Washed up

WASHEDjulietmacleod2014Now that I’ve started throwing again I’ve realised I’ve still not figured out a few things to do with the whole process of throwing pots in a home studio. It’s times like these I realise how much of a novice I still am…

Firstly, I’d like to ask people’s advice about clay traps and dirty water. I have no running water in the new studio, but a utility room close by. At the moment I have two large buckets outside for washing up my wheel tray and tools at the end of the day. The first bucket gets the worst of the muck off; with the second cleaning off any residue. My plan is to let the clay settle to the bottom of the buckets and, once there is too much, drain off the remaining semi-clean water and let the residue dry out. Is there a better system than this? I don’t have the money, or space, for a proper clay trap. Also what should I do with the dry remains? I can’t recycle it as it will contain a mixture of clay, pigment, glaze etc.

Second, is what to do with all my dirty aprons, towels, rags etc. For the time being I have been washing these in the machine but I know that this is not a good idea. What do you guys do? As I increase the amount I am making the amount of cleaning up increases too. I don’t want to block up my drains or damage my septic tank.

I welcome any thoughts you might have. Thank you.


18 thoughts on “Washed up

  1. Hi Juliet I’m still struggling with the same thing myself. I also do a bit of a bucket system though I’d like to try to set up a clay trap under a sink… When I can get a moment to think about it! I’ve seen these instructions which might be helpful http://ceramicartsdaily.org/clay-tools/making-clay-tools/how-to-easy-to-make-triple-stage-clay-trap/
    I also hose down my aprons and towels outside before I put them in the washing machine. But this is not much fun in winter.
    I’ll be interested to see if you get any better ideas from others who pot at home!
    So glad you have your workshop up and running though.

    • Thanks Elaine. Why did I not think of hosing down aprons etc before washing. Doh! I’d seen that article about the clay trap, but I don’t have enough room under the sink. I think I’m going to experiment with an outdoor version somewhere between the bucket system and a homemade clay trap/cink. How did Bovey Tracey go?

      • Hi Juliet I think your plan sounds like a good one. I want to set up a raised up sink on breeze blocks under our outdoor tap to make better use of that option and have less water spraying all over my jeans! Winter does make the outdoor tap much less inviting though so I do keep running to the kitchen sink and making a big mess. We don’t usually get -19c in Sussex though!! I feel like a real light-weight complaining about the cold now!
        Bovey Tracey was a great experience but a bit stressful too as I wasn’t very well. But I did alright despite some quite slow sales days. Everyone was lovely though and It boosted my confidence about some of my more quirky pieces which went down well! How are the preparations for Potfest in the Pens going? Elaine

      • Sorry to hear that you were unwell Elaine. Hope you’re much better now. Potfest prep going ok, but having 5 months off from making is not the ideal situation to be in just before my first fair. Have good and bad days. Just need to keep at it. First bisque firing later this week – keep fingers crossed.

  2. My studio doesn’t have a water supply either. I invested in a Cink, which recirculates my water, but the triple stage trap system would work fine. One of my friends built one and she’s been happy with it in her studio. I think hers drains into their sewer line. I primarily got the Cink to cut down on waste water. I saw how much water was used in other studios, and decided I didn’t want to do that. For throwing and clay cleanup, I can go about 6 months on 10-15 gallons, not counting glazing.
    I don’t do glaze cleanup with my Cink. I use it only for clay cleanup, then reclaim the trapped clay.
    To clean up during glazing, I use the basic 3-bucket system, which works great. Just three 5-gallon buckets, and progressively wash items in each. This has worked fairly well, and allows more control over glaze materials. I generally let the buckets settle and carefully pour off the water and clean out the sludge. I don’t reuse the glaze sludge, but I’ve heard of other potters who mix it all together for a utility glaze. Maybe someone else will have better details or ideas. I’d be interested in not wasting glaze, too.
    As for clothes, I do about the same as Elaine, but I rinse in a bucket before washing. (I have a lot of 5-gal. buckets in the studio.) And like Elaine, I look forward to warmer weather. During the winter, I’ll cycle a gallon or two of warm water into the Cink to make cleanup less painful.

  3. Hi Juliet, like you, I’m all a bit new to this but at the pottery where I teach a night class there isn’t a clay trap and this doesn’t seem to be a problem. Obviously the students are told to be careful but with 3 classes of 8 a week that’s a lot of messy hand/tool washing.

  4. The bucket system works for me. When I use colored slips, I let them sit in a different bowl until the water rises. I pour out the clean water and throw away the reside. Sometimes I just add the slipped clay to my recycling bucket. I’ve never noticed the slips when I reuse the clay. Glaze is always kept separate. I put my towels and aprons into a bucket and try to get as much clay out of them as I can. Then I put them in my washing machine.

  5. I recently made terra sigillata from dry residues that had oxides in it. After that, the oxides were in the terra’s residu, I let it dry, broke it into pieces, fired these and made little piles in the garden for the insects.
    I’m interested in better ideas than the bucket system which I use too.

  6. Hi
    I’m a hand builder so I don’t have to deal with much clay muck, But my aprons get the worst of it. I just hose them down on the clothes line or dunk them in a bucket for a couple of swish-swashes. And speaking of terra sigillata, I’ve been using it for Years! Here is my recipe. using powdered Ball clay saves days of busy work.
    Terra Sigillata
    5 cups warm water
    10 cups powdered Ball clay (baby powder fine)
    1 t. soda ash
    Dissolve the 1 t. soda ash into the warm water (this acts as a water softener to help keep clay suspended
    Add wet to dry
    Mix well until it is very smooth adding more water or ball clay to get the right consistency

    To add pigments begin by adding
    1/8 to 1/4 t. of one colour (dissolved in a bit of water) into
    1 cup of Terra sigillata

    Experiment ~
    Paint onto the clay it is leather hard Is dry enough to rub to a buff and not rub off.
    you can see my terra sig work on my web site: nancywalkerstudio.com under ‘red clay’
    Happy potting

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