Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Chris Throws Pots

How Bring My Reclaim Back To Life

Recommended Posts

Hi All,

 

The studio where I work collects everyone's throwing slop in large garbage barrels to reclaim into clay for youth programming and drop-ins. The clay is feeling like it's met its limit in terms of reclaim cycles and the kids are finding the clay impossible to work with. The clay is very fibrous, tears easily and lacks elasticity. 

 

I'm thinking about adding dry ball clay and vinegar to the mother barrels to bring the dead clay back to life. Will this work? Is it worth my time? How much of each to add? Should I add something different? 

 

I'm fearful that mixing in ball clay will throw the chemical composition way off and will leave us with clay that doesn't fit our glazes. The current reclaim is a mix of four ^6 Laguna bodies (90, 66, 55 and 16) and lots of the cyclically recyled clay.

 

Any help will be greatly appreciated.

 

Chris

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Frugality is generally a good thing, but at some point you just need to buy some clay. If this place is a real business, you need to price the drop-ins and kids classes accordingly to cover the cost of the clay. My kids classes always get new clay out of the box, just like me. In a 90 minute wheel throwing class they'll use about 5 pounds, or $2 worth of clay each. So if you figure out the cost of labor to reclaim the slop for their use, you're probably coming out way behind by not using new clay.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I was one to recycle from year to year. My HS budget just did not allow for enough clay for my classes without recycling. So we pugged during the year, and mixed in fresh used clay with the older stuff. Thowing slop and old cheese to leather hard pots got pugged together. At the end of the year I would pug up all but maybe one barrel of the slop. My filled barrels of freshly pugged clay got several damp rags over top, and a tight fitting lid. In the Fall, we started out with new clay from boxes, and gradually worked in the recycled clay. Kept the program going.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks Norm, Neil and Pres.

 

I just bagged and pitched about 90 gallons of thick slaking slop and another couple hundred pounds of terrible fiborous clay that we recently pugged... and wasted our time doing so.

 

The clay was so worked from repeated reclaiming (probably 2 years since we've started fresh) and I was not inclined to spend a lot of time testing and tweaking additions of ball clay and vinegar when clay is so cheap. The reclaim starts from slop and scraps from fresh clay we've already sold, so any exta use is a bonus.

 

That said, we'll continue to reclaim clay for use in youth programming and drop-ins. Recently an independent ceramicist donated a few hundred pounds of trimming scraps to the studio, so I started new barrels of reclaim slop with these. Where this clay has never been reclaimed it should start us with a good fresh batch and give us some nice plastic clay.

 

Thanks for confirming what I was secretly hoping the answer would be.

 

C

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

After cycling through the process so many times, the clay loses much of its plasticity/elasticity. In the case of my reclaiming dilemma, much of the creamy clay has been washed down the drain and the grog is left in the slop bucket. The lugged clay becomes fiberous and short... very grainy. Not enough stretch for throwing, not enough body for handbuilding or sculpting.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

When I'm in a busy work mode I toss three 5 gallon buckets a week out of porcelain trimmings after messing with it for many years its not worth my time anymore. I'm frugel with other things like my time.

Mark

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

my HS also reclaims a lot of clay. i find that its getting to this point right now but soon we will probably use it up and eventually new clay will go in as fast as old clay goes out. the cycle continues.... I find that the more fibrous clay can still be used for small cups if your careful not to stretch it too much or pull it too hard. for bigger and taller pieces i refuse to use the recycled clay since i'm putting around 4 hours into a 3 foot tall vase that i want to be perfect. i recently retried the 12 inch club challenge with recycled clay and after my 3rd pull the clay was so cracked that it looked more like some one finely tore up wet paper and pressed it into a cylinder shape. i also don't like using the recycled clay because i often fined tools chopped up in it, sponges, ribs, trimming tools and yes..... need tools.... you definitely can feel those while throwing....

we also have settling buckets so we don't plug our pipes, the original intention was to use the clay from them as slip, but we stopped after we saw low fire glazes leaking out of attachment places after bisque

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi,

I use my old clay to shore up the hillside my art cottage is built on! I need a lot more if anyone in upstate NY has some!

 

Seriously, I understand budget constraints, as Pres said, but if you are at a nonprofit or volunteer place for kids, you may be able to find grants to help purchase new clay. Seems like a good thing - using pottery to keep kids occupied. If you need help, let me know, because I do freelance writing, and am expanding into grant writing,

Best,

nancy

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Nancy,

 

Thanks for your kind offer. The organization I work for has a dedicated development department that already does a significant amount of grant writing and fundraising. In addition to the clay studio, we have community printing, photo and digital media studios that offer monthly rental and classes like the clay studio, a painting studio, several contemporary art galleries and an art sales and leasing program. Some of these programs generate a significant amount of revenue while others are supported by the successes of the stronger programs. We are a division of the City of Burlington, Vermont and also hold federal non-profit status. The city supports us through administrative costs like payroll and employee benefits and through providing us the space to exist, but we are responsible for a little over 80% of our annual budget. Check us out online at www.BurlingtonCityArts.com, and if you're ever in Burlington, Vermont stop in and say hi!

