Studio Sustainability Practices Part 1: Clay & Water Recycling

Sustainability is an every-day practice in the VESSEL pottery studio. As a garage studio, my nearest sink is 30 feet away and all water must be carried in. This has forced me into diligent use of a "3 bucket" system. This system is necessary for prolonging clean water in the studio and promotes a systematic clay recycling process. 


3 Bucket System

The 3 bucket system is quite simple and works as such: 

3 (or more) buckets are partially filled with clean water. During studio clean-up, you begin with bucket 1. This bucket has the least amount of clean water in it and is meant to catch wet clay pieces and slop. The 2nd bucket is for your first rinse and should be mostly filled. You can use a sponge to clean splash pans and tools. Over time, this bucket becomes murky with clay. Bucket 3 is your clean water bucket and final rinse bucket. This water should stay quite clear, at least for a while. I like to pull water from this bucket for throwing and wiping down surfaces. 

Eventually, bucket 1 (the slop bucket) becomes full of broken pieces, trimmings, and clay slop. This wet clay is pulled and laid out on plaster batts to dry. Once dried to the right consistency, this reclaimed clay is wedged and bagged for future use. 

When this slop bucket has been emptied, I let it dry out so I can easily break apart the remaining clay (saved for future reclaim). With my mostly clean, empty bucket I fill it with fresh water and bucket 1 now becomes fresh water bucket 3. 

As long as my studio runs, this recycling process will continue on. 

100% of my raw waste clay (as in, not becoming a finished, fired piece) is recycled and not a drop of water goes down the sink. I think this is pretty cool. 


Chances are, many of my finished pieces have had previous lives as other raw clay objects. Clay reincarnate.

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