The Clay Cycle

Clay is found in the earth – it is a process of erosion and settles in deposits – often by the water. Here are some photos of naturally occurring clay from Wikipedia.

In this picture you can see clay in the base of a construction site – it will provide a strong foothold for the building.


Here is a deposit of clay as you might see it by the river bank. The Snoqualmie has many clay banks.

Clay is mined, cleaned and mixed with other minerals until it has the desired plasticity, firing range and color.

We get our clay from Settle pottery in 25 pound bags. Mostly we use Vashon White with a mid range firing temperature – cone 4-6. The bisque kiln runs at cone 04. (For more information see the kiln documents.)

When using clay in the class room you will get it out of the mixer. This has very sharp and powerful blades at the bottom!

Always turn it off – push the red handle to the neutral position – facing straight out – before you get clay.

If I am not speaking to the class, please turn it back on being careful that the handle points towards the wall. This will make the mixer roll the correct direction.

Always wedge your clay before using so it is ‘plastic’ and so any air pockets that might explode in the kiln are removed.

Any unsued but soft clay should be returned to the mixer. Pay attention and see if it is mixing. If it is, and you can see the teeth – put your clay into their ‘jaws’ on the right. If not pile it on the left. As you get better you can also help make sure the mixer is mixing by ‘un-jamming’ it on the right.

If your clay is dried out a little then put it in the large ‘bucket’ (these are large plastic trash cans devoted to clay and water – not garbage!!!) where it will soften up with the water. It is from these ‘buckets’ you will get your slip – or sludge that you use to join projects together.

Sticky clay can go back in the mixer.

As we run out of clay and the buckets fill up with wet clay we ‘sludge’ the wet clay on the plaster tables where it will dry out and become plastic again. The plaster absorbs some water and some water evaporates. Depending on the relativity humidity, the dryness of the plaster and the heat in the room, and how thickly the clay was put on the table, the clay will be ready to go back in the mixer in one to four days.

So that is how the clay is recycled!

When you are throwing – use your personal water and your small sponge to clean your tools. Make sure they are all accounted for – not in the ‘red’ bucket. Clean your rings with the water as well. Put your throwing water in the Tall Clay Buckets where the clay can settle. Extra water must go outside in the ‘clay river’ or ditch. Earth to Earth!

Often we find tools and sponges when we sludge – make sure you have accounted for your tools!