DIY: How to Reclaim Red Clay
Updated: Sep 20
Heritage based in the arts is invaluable. As mothers, sisters, and friends we can multiply ingenuity and imagination. Just ask Victoria Shaheen. She molded her first lump of clay at the age of six. Her mom, an artist and beacon of creativity, wanted to share the passion she had for her favorite medium. Alongside her mother, Victoria saw several women who broke down barriers and set prime examples for the female art force. These women included Mary Chase Perry Stratton, Maija Grotell, and Beatrice Wood.
Victoria, now works in the Pewabic studios, a National Historic Landmark in downtown Detroit. Present day, it serves as a nonprofit, dedicated to enriching the human spirit through clay. But the history of these workshops and kilns continue to inspire craftspeople to this day.
Mary Chase Perry Stratton founded Pewabic Pottery in 1903, deviating far from the path expected of women in the early 1900s. She broadened her mind with art and business. To Mary, pottery was more than a hobby. It was her livelihood and her ambition. She left behind a legacy of distinct work and work ethics.
To Victoria, Mary Stratton “is watching over all the female artists in Detroit. If you’re walking down Woodward, feeling down on your luck, or tired form working twice as hard for half the pay because of your gender, look up. Chances are you will see a Pewabic facade or design somewhere on one of those buildings. Maybe she didn’t literally pave the road but she literally finished the buildings.”
Victoria aims to one day run a studio of her own with friends, hopefully traveling and doing workshops along the way. Her advice to aspiring artists is simple:
Don’t take yourself so seriously. Art can still be fun to make, analyze, and critique.
For those pottery lovers who want to be resourceful and re-use scrap clay, enjoy this tutorial Victoria demonstrates in the photos below.
How to Reclaim Clay: (in other words, how to recycle dry clay bits back into a workable material)
a soaking bucket
a plaster block
a large working surface
Step 1.) Soak dry bits, chunks, and failed projects of clay in water.
Step 2.) Soak for a few hours or days, depending on the dryness of the clay. Stir the mixture with your hands.
Step 3.) Scoop out the rehydrated clay onto a plaster block.
Step 4.) Make sure the clay is even thickness on the plaster block to allow for even water absorption.
Step 5.) Once clay is no longer tacky, scrape it off the plaster block into a medium size pile.
Step 6.) Wedge it. Rock the clay back and forth in a kneading motion until air bubbles are compressed and clay feels pliable.
Now get busy creating!