MIxing Clay

Gone are the days when the clay was dug on site at Winchcombe Pottery. It was a lot of work to achieve a clay body which contained lime so tended to blow out during firing. Today the clay is mixed on site but comes in powdered form from Devon and Cornwall.

Mixing the clay is very much like making a cake batter. Indeed, the machine we use used to be a dough mixer in a bakery. I cannot divulge the exact recipe but can show the ingredients and process.

It starts with the iron oxide.

Okay, you found the bag.
Now weigh it out.
Mix it thoroughly. This lovely machine does this part for you whilst you get everything else together.

Separate scales for the sand.
Many bags of clay.
One bag of clay.

Whilst the mixer is off tip a few bags of clay in. Turn the mixer on. Add the sand.

After a couple of minutes dry mixing add the iron oxide and water. Add a little more water if necessary. Judging how much water is important as it directly impacts how soft or hard your clay is.

It is easier to mix the clay stiffer at this point and if you need to make it softer then add some recycled (sloppy) clay later, when you pug it. Using differing amounts of the stiff and sloppy clays you can get any consistency you need.

A still of the mixer mid mix.
Once it has mixed for 10/15 minutes perhaps, it will hopefully be almost all mixed in to the point where you can't see big lumps of grey clay. Turn the machine off and start chucking it onto the slate bed. You can see this in the picture below. There was no clay there at the start of the day. I wish I had taken a picture then as now you probably won't believe me. I did the clay mound on the right first. It is made from recycled clay which Mike Finch uses to make plates (after its pugged). The clay on the left is much stiffer, more useful for cylinders.

The end of the day. Clay piled up good and high.

Time for a beer.

Oh but here is a short video of the mixer:

I do feel like this is a very boring video, and perhaps not worth the effort of uploading it to youtube, but anyway, its done. Now the whole world can see it in action!