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.
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.