Mixing and Pugging Ceramic Clay

A few years ago I made an investment purchase. A Bailey Pottery de-airing Pugmill MXP-50. This was when the economy was still pretty good and I was selling buckets of beads…

When making ceramic clay pendants – I was using a lot if textured clay slabs. All of those scraps from cutouts were put into buckets for recycling.

Always use a dust mask & mix outdoors to avoid breathing in ceramic clay dust particles. I added the scrap into the hopper, closed the lid & ran it to break down any larger particles.

This particular Pugmill is so freaking amazing. Just using it – I just can’t help but love it for the ease of mixing consistent batches of useable clay from scrap clay regardless of size and dryness. And not to mention how much wear and tear a tool like this saves on my wrists and body.

I add water and check the moisture level of the clay. Mix more, check it, add more water (and I add beer to aide in the growth of bacteria while it is sitting in clay storage in my studio). And every batch is different depending on the moisture level of the clay being recycled. Lots of babysitting here…

Once the clay is at the right consistency – it’s time to pug the clay. This pug shows me priming the pug after it sitting for 6 years (sealed so well by my friend Tracy – the last woman pugging clay for me) that it was almost like a few days ago vs years.

Then once ready, I kick on the air pressure for de-airing the clay and the pugs start to look more like this. Awesome!!!

Sometimes the clay is a bit too moist, but at least it it’s fun to poke at. And it is so much less effort to dry clay in the studio than lugging it up and down stairs to mix it like this.

My friend Jenny Davies-Reazor stopped over for some lunch and clay chatting. It is great to have another ceramic artist over to talk clay and studio setup. Especially cool because of her knowledge of mixed media and jewelry making so I can make the best use out of my studio space (some areas translate well for overlapping use).

And then she left me with a little clay smile…

Which will be stored along with the other clay pugs – to be found weeks, months or even years down the road.
How Fun!!!

Since this process is ongoing over the next few weeks, I need to seal the Pugmill up when I am finished for the day. I simply repeat what Tracy had done – add extra plastic bags to seal any gaps where air could get in and dry out the clay (you never want to let the clay inside the Pugmill dry out).

Then 20lb bag by bag – back down the stairs into the studio. Such a process. One must really be in love with a medium to do all this…

And through mixing – I took a couple minutes here and there to just sit and observe the suburban garden view from my garage. It was time to reflect on how fortunate my life is right now, and to remember all the hard work that has happened to arrive at this point.

I am fully aware that at any moment all of this could be gone – as life is full of change. My aim is to enjoy every day as it comes and make more work that stems from my interest in nature and gardening. So these steps of organization, purging, and studio preparation – will all hopefully get me to my goals of leading a more creative life every day.

And there are always curious little hands here. It is my responsibility to teach safety, correct use, and make sure that my two little ones are knowledgable about what they are allowed to touch and do while I am working. It always keeps me on my toes to keep them safe yet confident and interested.

Nearing Final Studio Overhaul

After glazing some orders and firing my kiln, I continued with my studio overhaul.

I had this back area piled with newspapers and containers of dry mixed glazes from my college years (13-15+ years ago). Time to get those put away.

I’m actually going to look at my old notes and see what kind of glazes these are. All base glazes as I remember. I have plenty of ingredients for color variations if I like them for my current work.

This dead storage space is now transformed into a small crafty corner…

I pulled out a lot of my arts and crafts supplies and fully intend in teaching myself and the kids how to use them.

For these kids – never too many cheap brushes to experiment with. Although I think when we get into serious lessons – limiting brushes to get more out if them will be fun. But for now – this works for experimenting!

We LOVE glitter here! And Chloe is going to be the glue and glitter glob master soon…

I was SO excited for her to get home from school to see this new part of the studio…

And once she got down here, she didn’t want to leave!

And of course – little brother wanted to create too. There is plenty if room for two (no fighting please!!!). Ugh – studio mates – lol…

And Dave put my kick wheel together for the third and hopefully last time for a long while (the two other times were in previous houses). Hope I get to use it this time!

Just freaking beautiful! I cannot wait to get lost throwing on it…

And now – instead of seeing piles of crap I need to go through – I see creative potential and joy…

Now to finish purging some piles, then start to mix and pug all of that clay. I really need to also get my website & Etsy shop updated. It is in fact "that time of the year"…

What a wonderful journey this has been getting my studio and head space clear!!!

Studio Reorganization Mid-Point

I had about 2 really good days of purging going on before the weekend (and non-stop kid activity) set in. And I am quite pleased where I arrived before the break.

