Beer Clay

I love just going into the studio and throwing myself into some ideas.

These small bud vases keep popping up recently. But the clay is just a bit short for bending without cracking.

And with two little ones, helping with a few Etsy teams & my Master Gardener responsibilities – I am finding it extremely difficult to spend time working on my work.

Then to have clay act like this – No Thanks!

I needed to clean up my work space and get the clay ready for my next creative window.

So out comes a new, old bag (pugged 5 years ago) of porcelain. Has some good mold/bacteria growth – but just not quite enough for how plastic I need it to act.

So I grabbed a very old Lager and added some water. I seriously freaking love the smell of beer and dirt. Give me some warm sunshine and some music and I’m good to go! Perfect…

Spent some time cutting and breaking the clay up, then adding some beer water to moisten it and hopefully promote more bacteria to grow.

Wiped the whole area down after cleaning up. So ready for some clay play time! Hopefully with plastic porcelain this next time…

Because these – are absolutely being revisited. These dry ones are broken down, soaked in water, dried out to a workable stage – and into something “more”.

Something with a bit of muchness to it as I think I am starting to find that creative place inside me once again.

Big Exhale…

12 Responses to “Beer Clay”
  1. How cool! Although, I have to ask….how does the improved mold/bacteria condition help the clay? Does it help with elasticity? And is it normal to let it sit after the pugging for 5 years? Inquiring minds want to know! This is so fascinating!

    • MarshaNealStudio says:

      The bacterial growth, which is then mixed into clay (either by hand wedging or mechanically via clay mixer or pug mill) helps the clay particle movement – keeps the bonds aligned and flexible when working.
      Much like how you need to condition polymer clay (by warming in your hand or rolling through the pasts machine). And just like adding water to metal clay – as that rehydrates the organic binder and clay particles.

      As I work in a home studio, I keep any dry materials and dust to an extreme minimum. I order my clay pre-mixed in wet form. Go back 7 years and I was running my pendant line in production mode, and started out with over 2000 lbs of clay. All of the scraps were thrown into buckets (love those kitty litter stackable buckets!) then carried upstairs dry where I had a clay friend run my pug mill to remix and wet down all those dry scraps. The pug mill is also a de-airing pug mill and so when it extrudes the clay, it removes the excess air. It makes perfect round extrusions which are ready for work.

      However with time as I am working through all of that clay, I am getting a lot that was pugged and is just short. We didn’t add anything to the clay when mixing 5 years ago. So now, I am thinking it may be time to do this again. But add in some of this wet, short clay as well.

      Man, I really want to have a building where I don’t have to lug clay up and down stairs… And that overlooks a garden and not a basement (but then I would get ├╝ber distracted & want to get outdoors…)

      Hope that helps :)

      • AHAAAA! or like yeast in bread dough (without out the rising part, of course!) That’s what I figured but had never heard such a thing! ….and I know a little bit about the pug mill and the recycling (ahem, the least fun part of taking pottery classes…last week of class was all about cleaning the studio and recycling those garbage cans full of clay!) but it’s neat to see/hear how someone’s home studio is set up and how that all takes place!

      • Janine says:

        Those cows are way cuter than the ones all around where I live. All shaggy and awesome. But I can untaesdrnd not wanting to spend much time with them, cows kinda freak me out. You should show us the haircut, I doubt it looks as bad as you think. I agree with Catie, it’ll probably grow out into something you can work with really fast.

  2. Annie says:

    I second Barbara’s comment – I want to know more! I didn’t know ANY of that prior to reading this! And what is pugging?? Thanks so much for sharing the photos too – those are LOVELY little bud vases and I am excited to see the finished product!!

    • MarshaNealStudio says:

      Thanks Annie! Pugging refers to using a pugmill to mix clay, then extrude coils of clay that are ready to be used in the ceramics studio (makes me want to really throw on the wheel…).

      I hope that this week is a good studio week for me. I have lots to do & want to make! So I too am excited to get finished pieces made :)

  3. MarshaNealStudio says:

    Also, there are some people that use yogurt to promote bacterial growth. I’ve never tried that though – just the beer ;)

    The pug mill was a very expensive business purchase, and in hindsight I should have just been re-wetting the clay scraps in bags then wedging by hand. However, with the turnover I had, and carpal tunnel setting in, to me it was worth it.
    I do go to a chiropractor every 2 to 3 weeks and he aligns my wrist bones and tendons, so I hope to,avoid carpal tunnel as I really need the use of my hands without the numbness and pain…

  4. Annie says:

    Pugging – something new to add to my brain (for whatever reason, I am more likely to remember this and not the more important things, such as where I was supposed to meet a friend, this morning!). And if the pug mill saves wear and tear on your body, it probably cost much less than regular trips to the chiropractor so sounds like a very wise business investment!

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