Saturday, March 21, 2009

A Trip to Starworks in Star

We drove today to Star to pick up clay from Takuro at Starworks Ceramics.  Starworks has donated their new local clay body to the upcoming Seagrove potters' community wood firing in Seagrove, at the North Carolina Pottery Center on April 4.   This wood firing is open to the public to come and ask questions about the uniqueness of this labor intensive firing process.   There will also be a closing reception for the Owen/Owens 175 Years of Family Business exhibition with music all afternoon and a catalog signing.  Both are open to the public with free admission.   
We drove into the parking area and saw our friends Eddie and Angela from Wet Dog Glass, having a lunch break in the StarGardens and being protected by Starwork's notorious, head of security, "Wheezy".

The building pictured here is where you go to find Starworks ceramic clay supply.

Takuro Shibata toured Bruce and I around the clay making facilities.  He has been working on this local clay project for several years now.   Much time was spent researching local clays and consulting with geologists, potters, and others, to locate regional sources of raw materials suitable for making distinctive clay bodies found only here in our area.  His first clay body, available now, is a blend of a raw local kaolin with a raw local ball clay, and other ingredients.  It is primarily designed for wood firing at cone 10 and higher, and should be suitable for cone 10 salt and glaze firings as well. 

Here is the hammer mill where he puts in the local clays that he has gathered from various locations.  One clay is from Cameron and another from the town of Candor.  The clay body is blunged together with collected rain water in the tank below the mill, and pumped to the magnetic separator and   

 screened through  a 30 mesh sieve to extract any metal and larger particles from the clay.  The clay is pumped through the green hoses that you can see going to and from this contraption.
Takuro is explaining the water pumping system that he and Santiago have devised to move needed rain water into the system, as well as reclaiming excess water squeezed out of the filter press.    

The tall green tank is pressurized to send the slip into the filter press bags and the excess water is squeezed out into the trough underneath the press on the right.  This system can process approximately 2500 lbs. of clay in three hours press time.  When the cakes of clay (round discs) are ready they are
 run through this deairing pug mill, extruding out as a rectangular pug, cut of into 25 lb blocks, and bagged ready for the wheel or hand building techniques.

Bruce and Takaru are looking at the 2000 gallon storage tank that supplies the water for the clay.  This water tank is located on the other side of the wall where Takaru and Santiago was showing Eddie, Angela, and Bruce the system they figured out.  This water was collected from the roof of the building from the recent rains.

We bought ourselves a few new tools from Takuro and Hitomi before we left with our clay.  We also gathered information to pass out to the potters at next weeks Catawba Valley Pottery Festival. 


Alex Solla said...

You guys are so lucky to have such an awesome facility at your disposal. I think if we had anything like this here, potters around here wouldnt have a clue what to do with it! I love clay that's been blunged, deaired and pugged. So much more fun to work with! Not many clay manufacturers are willing to go through such a labor intensive process. I think this is so cool that they are going about this in this day and age.

Jen Mecca said...

Very cool post! Thanks for that info.

cindy shake said...

That is an impressive facility! WOW. Thanks for the visual tour. "Wheezy" is a kick! what great pictures, thanks for sharing.