HERE ARE SOME TIPS FOR DIFFERENT CASES:
- It's not totally dry, but too stiff to work with. Use the end of a broomstick, a wooden spoon, or even a large screwdriver to poke holes in the clay, almost all the way through (leave about an inch at the bottom.) Fill the holes with water. Come back in a day or two and wedge the clay up. It will have absorbed the water and be nice and moist! An alternative method is to cut the clay into slices, soak them in water, then wedge. Or, take a soaking wet towel and wrap the clay with it. Place the whole thing inside the plastic bag. A couple days later, voila! Remember it is important to wedge clay especially when it has been rehydrated, to even out the moist and dry spots. Otherwise you will have difficult throwing, and pieces might warp as they dry.
It's too far gone to do #1. Let it dry completely, then smash it with a hammer inside the bag, turning it into fine chunks. Drop it into a bucket of water. When you've accumulated a few gallons of watery slip, mix it up with a Clay Mixer (such as a Jiffy Mixer). Two additional things that improve the working qualities of the recycled clay: adding a small amount of vinegar to the mix, and letting the mix age for a few weeks. Finish by letting the clay dry until you can wedge it.
Update: 2/04 I have recently read that you can put a completely dry block of clay into a bucket of water, and if you don't disturb it much, it will do a decent job of rehydrating the clay without causing much to come loose into the water.
- Favorite ways to let the clay dry out. Some people spread it on plaster beds. Others in a large cardboard box lined with a garbage bag. My favorite is to put it into a pillow case or the sewn up legs of an old pair of jeans, hang from a tree, and let the water drip out.
The best advice of all is to do this often, before you have accumulated so much clay you can't bear the thought of recycling it all!
And lastly, to keep clay moist longer in the first place, many potters store their bagged clay in an old refrigerator with the holes plugged. The tight seals help keep the clay from drying out. Or just by putting several bags of clay inside large trash bags, adding some water, and sealing.
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