Mud, Glorious Mud

June 27th, 2012

There is something very primal about clay. For me, at least. I’ve always had an urge to shape a formless lump of malleable mud into something beautiful, something useful.

Diva of the Eclipse, fired clay, acrylic paint 31″ x 20″x 36″ ©

For many years I made functional pottery. Cookie jars, tea pots, mugs, and more.
Now I mostly am a sculptor, only occasionally making utilitarian ware.

But the process is the same. Slowly and intentionally building forms out of clay.

In the process of creating,one scrapes, slices, adds and subtracts different parts of the sculpture.  Scraps and bits of clay are cut off. These inevitably dry out and must be dealt with.
Today someone asked me what do I do when the scraps of clay dry out?

For me, an arduous process of recycling begins.
1) I start by soaking the clay scraps to thoroughly moisten them. I use a large plastic barrel for that purpose.
2) Take the soaked clay and spread it out on a plaster bat.

Clay slop drying on a plaster bat.The plaster bat (slab) has been covered with canvas to keep from getting any bits of it into the clay. Plaster is not good for clay. Years after the work has been fired to a temperature as high as 2200′ Fahrenheit, bits of plaster can pop out of the clay wall. So one must be careful.

Sometimes I am inattentive and don’t notice that my clay scraps are drying out. Then the entire barrel turns into a giant ROCK, especially dense because when I work on my sculpture I put nylon fiber in the clay to strengthen the walls of the sculpture while it’s still moist. The fibers make the clay very strong.

If the accumulated scraps are left out which happens when I’m distracted by preparing for a show or deadline, I end up with a huge mass of dry clay, like the one in the photo.  I have to break it into small pieces with a sledge hammer to soak and recycle it again. Tedious, but a great workout!

Recycling clay saves money.  You get strong biceps and feel noble for reusing materials, but is still quite costly in terms of time and energy.

But then I have fresh, malleable clay for the creative process. So worth it!

Moonrise, fired clay, acrylic paint, 15" x 12" ©liza myers

Moonrise, fired clay, acrylic paint, 15″ x 12″ ©liza myers

The Bird Told Her, vessel, fired clay, acrylic paint, 30″ x 12″ ©liza myers

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