Cracks, Recycling and Cats

January 1, 2009

So the last batch of tiles I made before driving to my parents’ home in Virginia was something of a disaster.  First of all, I broke the slab roller:

The remains of someone trying to fix it...

The remains of someone trying to fix it...

I mean, technically I didn’t break it.  The spring that works the mechanism is apparently cheap and tends to wear out on a regular basis, so that’s not a big deal, but the chain mechanism that controls the height of the roller was loose, plus the threads on the screw that adjusts that height were completely stripped and will need to be replaced.  All of these things are relatively normal wear and tear issues–the slab roller is ancient after all, eventually parts need replacing.  However, I was the one using it when it decided to quit working, and it had been acting funny for a week or so before I actually brought it to anyones attention, which may have aggravated the problems.  So it has officially been out of commission for 2 weeks and won’t be fixed before the show opens.

This means I’ve been rolling everything out by hand, the old school style with a rolling pin and lots of elbow grease.  It actually doesn’t take me much longer doing it by hand, but there is a new learning curve in terms of little details about how you flip the slab, when you cut it up, how you move it around, etc. etc.  My first batch of hand rolled slabs were fine, the second, completed right before the drive to Virginia, not so much…

They all cracked in amazingly beautiful but unuseable ways!

They all cracked in amazingly beautiful but unusable ways!

I think I made about 28 in this batch and was only able to save 5-10 of them

I think I made about 28 in this batch and was only able to save 5-10 of them

I thought this one was particularly beautiful--it was tempting to find a way to preserve them, but that is not what this project is about so I had to scrap them all...

I thought this one was particularly beautiful--it was tempting to find a way to preserve them, but that is not what this project is about so I had to scrap them all...

sigh… so all of those bone dry slabs were broken up and dumped in a bucket to be recycled.  I think I was in a rush before the holidays and didn’t baby them as much as they need.  They were all stuck to the boards so when they shrank during the drying process, there was no wiggle room and they all cracked.  I finally got around to recycling all of that clay yesterday so here’s a quick photo rundown on how that works (feel free to skip if you already know):

All of those broken bits were piled in this bucket and then covered in water so they would essentially dissolve into a slippery sloppy mess

All of those broken bits were piled in this bucket and then covered in water so they would essentially dissolve into a slippery sloppy mess

Once it is thoroughly dissolved, all the goop gets spread out on a giant slab of plaster

Once it is thoroughly dissolved, all the goop gets spread out on a giant slab of plaster

Plaster is perpetually thirsty, so it pulls all the excess water out of the messy clay.  Eventually the bottom side is dry enough to almost feel like normal clay so you flip the mess over so the top can now have water pulled out of it by the plaster

Plaster is perpetually thirsty, so it pulls all the excess water out of the messy clay. Eventually the bottom is dry enough to almost feel like normal clay so you flip the mess over

After a couple hours of drying, flipping and wedging, you magically have a perfectly new block of clay to work with!

After a couple hours of drying, flipping and wedging, you magically have a perfectly new block of clay to work with!

It’s kind of amazing to me that this works–bone dry, unmanageable clay can magically become a brand new block through a few simple steps.  Cool.

Stay tuned for the next episode:  Frames!

On an unrelated note, I think the cat is even grumpier about my apartment’s lack of heat than I am!

Normally she would never tolerate a blanket on her, but this time she meowed pathetically until I draped it over her and then passed out in warm happy bliss!

Normally she would never tolerate a blanket on her, but this time she meowed pathetically until I draped it over her and then passed out in warm happy bliss!

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

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One Response to “Cracks, Recycling and Cats”


  1. […] Cracks, Recycling and Cats: this one cracks me up (terrible pun) because the death of the slab roller was one of MANY disasters throughout this project. Reading back through them reminds me of what a roller coasters this whole project was… […]


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