Salvaging Partially-Dried Clay

Salvaging partially dried clay


When I teach classes I take extra aliquots of 9 grams of PMC3. First, I’ve observed that some people's hands suck the moisture out of the clay while other’s hands give up their moisture to the clay. Second, when people work with metal clay for the first time, they do not have experience to tell them how to handle and care for the clay or the pace at which to work to keep the clay moist and workable. So, when a person handles the clay too much or leaves it exposed to air too long, their clay dries. This unworkable clay frustrates them to no end, and we do not want that. So, in exchange for their partially-dried clay I give them 9 more grams of fresh clay.

So, I’m left with globs of chunky, cracked, marbled grey, partially-dried clay. One can even hear the difference between fresh and dry clay by dropping it onto a surface from a matter of inches. The fresh clay will softly thud and stick. The dried clay will clunk one or more times.

In class, I moisten and wrap up the dried clay as described in Opening a New PMC Package and take it home. The process below is what I do back in the studio to turn this unusable clay into fresh usable clay.

The photos’ captions tell the story.

This is 2 9-gram aliquots of partially-dried clay mushed together. There are chunks and cracks galore.



This photo reveals the chunks. The black sheet is a piece of teflon.



I place the clay between two pieces of teflon and roll it without thickness cards or slats to get it as thin as possible.
Thus, your teflon sheets or rolling surfaces need to be large.



First roll with flattened clay



I mist with clay with water.
My workbench mister has water and a few drops of lavender essential oil, which helps condition the clay.



I roll this up with the misted surface to the inside. I press all the air out, starting at the center and working toward the edges.



I fold it over and roll it flat again.



It gets a little slippery and outta control the more I roll it. That’s okay.

After about three mistings and rollings, you can assess as you handle the clay if you’ve added enough water.
If the clay begins sticking to your fingers like fingerpaint, stop adding water!
If the clay is still chunky and marbled grey instead of one smooth color, add a lilttle more water.



When you feel your clay is hydrated roll it between your palms, pressing as hard as you can while still maintaining the ball of clay. At this point there should be no cracks.
If you cannot get the cracks out, then go back a couple steps and add a little more water to the clay.



Now I am storing the clay for future use. I take a piece of plastic food wrap and mist it with water.
I place the clay in this and wrap it up, trying NOT to trap in any air.



The inner plastic wrap is snug up to the clay. The outer plastic wrap is loose at this point.




I use small plastic containers that match in size the amount of clay to be stored.
This container is for storing paint and can be purchased in art supply stores. 

At the bottom of this container is a little pad of paper towel that I have moistened with water. This water I keep in a sprayer at my workstation, and it has white vinegar in it (about 5% by volume) to keep any mold or other organisms from growing.




See how tightly the clay fits into this container. As you can tell, I’m a little excessive,
as this is overkill treatment for simply storing clay.



Ta da, done. At least for the first time. Let this clay sit at overnight before using.
If it still feels hard or lumpy when you go to use it, do this entire process again.
You may need to do this process a few times, making sure it sits overnight each time.

You can always mix this clay with a larger amount of fresh clay.

The alternative? See Recycling PMC.

Final comment. See the clay on my fingers? Obviously, I got the clay too moist as one point. I forgot to work the ball of clay in my fingers, which usually results in the clay going back into the ball from my fingers. Instead, now I will rub my fingers together over my filings jar and this clay will roll off and be recycled.


More on refreshing clay and expired or failed binder at PMC Connections blog.

For online courses in metal clay, go to I Love Silver, where you learn how to design and create your own silver creations.

© Kris A Kramer 2017