One of the greatest things about working with clay is the simple fact that any scraps you end up with throughout the making process can easily just be recycled and reused and eventually thrown into new pots. This recyclable waste can come from numerous places the most prevalent being from the trimming process where layers of leather hard clay are trimmed away from the pots that fill up the wheel tray with thin coils of clay. As they’re so thin, and disintegrate really easily, I immediately just chuck them into the reclaim bucket that lives next to my wheel and anytime my tray gets full I simply just dump them straight into it. Anything thicker than these turnings say a larger chunk of leather hard clay – I’ll never throw that directly into the reclaimed bucket if it’s still slightly wet as it’ll take weeks to degrade to a point where it can be recycled nicely so, instead, I’ll let it turn completely bone dry before placing it into this bucket. I also add things like the slops left over from my throwing water and when all these trimmings and other bits of waste are soaked overnight it’ll slake down into a fine slurry.
Whenever I’m throwing pots if I need to remove the slip off my hands I do so against this sharp edge of a bucket filled with water. Then at the end of the day once I’ve finished throwing all my pots I’ll sponge down the wheel and then I’ll clean all of my tools and I’ll ring out the sponge in that same bucket of water. Even though I have a clay trap under the sink in my studio I still wash all of my tools and sponges and towels and things in this bucket of water first. I also don’t necessarily worry about cleaning every tool perfectly as, under normal circumstances, I’m probably going to use them in the next few days. I’ll lay out all of these wash tools on a cloth to dry overnight and at the same time all the clay will settle in a layer at the bottom.
The following morning I then carefully pour away the water trying my very best not to disturb the settled clay in the bottom. I swirl together what’s left and then this once again is added to my reclaim bucket.
Again after a week or maybe two of throwing and trimming the bucket usually gets full. I then use a large sponge to remove as much excess water from the top as possible – which I ring out in my other bucket of water that will eventually get added back to this. I then drag the bucket over to my plaster bats (which are made from a mixture of 80 potters plaster and 20 casting plaster, for strength). I place these plaster bats onto three kiln props so air can get beneath them and help dry them out.
They’re heavy thick bats that’ll absorb a lot of water from the clay that’s placed onto it, yet, they can still quickly become saturated and from time to time when they’re not in use I’ll either take them outside to sit in the sun or I’ll place them underneath my gas kiln when I’m firing it. I used to prop them up with wooden slats but they quickly become very moldy whereas these kiln props can’t. They’re also given a scrub clean every now and then to dislodge any loose plaster that might find its way into your clay body which you definitely want to try and avoid as small specks of plaster lodged in clay once fired can cause the clay and glaze above it to shear off, which is something potters called lime popping [Lime popping], so if you do recycle your clay like this and you find a little hard bead of white in your clay it’s best to remove it.