When I introduce clay to beginners, I start by demo-ing how to reclaim clay.
Beginners are anxious to start and they don't know any better. I scoop up a big
lump of wet caly and put it on a bat for the length of my demo (about 50
minutes). At the end I show them how the dry plaster bat has soaked up the
moisture, and I can now easily make my clay "good" by using the wedging board.
Before everyone leaves that day, they get their own dry bats and load them with
wet, sticky clay from the bucket and wrap up the entire business with a plastic
bag. By the next day the clay is usually pretty workable after a minute or two
of wedging. We don't work with new clay until my reclaim bucket is empty.
As a result, students seem to "understand" how to manage clay better, and they
are much less likely to grumble about reclaiming when the new clay is gone.
I also explain that any bits of paper towel that get into the reclaim bucket
will make the clay stink like rotten eggs. This helps keep the clay from
At the same demo I always ask for complete silence when I drop a dry bat into
water and it fizzes like an Alka-Seltzer tablet. The are amazed when I lift it
out of the water and it dries instantly. I explain that managing the moisture
in the bat can help them dry, or keep wet, their clay.
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