You live in a climate where snow and freezing temperatures are common. You accidentally left out a big 25-pound bag of clay, and it’s hard as a rock. The first thought in your head is. Can Pottery Clay be Frozen and still used without breaking down, and how long will it take to thaw?
Yes, you can still use the clay for making pottery! However, it’s important to know that not all clays are the same, and some clays can withstand freezing much better than others. The reason for this difference is the composition of clay bodies, and you may need to do a lot of extra wedging to get the clay to a workable state. When clay freezes, the clay particles push apart as the water freezes and become unevenly distributed.
Read on for more information about how to reclaim frozen clay and some tips on how to handle frozen clay.
Affiliate Disclaimer: We are ambassadors or affiliates for many of the brands we reference on the website. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Is Freezing Clay Ruined?
Believe it or not, frozen Pottery Clay is not ruined. In fact, many potters that live in cold environments make pottery with Clay that has been frozen. The clay particles can be frozen and thawed repeatedly without affecting the quality of the clay.
So, if you live in a cold climate, as I did in Wisconsin, where the clay has gone through freeze-thaw cycles for thousands of years, you can still use the clay to make pottery. Just be sure the thawed clay is in a workable state before you begin using it. Otherwise, you may find it difficult to shape and mold the clay into the desired shape.
What Is the Freezing Point of Clay?
Since clay is made up of water, minerals, and organic material, moist clay freezes at the freezing point of water 32℉ or 0℃. The water expands and separates from clay particles at this temperature as it forms ice crystals and the clay freezes. As the temperature goes down, the clay freezes harder. A solid freeze is below Zero℉ or -18℃.
Advantages of Freezing Pottery Clay
Here are a couple of advantages to freezing pottery clay that I know of.
First, Clay consists of minerals and various microorganisms, from bacteria to fungi (mold). The mold or other organic matter will not grow when the Clay is Frozen.
Second, If you live in a colder climate and are limited storage space, you can leave your Clay outside to freeze and free up space in your studio.
Disadvantages of Freezing Pottery Clay
The main disadvantage of freezing pottery clay is that it can be harder to wedge when it thaws.
In addition, the frozen clay can take a long time to thaw and will not be in a workable state when it does. So if you live in a cold climate, it’s important to be aware that your pottery clay may freeze and take the appropriate precautions.
Tips for Storing Clay Outside in Winter?
If your clay is stored in a place where it will freeze, keep in mind that most moist clay comes in 25-pound bags. Large amounts of clay will take a long time to thaw.
There are two good ways to store it for the best results. I found the best way to freeze Pottery Clay is to slice it into smaller pieces. So I sliced off 3 to 5 pounds of clay at a time and place the clay into a Freezer Bag. Then place the clay in a Bigger Plastic Bag, Covered Plastic Container, or Bucket and store it outside.
Storing the clay in smaller amounts makes the clay more manageable, and it only takes 4 hours to thaw at room temperature. I wait until the next day to allow the clay to absorb some of the excess water that has been dispersed when the water molecules expanded from the freeze.
Another good way is to slice and dry the clay until it’s bone dry and store it outside in a container or bucket.
The Clay no longer contains water, so whenever you want to use it, just rehydrate your bone dry clay. I have a post showing a Simple Way to Restore Your Bone-Dry Clay
Can Pottery Clay Be Stored in the Freezer?
Yes, you can store your clay in the freezer. The only reason I would see someone storing clay in the freezer is if the potter will not be using the clay for a long time and wants to keep microorganisms like mold from growing on the clay.
How Do You Reclaim Frozen Clay?
Reclaiming frozen Pottery Clay is similar to recycling pottery clay. If you’re willing to put in a little extra effort, you can still create beautiful pottery pieces from frozen clay. Just be sure to follow these tips so you can reclaim your frozen clay and avoid any problems.
How Do You Defrost Clay?
Many potters are unaware of the importance of how to defrost clay. When pottery clay is frozen, the water in the clay becomes unevenly distributed, and the clay particles push apart. This can cause problems when trying to work with the clay, as it can be more difficult to wedge and shape.
In order to successfully defrost clay, you’ll need to make sure that you have enough time to thaw the clay before you begin working with it. Second, you’ll need to ensure the clay is totally thawed before beginning to wedge it.
There are a few different ways to defrost pottery clay. You can leave it at room temperature or place the frozen clay in a warm environment like an oven. You can also place the frozen clay in direct sunlight. Or you can defrost the clay by using a heating pad or hot water.
The amount of clay will significantly affect the time it takes to defrost the clay. Once the clay is defrosted, it will seem like there is a lot of water, much more than before the clay froze. Like, where did all this water come from? It’s the same amount of water but has been displaced from freezing.
Don’t wedge the clay yet. I wait at least one more day for the clay to absorb some of the water again. I found doing this makes it much easier to wedge.
Amount of Clay to Wedge.
So how much clay do you need to wedge at a time to ensure the clay is in a workable state? There’s no definitive answer to this question. It will depend on how much you are comfortable with wedging at a time. I wedge around 5 pounds at a time.
If you’re not sure how much clay to wedge, it’s always better to err on the side of caution and wedge less Clay at first. This will help ensure that the thawed clay is wedged into a workable state and that you don’t run into any problems like the clay being too wet when you start wedging it out.
