Saturday, 12 January 2019

Towards Zero Waste Studio

ClayMake Studio has been open to public since 25.September and as predicted, occupied all my available time and energy ever since. We closed over Christmas break for 3 weeks, which finally gave me a chance to slow down and get my hands into clay and start a new project. While not "art", it is certainly "clay".
A tiny bit of background: At ClayMake (just like in my personal studio and studios of many potters that I know) we like to reuse as may resources as possible -reclaim clay and clay slip, reuse plastic bags and containers and make our own tools if we can. But, there has always been an amount of materials ending in the landfill: the sink bucket slops.
For those not familiar with it: clay and associated materials will clog up your sink so every studio needs a clay trap. It can be invisible, built in the system, or it can be as simple as a bucket in the sink.This is my unglamorous version:
It collects all glaze and clay residue. Heavy particles sink to the bottom and clear water rises to the top. 
In the personal studio, I get a few buckets of slop a year that I dry and bin.
ClayMake Studio, however, has much higher volume of use and as people use various clays we can't reclaim all of them .... so our sink and slop buckets fill quickly. 
I recently came across an article by Rat City Studios, published in Ceramics Monthly describing how they make pavers out of the clay and glaze slops.
You can read it HERE.
So here is my version, and slightly different approach:
I like hexagon shaped tiles too, and for design inspiration I went to Japan: 

oh, they would tessellate so well!
First I cast plaster blanks in hexagon shape, 1.5 cm tall and then transferred couple of patterns on them. While the plaster was still damp, I transferred the pattern by scratching through the paper onto the plaster tile, but when plaster tiles are fully dry, you can use carbon paper to transfer the pattern:

I used dremel to etch the pattern:

To make clay tiles, I made a wooden hexagon frame, held together by a strap with buckle stapled onto the wood. Unfortunately it did not hold it as tight as I was hoping for, so I added a plaster ring. Here it is with the plaster tile inserted:

This is the clay slop, after drying in the plaster mould, before kneading:
It contains various clays, casting slip and glaze residue. At it is stage I assume that it is mostly clay as I didn't have a glaze mixing class.

It is softer than regular recycled clay, so stickier and messier to work with.

Chuck cloth keeps my tools cleaner:

after compressing, first I cut the bulk of excess clay with the cutting wire:

Then smooth the surface with the metal ruler. This is why I prefer wooden mould  for this purpose rather than plaster - it is always level and it doesn't scrape as fast as plaster would:

You can still see various colours in the mix. I'm curious to find out how will it turn out after the firing:

Opening the mould:
(First part of wooden frame is not stapled to the strap for easier removal.)
The mould has been turned up side down so plaster is now on top.

As the clay is so sticky, it is easier to remove plaster before fully opening the mould:

Gently easing the wooden frame away:

You have probably noticed that I have made 2 frames and 2 carved designs. Working with 2 wooden frames means you can alternate the use and let them dry out a bit before the next tile ( yes, the clay mix is quite wet and sloppy - at this stage I think that it is a good thing. I will let you know if I change my opinion on this)
So here is "the other tile":

It is nice dry and warm summer here in Perth, so I'm hoping that the pavers will dry quickly. I know that I should fire the test first, but I'm not sure if I will as I don't have the test kiln. I might just follow the Rat City Studios recommendations.
I think that this can become an interesting community project...... 


  1. You have created some nice patterns. What a great idea to use up the studio waste! I will be passing this along.

  2. Great process Andrea and so nice to know the studio is saving landfill waste. I think these pavers will be functional art!!

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