[Clayart] What are you doing?

David Hendley farmpots at eastex.net
Thu Jan 13 03:34:35 UTC 2022

Hi, and happy new year everyone!
I was just thinking, before I read this question, that pottery students 
might be surprised
if they had been following me around for the last few weeks.
Of course, I always clean the studio to start the new year. Yes, it's 
cleaned if it needs it or
not (ha!)

It just happened that I also ran out of clay towards the end of the 
year, so I arranged to get
a pallet of Blackjack clay after the new year. I don't know what other 
states do, but in Texas
businesses are taxed for their inventory on January 1. The total amount 
I am taxed is trivial
for my little enterprise, but, heck, why add to the inventory just to 
have it added to the tax

To make clay, I buy a pallet of 'filter cakes' from Blackjack. This 
consists of 60 30" diameter,
1 inch thick discs of clay stacked on a pallet in a big plastic bag. 
They weigh about 40 pounds
each. This is one pressing of their filter press. The clay is not really 
usable in this form - the
outside rims are too stiff and the the center is too wet, so it needs to 
be run through a mixer
and/or pugmill.

Before I picked up the clay, I mixed up about 1200 pounds of porcelain 
(50 EPK, 25
feldspar, 25 silica), so I am combining about 2/3 Blackjack, 1/3 
porcelain in my Peter Pugger
to end up with my final claybody. The Blackjack alone is okay, but I 
prefer to lighten it
up with the porcelain, and it is still plenty plastic and sturdy enough 
to have good working

So, this yields about 3500 pounds of clay and will last me a couple of 
years at my slower
'senior citizen' rate of production these days. It has taken all week to 
get everything
mixed and bagged.
This is the first time I have used my new (used) Peter Pugger for a big 
batch of clay. I have
to say, I am disappointed in it. It's a nice machine, no doubt - well 
made and substantial,
but I was hoping it would save me time, and it does not. My 50-year-old 
Bluebird mixer
and non-deairing pugmill could actually do the job quicker. The hold-up 
is that the
PP needs to run on 'mix mode' for 6 or 8 minutes before it is switched 
to 'pug mode'.
And, then each batch only gives you about 30 or 35 pounds. The old 
Bluebird did
120 pound batches.

My solution? Intermingle another job with the clay mixing. I went to the 
pallet factory and got a pickup load of scraps for the wood kiln. So, 
the routine
became: Start a batch in the Peter Pugger, then unload and stack 
firewood for 10
minutes while the clay is mixed, then go back inside and pug and bag the 
Repeat, repeat, repeat.

So, it's been a solid week of working hard but not producing a single 
pot! Of course
I would not want to do this constantly, but I have to say that I do 
enjoy ALL the jobs
involved in being a potter.

Regarding prices, I have been a little shocked recently at some of the 
prices for materials.
$40 tin oxide, for example. I don't use lithium and use very little 
spodumene, but even
the 'cheap' materials like kaolin and feldspar have gone up noticeably.
When I called to order the Blackjack clay, I had some concern that they 
would quote
me a substantially higher price, or say that it would take some time to 
deliver the
order. A 15% increase from 2 years ago seemed reasonable enough.

Fortunately, since I knew I was planning on being a potter for life, I 
bought 'lifetime
supplies' of several materials. My fifty pound bag of copper carbonate 
was about $40
in the 1970s. I have about 5 pounds left. I ran out of my 1970's whole 
bags of rutile and
titanium 5 or 10 years ago and repurchased 50 pound bags of each for 
less than half
of what they go for now.

David Hendley
david at farmpots.com

More information about the Clayart mailing list