Thursday 16 May 2013

Sludgy Reboot

Although I have a lack of time because of my two years old boy, my ceramics activities and my big garden, I am actually reading a lot. Not during the day but at night, before falling asleep. The problem is that I can’t read just one book: Beside my bed I have up to five books that I am reading more or less synchronously. 

There is quite a similar situation in my studio: I am working on several projects at the same time. This can be both, rewarding or frustrating. And when it switches to the frustrating side I have to make a short break. Usually I use this hiatus to thoroughly clean the studio and the tools. Last week I used the break to recycle the clay. 

When you work with clay, you always have clay scraps. I have a huge lidded container, where I put all of the clay leftovers. I have experimented with many different types of clay during the last few years so I decided to use one container for all high-fire stoneware clay bodies. The porcelain has its own canister.

Before I put clay scraps in the container I let them dry well. Dry pieces end up in the recycle-canister where I pour enough water to cover them completely. At this point you can actually hear the dry clay scraps absorb the water. As soon you get a sludgy consistency you can start to recycle the clay. I put this sludge on the plaster bat for a few hours. The plaster will soak the water out of the clay-slurry. When the clay sludge doesn’t stick to the plaster any more, I turn it around like a pancake. I wait again for clay to stiffen a bit, taking care it doesn’t over dry. Now I can wedge the clay to ensure it gets nice and smooth and without any air bubbles. Since I am recycling huge amounts of clay I have to store them well so that they don’t dry. The freshly prepared clay will be wrapped with plastic and kept in an air-tight container. 

This whole process is quite easy, but it requires some time. When I notice that I am losing the focus in my over-creative state of mind this is the perfect thing to do. Stick your hands into the dirt and let your brain reboot.