have the room!  This year, though, I've decided to grit my teeth and bare it.  I've started wearing jeans to school so I'm not ruining my good clothes, and I'm getting down and dirty!  (I'd take a picture to show you, but I'm sure you don't want to see my clay covered bottom! ;)  )

Today I pulled out my first batch of red clay from the slop bin.  I'm trying it two ways here...I filled two empty clay bags with the wet clay and I've laid some out on one of the wedging tables the art department has here.  That red barrel was full to the top with clay...  Here's hoping I don't make too much more of a mess while I try to save some money! 

Anyways, I decided to do a clay project with the extended day kids (which is what got me motivated to try and reclaim clay...I already seem to be running out of clay from wastefulness!).  Last year I purchased four sets of slump and hump molds in different shapes (square, circle, oval, rectangle) and then this year, I purchased two foot sprig molds, a handle sprig mold, clay texture rollers, and some clay stamps.  I figured it was time to use them!  Plus, I used my new slab roller as well, which works awesome!

I have already loaded the projects in the kiln to save on space, so I'll have more pictures to come once we get around to glazing them next week.  I'll be firing my kiln on Tuesday next week, and then I will also be able to share the latest 6th grade project, which was creating an Egyptian artifact out of clay.


  1. wow you have more clay equipment than our high schools do! lucky girl

  2. I do feel lucky to have that! When I started, there was one electric wheel in my room, but it moved very slow. I used the extended day grant to purchase two more pottery wheels at the end of my first year. I definitely don't get to use them as much as I'd like to, being in elementary but I use them with my art club kids, and I hope to eventually teach a high school clay elective course where I'll get more use out of them!

  3. I'm probably telling you something here you may already know? And I have to admit, that I'm in the same boat you are. I have alot of leftovers. I saw a guy on youtube that was showing how to reclaim clay. His suggestions are as follows:
    1. Let the clay dry completely out.
    2. Break it up into dust. Speaking with a rep. from Highwater clay, they suggested getting an old pair of jeans, tie the legs shut and put the dry clay in the legs and then beat it to death.
    3. once you have it pulverized. Slowly dump it in a bucket of water, mix and let sit for a few days? I'm a bit fuzzy on how long this needs to be. I guess till most of the water evaporated, or soaked into the clay.
    4. Dump the slurry out onto a plaster table even it out so it is like icing on a cake, all about the same thickness. Then let it sit there till it is close to the right consistency.
    5. Peel it up off of the plaster, and wedge a bit, and it should be ready to use again.
    6. The Rep at Highwater also said that the plaster should be covered in canvas, as you don't want to get plaster in the clay or it could/will cause problems later when firing and glazing.

    I have not tried this yet, but it is on my list of things to do soon. I need to make a plaster table.... got the plaster, just have not made time to make the frame to pour it:(

    Hope that helps someone!

    1. Interesting...I've never heard of anyone pulverizing the clay into powder when reclaiming. That's different! I feel like it would take forever for the clay to dry out enough that way unless you really got the right amount of water mixed with the powder.

      I have two wedging for white clay and then the one that the red clay was on in that picture. The white one has a plaster insert on one side, and a plaster insert covered with canvas on the other. The red one doesn't have any canvas on it anymore. I'll see how the clay in the bags are when I return to school on Tuesday, but the clay that was on the wedging table seemed almost ready to use at the end of the day. It was laid out for about three hours before I wedged it and put it in a bag at the end of the day. I just HATE getting so dirty while at school! It's probably a good thing my school doesn't have a strict dress code for teachers or I wouldn't be able to get away with wearing jeans all the time!

      About 4/5 a bucket left to reclaim! ;)

      Thinking about what you said, though, I may have to think about using your technique for my white white clay bin is about half full with dried out blocks of clay, straight from the boxes. They were ones that were there when I arrived at my room and just couldn't bear to part with!

    2. You don't need to break the clay up into dust. Just have a large bucket with water and add your scraps to it after they are dry. The water will break down the clay. Also, when you take the sludge out to put onto a plaster slab, or table, it doesn't need to be covered in canvas. (I've never seen anyone do that..and I've been working in clay for 25 years!) Hope this helps.
      ps. Try not to HATE so many things. Life is GOOD!

  4. I think the point of breaking up the clay into very small pieces, is that it will rehydrate very quickly. If you put a chunk of clay in a bucket of water, it will take a long time for the water to penetrate into the middle of the chunk. If you have it as dust, it quickly soaks up water, and can settle to the bottom of the bucket. This also removes the need for alot of wedging to get rid of the air bubbles.(So I understand for the youtube dude) -This is our hero:)!! After reading your post I was inspired today to head out to my shed and build a frame for my plaster table. I think since I have Monday off, I will work on pouring some plaster!!:)
    PS.- I had a 10 gallon bucket full of clay that has been drying since Oct. It is going to be my test case. We'll see how it goes.

  5. When I want to dry out clay to make slip I use an old kitchen grater to grate it out onto sheets of newsprint or other paper. I do this with clay from my clay bag or firm clay that's gotten hard to throw. The small shreds dry quickly and then slake well in water to make slip. I imagine the same could be done for reclaim if one wanted to go in that direction.

    By the way, where did the sprig molds for the feet come from? I really like them. Thanks!

    1. I believe I ordered the sprig molds from Nasco...either Nasco or Blick, I can't remember! They are Mayco molds. I also have a sprig mold for making handles.

  6. By now you may have run across my favorite way of reclaiming dried clay. It is by Janice Hughes - she is a genius! She demonstrated taking an entire 25 lb. bag of dried clay (solid block nonetheless) and opening the bag, adding a half cup of water and submersing it in a 5 gallon bucket of water until all the air leaves the bag -without letting in any more water. Once air is out, close bag and leave submerged in the bucket overnight or for several days. The pressure forces the half cup of water into the dried clay and it rehydrates the dried clay like new!!!! It's crazy sounding but it truly works. In fact, if you add too much water, it over-hydrates and you will have to dry it out ( found out myself ). Give it a try. Beats pulverizing and the mess. Sign me, TrojanClayBoss (or, walked in your shoes already).