Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Mixing my local clay

Today I finally got around to mixing some local clay that I had slaked down with water more than a month ago. My mixing equipment is anything but sophisticated. The picture at the left shows me pouring a clay slurry into a sieve I made out of window screen and an old bucket.

I started the process in August when my son, Levi, and I took the lawn mower and its trailer and a wheel barrow (Levi pushed the wheel barrow) to a piece of my property where I discovered the clay. After transporting the clay back to my workshop, I let it dry out completely, then chop and smash it into small pieces with a shovel and a tamping tool.

I then place the dry clay into shallow tubs and cover them in water. I usually let this solution sit for a week or so, and then I scoop the mushy clay into one of the blue buckets shown in the picture. I usually add some more water and mix it with a paint mixer attached to my drill. Then it's 30 minutes of sieving as I'm doing in the picture, only I start out scooping the slurry out of the big bucket with a small bucket until I can lift the big bucket and pour as I'm doing in the picture. I've also got to shake out the rocks and sticks as they clog the sieve.

When I'm done sieving, I pour the slurry into tub with a thick plaster slab on the bottom to soak up the water. It takes a week or two to dry enough to handle the clay. But today, I had some slurry left over, so I was able to pour it into a shallow plaster dish and it might be dry enough to use by tomorrow or the next day.

I'm thinking of making a pot out of it and giving it to another potter to glaze and fire in his kiln as a piece for the collaborative auction at Celebration of Seagrove Potters. I'll keep everyone updated.