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clay preparation for $30,000.00 tsubo

updated mon 14 aug 06


Lee Love on sun 13 aug 06

On 8/10/06, Alan P wrote:
> Dear Lee
> Im sure hearing that you <> is a great relief to
> many
Hehe. Of course, that isn't what I said. I said I wouldn't
have anything in response to you.

This is for other folks, looking for low-tech methods of mixing clay:

At my teacher's workshop, we made $30,000.00 tsubo and osara
from clay that was reclaimed, simply by mixing hard and soft clay in a
pugmill. Of course it was "mixed", because as it has been
mentioned, negative consequences become evident if the clay body is
not mixed properly. Standards are very high at the workshop. In
the past 20 years ago, even iron spots are not acceptable (I'll talk
about that more below. No fallicy envolved):

Often, the soft clay consisted of reclaimed trimmings that were
put in green mortar mixing boxes in layers, and then sprinkled with a
garden waterer. We would fill two green boxes usually. This
required from 6 to 8 bags of trimmings per box.
Layers about 4"inches high of trimmings were laid down, and
then sprinkled with "just enough" water. Then another layer was laid
on top of that. This was done about making about 10 or 12 layers,
about a foot high.

Trimmings are kept in rice fiber zippered sacks, that are
normally used to put harvested rice in. These are biodegradable and
often fell apart in our transporting them. The trimmings pile must
be 25 or 30 years old. Sometimes you find tools and old sponges
when you are recycling.

These big green boxes were then covered with plastic and left for
a at least a day. When the trimmings were softened enough, we hand
carried it into the studio, where we laid down ware boards ( old solid
boards and not plywood ones), and made a mountain as long as one
wareboard deep and 10 or a dozen wide and about chest high. Often,
this would sit for a couple days. If they sat, we covered it in
plastic. If the clay was recycled by someone new, it was usually too
wet and had to air dry for some time before it was pugable.

Then, it was all run through the deairing pug mill. It is
usually run through the pug at this stage, with the vac pump off. If
it is too wet, you don't get solid pugs. When this happened, the pugs
were stacked on a new set of boards and left to dry a little, and then
was pugged later. You usually had to pug at least 3 times. Then
the clay is bagged and older clay is used first. Clay is always
pugged just before it is used on the wheel, in the deairing mode.

Much of the evening out of the moisture of the clay was due to
time. As someone mentioned, the moisture of clay tends to even out
in the bag.

Some of the specialty clays were made from scratch, but usually
by mixing plastic clays together. The only exception was the
shigaraki clay, that came as dried chunks in paper bags. This was
turned into a slurry and then larger feldspar stones were screened out
and thrown in the driveway.

Currently, my teacher does not buy clay from the claymaker, but is
using a large mixing pugmill to recycle the mountain of trimming
scraps he has been collecting.

When clay was made and not from recycle, it was often foot
wedged first. I will write about foot wedging later.

None of these methods are the most efficient way of "mixing"
clay. But as I have mentioned many times, the most efficient way,
while being the preferred way of industry, isn't always the best way
for the creative artist. The creative person's methods may seem
like fallacy to the technocrat. As Wendle Berry writes in Standing By
Words, the Technocrat is the "High Priest" of industrial society.
But we are leaving industrial society behind.


Lee in Mashiko, Japan
"Let the beauty we love be what we do." - Rumi