Processing my clay

So once I’ve been out and gathered all the bags I can carry, I bring it all back to my garage.  I made a big purchase of a Bailey Pug Mill Mixer last year.  I had some other options but decided that if I was going to spend some money and have a giant piece of equipment I wanted the biggest, strongest, easiest to maintain and use, piece of machinery I could get.   This is what I could afford, it fit in my garage, and they delivered it to my door.  I really love it.

  I empty a bag into the hopper, add OM#4 ball clay, Hawthorne fire clay, bentonite, and grog and mix it.  I decided to follow Watersheds recipe, roughly.  I do not add Barium Carbonate.  It is quite toxic and I’m not worried about scumming as of yet.  I always wear a really good ventilator mask so I’m not breathing in dry particles.  I may need to add water depending on how wet or dry the Maine clay is.    Mixing takes about 20 minutes.  I’m very careful to look for sticks, rocks, etc.  I don’t want these in my batch they can clog my screens and chip blades etc. also are a pain to come across in when you are throwing the clay…not to mention can explode if they make it to the kiln. 

After the clay has mixed, it goes through a screen into the pug mill tube and is compressed into a solid cylinder.  It is de-aired so that no air bubbles are present and I don’t need to spend hours wedging and comes out in a long skinny tube.  I slice it off at 8 inch increments and stack it in a pile until I have enough to bag up.  I re-use the same bags if they are clean enough.  It takes about 30 minutes to process about 25 pounds of clay.  I usually do a few batches at a time.  I don’t think I could stand there all day.  I work pretty hard for this clay and have had to rethink the size of my art work with regards to that.   I will probably become more efficient with time, but for now it is so precious.  I think of it as sacred.  I also wonder if I will ever want to make it easier on myself and use a backhoe.   Maybe. 

bags of maine clayMy Bailey Pug Mill/Mixerthe first batch, you can see some mixture of the stoneware as it comes out