Thursday, September 25, 2014

Recycling Ceramic Clay

Delightfully I have a few custom orders I am working on with this Chocolate Stoneware Clay.
Unfortunately, the clay I have has been lurking in the studio for quite some time (at least 9 years) and is a bit hard. 
So I have to reclaim or recycle it.

When you are sitting there with a 25 block of hard, stiff full of attitude clay, you have two choices:

1. If it is still a bit wet, you can break it into small bits and spritz it with water, wrapped tightly with plastic until it reaches a workable stage. This may take a few days of diligent spritzing.

2. Let the ceramic clay dry to a bone dry stage, then immerse it in water.
After the clay particles have become wet, the excess water is drained off, then the remaining clay is laid out - usually on plaster slabs (pottery plaster #1, not the stuff you get at a craft store), and the excess water is removed through the plaster and the air (sunshine also helps this process if you are outdoors). 
Once the clay has dried enough, it is peeled off the slab, then is ready for working or storage again.

My son (4.5 years old) was in the studio with me as I was wetting the dry scraps, and he loved putting his hands into the bowl and breaking he pieces under water. 
Then he got to smack the plaster slab with his wet hand before washing it...
I loved watching him experience this for the first time. Pure delight!

It's always good to get this recycling done so that one can jump into creativity as the time and muse permit and have the necessary clay ready to go.
I decided to make beads!
Glazing will happen sometime this next week...

A few safety notes when working with Earth Clay:
1. Do not breathe dry dust particles - dry earth clay contains silica (which can be inhaled into your lungs, but will not come out). Work "wet" as much as possible. Do not make dust.

2. Many people have a skin allergic reaction to raw Red Iron Oxide. Earth clays that are red or brown in color usually have a high percentage of R.I.O. in it. Gloves may be necessary.

3. Wear dust, gloves and safety eye gear when using Pottery Plaster #1.

4. Do not put clay particles or plaster down a sink drain! Work in buckets or bowls and dispose of excess in a smart way.

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