For being such an earthy art field, ceramics is so hard on the planet. From the mining of raw materials, to hauling heavy clay all over the world to using natural resources to fire our work, it’s hard to care for the earth and be a clay artist all at the same time.
Someday I hope to have a studio powered entirely by solar or wind but that’s just not an option for us right now, so instead, I try to pay attention to all the little things I can do to reduce my clay footprint on the planet.
I realize that I’m lucky to live in California and in particular a region of California that has very accessible recycling options. We can recycle nearly everything, plus we compost nearly all of our kitchen waste, to the point where we have very little actual land fill worthy garbage. This is a pretty amazing thing that I’m reminded of every time I travel somewhere else.
That said, I realized that one of the biggest contributors to our garbage was fired ceramics from my studio. It was work that didn’t work out, abandoned student projects, explosions from the kiln or otherwise unwanted fired work. I discovered that after asking around at our local recycling center (aka: the dump) that ceramics can be sorted into the construction debris piles for toilets, tile, concrete, brick etc… They grind it all up into small bits and use it as an aggregate to help build roads, burms and other construction projects. So now my favorite thing to do at the dump is chuck all these unwanted pieces into the pile and watch them explode into a million pieces. Plus it adds a lot more color to the pile!
Since we do have to pay to deposit this material, I have a large garbage can in my studio (on wheels) that I collect all the fired ware in and when I have enough it gets hauled to the dump with anything else that we may need to recycle. Since I’ve discovered this one item to recycle, I have almost zero studio garbage. It’s not a total solution to the impact that a ceramics studio can have on the environment, but every little bit helps.