Wedging Thawed Clay
In order to successfully wedge out thawed clay, it’s important to wedge the clay enough so that the water is evenly distributed and the clay particles are allied. Wedging out thawed clay is very similar to wedging out recycled clay.
When I start wedging the clay, it feels wetter than before it froze, but as I continue to wedge the clay, the consistency starts to improve. It feels the same as when I am wedging out my recycled clay.
There are several ways you can wedge out the clay.
The best and easiest way is to use a pug mill.
A Pug Mill contains a cylindrical pugger that rotates clay into the desired consistency to make the clay pliable (workable).
The first would be the Rams Head Wedge. The Rams head wedge is one of the most popular ways to wedge out clay.
With 5 pounds of clay, it will take around 6 minutes and 200 wedges to get the thawed clay back into a working state.
The Spiral Wedge (Which is my favorite way to wedge) is a little tricky to learn but once learned, it is pretty easy and the least time-consuming.
The Spiral Wedge took around 3 minutes and only 100 wedges to blend 5 pounds of thawed clay back to a workable state.
Stack And Slam Wedge
The third and easy way to wedge is the Stack and Slam wedge. It is what it’s called. Stack the clay and Slam it on your wedging board. The Stack and Slam takes around 6 minutes, 25 slices, and around 140 slams to blend 5 pounds of clay together.
This technique is great for anyone that has issues with their wrists. It is by far the simplest method of wedging.
When you start slamming the thawed clay on wedging board, you have to be careful not to splatter water that has been dispersed from the frozen clay. I did that once. After I learned my lesson, I would not slam as hard the first few times I cut and stacked the clay.
For more detailed information on all these wedging technics, head on over to my article How To Wedge Clay A Beginner’s Guide With A Step By Step Video.
Finishing the Wedging
So how do you know when it is wedged thoroughly? The best way to know when it’s wedged thoroughly is by its texture. Finishing the Wedging too soon will make the clay challenging to work with. Instead, slice the clay in half and inspect the inside.
The clay should be pliable, with a smooth surface. If there are any hard spots or lumps, continue wedging until they are gone. Once the clay is smooth, it is ready to use.
Can Bone Dry Pottery Be Frozen?
Pottery in the Bone Dry Stage is the most fragile. It is at this point that pottery clay is most susceptible to breaking and chipping. However, because the clay has been completely dried – removing all of the water molecules – the pottery will not crack if it is frozen.
This makes bone dry pottery clay ideal for storing in areas with a risk of freezing temperatures
Can Leather Hard Pottery Clay Be Frozen?
So can pottery clay be frozen in the Leather Hard Stage? It is a common misconception that leather hard clay pots can not be frozen. This is not the case; leather hard clay can withstand cold temperatures. As your wet clay project freezes, it will not crack. This is due to the fact that leather hard clay platelets have been aligned and compressed, meaning that it is less likely to be damaged by the expansion of water molecules.
I have never had issues with my frozen leather-hard pieces cracking. However, it is important to note that not all clays are created equal, and some may crack or break if frozen. If you are unsure whether or not your type of clay can withstand freezing, it is always best to err on the side of caution and test freeze a leather hard piece of pottery.
Can Bisque Ware Pottery Be Frozen?
Bisque ware pottery is created through a process of firing clay. Bisque Firing removes the physical water molecules from the clay, turning it into a ceramic material with an open pore structure.
This makes a more durable ceramic, meaning it can withstand being frozen without damage.
Can Pottery Be Frozen?
Pottery can be frozen because it is now more of a glass-like substance after being glazed and fired in the kiln. I have put my pottery in the freezer many times without problems. However, It is important to note that not all clay bodies and glazes are created equal, and some pottery may crack or break if frozen.
If you are unsure whether or not your frozen dish will crack, it is always best to err on the side of caution and test freeze a piece of your pottery.
When pottery clay freezes, it can cause some common challenges for potters. But don’t worry, you can still use the clay for making pottery! Just be sure to follow these tips on how to handle frozen clay and reclaim your frozen clay successfully. Wedging thawed clay is an important step in the pottery-making process, and it’s crucial to wedge the clay properly. By following these simple tips, you’ll be able to create beautiful pottery pieces from frozen clay!
Can Pottery Glaze Be Frozen
Glazes can be frozen, but it’s important to know that not all pottery glazes can withstand freezing equally. Some glazes can withstand freezing much better than others. The reason for this difference is the composition of different glazes and how well they can withstand what happens when water turns to ice.
For more detailed information about what happens if glaze freezes, how to know if your glaze was frozen, how to reclaim frozen glaze, and more. Read Can Pottery Glaze Be Frozen
How to Store Pottery Clay?
There are two great ways you can store pottery clay. One is to tightly seal the bags of clay to preserve the moisture content of the clay. The other is to store your clay in dry form and rehydrate it.
I go over the different ways to store your clay and the pros and cons of each method in this article, How to Store Pottery Clay. You will better understand how to store your pottery clay properly to find out which one works best for you.
Can Air-Dry Clay Be Frozen?
The answer is yes; This is because air-dry clay has a similar makeup to other types of clay. While it is true that freezing leftover air dry clay may cause it to become brittle, it will not significantly affect the overall structure or quality of the clay. I have frozen Activa’s Air Dry Clay before.
If you need to thaw the air-dry clay, simply leave it out at room temperature for a few hours or overnight. Then, wedge the clay well before working with it again. With a little extra care, your frozen air-dry clay will be just as good as new!