Firing Pottery and Reclaiming Clay

This morning, I got a rare chance to spend some time in the studio. Work’s depmands have made that difficult in the last six months. I managed to glaze a dozen bowls recently thrown and noted in the last post. There were also some smallers bits, and they’re firing, too. Should see them tomorrow evening or Monday morning.

Portrait of the Artist as a Bug
Portrait of the Artist as a Bug

After glazing and starting the kiln, I finally took some time to deal with the accumulated clay from throwing and trimming that’s been drying out in the roll-out drawer under the work table. All of it was bone dry, so the big pieces went in to a pillow case, and that, in turn, was whacked with a rubber mallet until the bits were all smaller. It worked pretty well. I think next time, I’ll put the clay in a plastic bag, and that will go in the pillow case for purposes of minimizing the dust while whacking away with the mallet.

All the dried clay was loaded into a 5-gallon bucket and covered with water. I’ll let it sit for a few weeks, then mix it until it’s smooth and then it will go back into the canvas lined drying drawer.

If you try this, be sure to wear a good respirator/filter, and eye protection. It’s very dusty. Get that stuff in the water as cleanly as possible.

Which brings me to the point of the this post. What do you do to reclaim your clay? Do you use a moist method or a dry method? I’ve done both, and at this point, I’m not sure which I like best. So, use the comments below and weigh in on how you reclaim your clay. I’m actually very interested in this topic.

4 thoughts on “Firing Pottery and Reclaiming Clay

  1. I like to keep it in a bucket with water until I am ready to put it on the ware boards and go from there. 🙂

  2. I always reclaim. I wait until I have enough trimmings to make it worth it but not too much so it’s a nightmare. Usually I use a dishpan and once it’s close to full I get to work. In the garage I take a small sledge hammer and beat it until it’s small (still in dishpan). I cover with water and wait a day or two. I pour off the top clear water and pour the wet clay out on to a board with a piece of sacrificial fabric on top and wait a day or more for that to dry until I can knead it. Things dry fast in the high desert of New Mexico. Once in a good state for working I put it into one of the saved plastic bags from the clay company and hold it until I need it. Hope this helps. MaryAnn

  3. Thanks to everyone who commented, and those who emailed. Overall, I’ve gone with the “damp” method, putting trimmings and leftovers from throwing, usually in some degree moist, in a 5-gal bucket, then adding some water, letting it sit and then wedging it. A lot. The last two batches I let go completely dry, crushed them up a bit, put results in a 5-gal bucket and covered with water. I found letting it sit a couple weeks, then using a paint mixer on a drill to smooth it out worked pretty well. I then poured it out into a drying box I built, and let it sit about a week. Then it’s about the right level of moisture to wedge and reuse.

    Both approaches have their advantages and their drawbacks. I’m still trying to sort it out. It’s been interesting to hear how others approach this. MaryAnn, I too have been saving and reusing the plastic bags. That’s a good tip, too.

    Thanks for playing along. I currently have a “pour” in the drying box. I’ll post a photo, and we’ll get on to something more fun in my next post.

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