By far the most enjoyable moments of today came at the end of our time together, when I learned the process of recyling clay. What a mess--a slurpy, squishy, smoothie mess! The process begins when someone presses used clay through a mesh sieve that fits over a fifty gallon trash can. This can be a pain in the rear if you have a lot of clay to press through the screen, and some people take a short cut and lift the screen and throw their used clay (this can be lumps, fallen wet bowls, etc. into the goop.) Bad, bad idea. A polite and considerate potter uses the screen, as it creates less work for the one recycling--which as a task in itself is quite physical. So, when the giant trash can is filled with a mess of slip and slop, it is rolled into the clay mixing room and transferred to the big metal clay mixer. Transferring is a relative word. It is more like playing in the mud when you were a kid, except much more messy. You just grab gobs of this gunk and smoosh it through the screen that is now covering the top of the metal clay mixer. It flies everywhere, and gets all over your clothes. Some people find this gross. I loved the feel of this wet slop slurping through my fingers. In the picture, the background for this bisqued mug is the t-shirt I wore today. When the transfer is finished, then some dried clay is added to mush, and then you close the top, and turn the mixer on, and after it shakes and agitates and integrates all the ingredients for thirty minutes, you have a beautiful, chocolate moussey- silvery glowing substance that is ready to become usable studio clay, after it dries out some. What is most interesting about mixing clay, however, is that recycled clay is alive~it has a lot of body to it, because it has bacteria growing in it to keep it active. If one were to mix clay from scratch--throw some dried ball clay and generic stoneware and whatever else goes into it, it would look nice and feel nice, but it would be sterile. According to Dan, when people mix new clay, they thrown in bacteria creating agents, such as beer, to help the clay come to life. Usually we think of mold and bacteria as bad, but for clay, it is good.
What a wonderful metaphor for life--and obvious, I suppose for most of us--being on the journey means that all of what we meet and encounter and do--the moldy and smelly and messy along with the tidy and good and delightful--is essential for the health of our chi, our life force...and we shouldn't try to get rid of it--absolute purity makes us sterile and lifeless. ( I know this is arguable, but for me, it is a bit of a relief!) Life is a mix, a tangle, a journey. It reminds me of a quote from one of my favorite authors, Annie Dillard, who wrote in A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, ...Beauty itself is the fruit of the creator's exuberance that grew such a tangle, and the grotesques an horrors bloom from that same free growth, that intricate scramble and twine up and down the conditions of time. This, then, is the extravagant landscape of the world, given, given with pizzazz, given in good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over...(p. 146)
Whiteout - photo taken November 2017
7 hours ago