Saving Clay, Saving Dollars

While many classes begin with a warm up and everyone at their desk, one class — Ceramics — works differently. The routines of CHS Ceramics classes are designed to engage students’ creativity and save money.

As the bell rings to signal the start of the period, students start to get their tools and clay. When they have what they need, they head to their tables and start working. They mold the clay as they wish until they have their desired look or continue the previous days work. If they break or don’t want to keep what they have they scrape it into a special device: a pugmill.

Candacie Schrader, Arts and Ceramics teacher, explains the importance of the pugmill to the department and classes.

“The pugmill is used for reconstitutionof the clay,” said Schrader. “The [device] ensures that clay can be reused rather than thrown away. Without the pugmill, we wouldn’t be able to reconstitute that clay and constantly reuse it.”

This process ensures that more clay is saved rather than lost.

“We are talking about fifteen-hundred pounds of clay we would lose a year,” said Schrader. “We order three-thousand pounds of clay, and without the pugmill we wouldn’t be able to reconstitute that clay.”

Former CHS student and current employee at The Clay Makers (a ceramics studio in Durham), Emmanuel Oquaye also sees the benefits of the pugmill.

“If a project [breaks] or if the student doesn’t want to fire it, it gets added to the water bucket,” said Oquaye via text message.  “Then you have some nice clay mud [which goes] on plaster boards to stiffen up a bit until it’s the consistency of workable clay. [Then it’s] run through the pugmill.”

Recycling clay and saving money is not one person’s job; it takes work from teachers as well as students.

A ceramics pugmill allows artists to recycle their clay. Photo by Levi Hencke