There were so many projects lingering from my studio life before kids, before economy dump, while pendants were my focus. These unfired glaze test tiles are now out of date. Most of my glazes have changed…

50 pound boxes of clay ordered years ago so I could try out and find my clay body… Still sitting there as a cluttered mess.

Where drywall boards used to lay against the wall & towers of buckets holding dry clay scraps – all wasting space – there is now room.

Table top cleared and movement down the wall, clay storage underneath, plaster mold making supplies there too. Now ready to see action in new work instead of being a catch all storage place.

Looking down the galley part – more space is seen. Better use in mind…

And there is space for my kick wheel as it was originally intended when this space was laid out.

So now to go through these objects and rid this space of even more clutter.

And to begin reconstituting all of this clay sitting in buckets in the garage.

All of this is "work" to me. Work that may be forgotten when I look back, but work that needs to be done.

And then I can create again…

Studio End of a Procrastination Time

Do you ever reach a tipping point?
I did.
I had just made a batch of beads to fill a couple of orders & I was getting low on my good "plastic feel" ceramic clay. I went to pull some clay that had been pugged 5.5 years ago. And it was short. Not plastic at all. Ugh!

When clay is short – it makes for a very bad studio day. Nothing ever comes out right…

I have got to have over 700 lbs of this hard, short clay…

Sometimes it is not too hard to break some down and expose lots of surface area to water & beer.

Yes! I prefer beer. Others use yogurt…

The goal being to promote bacteria growth in the clay so the particles will align and work in a longer, more plastic state.

This gray area is from my last batch of brewed clay from a few months ago.

So while I started to break down this clay, my ADHD kicked into full gear! My studio is not set up to how I work now.

It’s a freaking mess of thrown together spaces piled with crap and unfinished projects.

It’s a great space for bring in a basement. Just not well utilized at all!

So section by section – it is getting purged and then rearranged (clay is a heavy medium to work in, so moving around is not a frequent option).

My drywall boards are better over here – and easily accessible if I choose to do lots of slab work once again.

I can actually use my rolling cart to put work in progress on (instead of finding places to clean off to use).

And lots of room to store the freshly pugged clay once I get started doing that (it is going to take weeks to pug ALL of that clay!!!)

And as I want to spend more time creating – getting all of this cleaned and rearranged will allow me to clear my mind and focus on the work I need to be making.

More to come!

Electric Kiln Repair Hand To Head Lessons

When something is not working with your kiln, you have some troubleshooting to do. A manual or website PDF of a manual is important.

This post is not about what you should do to fix your kiln, but rather a bit of smacking your hand to your head post with crap you should do before pulling out that manual and ordering expensive parts.

I have three different electric kilns in my studio. Two Olympic kilns and one L&L. I fire to Cone 5/6 for glaze and Cone 04 for bisque. I change out elements every few years. Not a big deal when you have all the right tools.

This year seems to be my year to replace electrical parts & I wonder if I really checked a few things ahead of time – would I have needed to actually replace fuses and switch panel electrical thingies… Yes that is my technical term for all those parts all thrown together.

I thought I blew the fuse in my medium kiln. Checked wall circuit board – all looked ok. Ordered fuse – wrong part sent. Ordered fuse with holder (round, not square – paid for shipping again) & it fit.

Did not work though. Changed out switch electrical part. That did not work.

Plugged in shop vac to clean small kiln that was receiving new elements. Vac didn’t work. Tried other outlet – it worked! Hmmm – check fuse box again. Duh – that fuse was blown. Idiot me! Looked too quick! Tried vac in first outlet again – Eureka!

Tried medium kiln in outlet again – but still didn’t work. Dang! Wait… Oh. Right. I need to not only put cone in & turn switch to low… I have to push in the power button switch. Woo-Hoo!!! It worked!!!

So did I replace those parts for nothing??? Maybe! Oh well… I guess I had better save those old parts as back ups for the next time.

And at that point I decided put all if the kiln parts for the three kilns into their own bags in my kiln repair box so I don’t over complicate things next time and have to rely in my memory, because clearly – my kids have taken extra brain cells, and they are not coming back anytime soon…

At least there is a sense if humor and lessons learned at this point!

Always plug something into the outlet that you know works before ordering parts! You may save yourself time and money…

I now have three working kilns again and I’m kicking studio reorganization tush right now!

marshanealstudio

marshanealstudio

Ceramic Artist. Garden and Nature Enthusiast.

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