 

My initial question about bringing the clay back to life had much more to do with effort than dollars. I'm not suggesting being wasteful or that we don't have a budget to stick to, but at the point the clay is "dead" we've already sold it to our patrons at least once (in the form of fresh, bagged Laguna clay), if not several times (as reclaim). If there was an easy solution like adding some ball clay, I would have gone that route. But given the testing required for essentially making a new clay body would have been far more expensive and time consuming than just starting fresh.

 

We slaked down about 500lbs of trimming scraps (thrown only once) last week and pugged the first of it this past weekend. Our afterschool instructors have been very happy this week, as the clay is elastic and the kids are having success on the wheels. Sometimes a fresh start is in order.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ah, Burlington! One of my favorite cities in the world. I would move there when I retire, but my kids are all setting in NYC, so I am going to move further back down that way in a few years. 

 

I will stop by next time I am in town, which is once a season, at least. They have a great shop there that sells local Vermont artisan work - my friend sells her jewelry there. Is it Frog Hollow? The name escapes me.

 

Best,

Nancy

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Nancy,

 

The name hasn't escaped you... it is Frog Hollow. They have some great work in there, including pots made by some close friends of mine. The BCA studio used to be called Frog Hollow, as did the Edgewater Gallery in Middlebury and Middlebury Clay and Craft; it was a wheel with 4 spokes. When Frog Hollow consolidated to just their gallery on Church Street, the City of Burlignton stepped in to make sure the clay studio remained a resource for the community. Pretty awesome!

 

BCA's galleries, darkroom and digital media lab are about a block down Church Street from Frog Hollow. The clay and print studios are two blocks away, on the corner of Main and South Union.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Since i do not do production pottery yet, just about 25# of clay per week, I re wedge up any scraps but I ditch the slop out in my backyard.  I have re claimed slop and trimming scraps but decided it was too much work. (plus, the slop bucket stinks up my basement to high heaven!) 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've been thinking about this for a long time - a good many people mention throwing their scrap in the back yard.  Please be aware that runoff from clay, when it enters any waterway or storm drain, would be a pollutant.  Not because of toxic materials, but because of the turbidity it causes.  So, if your yard drains to any waterway without treatment (like a stormwater pond), please don't.  At certain times of the year, the turbidity impedes the development of some of the critters that keep our streams healthy.  Likewise, if it ends up in a bay, it's a bad thing.

 

Alice

TJR and Woman Of Clay like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You said-

(reclaim into clay for youth programming and drop-ins.)

I would call it clay torture-non plastic hell in a bag-This should motivate those youngins to like clay work.

This may be causing more harm than good.

Mark

nancylee likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In Elementary, as a kid, I really hated the clay we got right out of the bag, chalky, stiff, lifeless stuff. It wasn't until college that I found it could be something entirely different. This stuff was out of the bag out of the box, but it was horrible. I moved around a lot as a kid, and it was always the same everwhere.

GiselleNo5 likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I use a lot of recycled clay for my ceramics - it can be a mixture of all kinds of clay. Also throw the slur from my throwing table so that the fine parts of clay wont disappear. As many people use the workshop the clay maybe with much (and big) schamot so I use it often for Raku work

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We have a couple of recipes for porcelain at school that are mixed from scratch, without slop, every time. From my experience, porcelain just seems to be happier and definitely less contaminated when I start with a clean mixer, fresh water, and well measured/weighed ingredients.  I still adhere to the tradition of letting it rest for a few weeks when possible.  I may, eventually, outgrow that tradition...but I still believe I can tell a difference in freshly mixed and aged porcelain...or it could be that I'm just getting more stubborn in my old age :mellow: .

 

Stoneware on the other hand starts with blunged slop instead of fresh water...still taking care to stick with the well measured dry-mix ingredients .  Once out of the mixer, I wedge it briefly into 10 pound lumps, bag it, and store it in a tight-fitting RubberMade bin.  Most of the batches are about 200 pounds. I am hardly a production potter, so that lasts me a couple of weeks or more.

 

At home, I have no mixer, but do my best to keep my slop to a maximum of 5 gallons...and that is about once a week.  That slop (mostly stoneware) is reclaimed in large plaster bowl-forms and becomes my hand-building supply.  I rarely throw the reclaimed clay unless it is for small forms (mugs).

 

I get it that it may be more efficient to buy clay than to go through all of the hassle that I describe above. Perhaps it just takes longer for that to sink in to an old hippie like me :wacko:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm with you Paul, I realize it might be more efficient to just use new clay, but it seems wasteful to toss the old stuff.

 

Like Pres, it makes sense for me, budget-wise, to reclaim/ recycle clay. If I can reuse a couple hundred pounds a year, instead of buying new, that saves me enough money that I can buy a jar or two of glaze, bulk film, photo paper, etc.

ChenowethArts likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Reusing clay for me has become a matter of convenience. It is more convenient for me to recycle my clay rather than try to find a place to dump it. I live on a city lot that has very little spare ground and that is covered by concrete drive, or a deck. I bag scrap, dump in throwing slop, twist the bag and turn it upside down for a few weeks, pull it out rewedge it, put it back in the bag and let it set for a few more weeks. Then I rewedge before throwing. It is usually great clay to work with. One of the reasons I am reluctant to go to porcelain.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Today I took slop/trim bucket, mixed with paint mixer,drill, then strained through 60 mesh. To this I added a known clay recipe. It's now slaking overnight in 2, 5 gal buckets. Tommorow starts the drying process.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×