I thought I would do a post about how we process our wild after we dig it up. We have it stored in our backyard under a tarp until we are ready to process it. We process it in small batches of about 100 lbs. which seems like a huge amount, but it really isn’t.
Here is what we do:
We wet the clay and let all the particles absorb water for a couple weeks. While it’s soaking, we screen it through a series of screens with smaller and smaller mesh size. This helps remove organic matter like leaves and small twigs that might be in it, but it also screens out small rocks and particles that we don’t want in it. Eventually, it makes a thick soup like mixture of pure clay.
As it settles, the water floats on top and the clay goes to the bottom of our mixing bin. From there, we pour the water off as it settles, this takes another week. When the visible water is poured off the top, we now have a sludge like mixture, we pour it into a wooden box with an old sheet and a screen. This way, the water continues to be drained from the clay, but not on by floating to the top, instead it goes out the bottom. It sets for a couple more weeks to dry out more. When it’s ready, we cut it into blocks of about 25-30 lbs. and put into plastic bags to store it until I am ready to throw it on the wheel or hand-build with it.
When I am ready to throw, I wedge it a bit on my wedging table, this removes some more of the water and makes it easier to throw. If its too wet, it shrinks more 14% which is a huge percentage for pottery.
Since a picture is worth a thousand words, below are the pictures of our process.