Mixing Your Own Clay vs. Buying Commercial Pre Mixed Clay

Picture: Clean machine ready to mix 1500 lbs. of clay.

While not a technical fault this issue should be addressed. Should I mix my own clay or buy commercial clay? There are inherent potential defects that can arise whether you mix your own clay or buy commercially produce moist clay. Another post will address the positive and negative issues of each method of clay supply.

If you are not selling pottery and are the true amateur, doing it for love, then your time and labor are not an issue. You are free to spend both as you desire. There are many esthetic and personal reasons you might like to mix your own clay one of which is the ability to mix and test small batches of clay and oversee the quality control over the mix. Or you might like being involved in the entire pottery making process. All of these points are valid.

However, if you are selling pottery time and labor are critical parts of the business. You can overlook them but they will still exist and influence your profits. Potters do well if they have some business training if not they either acquire this knowledge or suffer economic losses. Pottery making is labor-intensive with low barriers to entry. Simply stated the cost of equipment, supplies, tools, and raw materials are fairly inexpensive. It is easy to think once I have the equipment and selling pottery things will keep progressing upward. Yes and no in that at a certain point working harder does not produce increased economic gains.

You must work smarter which starts by examining the largest cost of production, your labor. Many small labor-saving steps can result in large increases in net profit. One area of labor-saving is the time and labor spent mixing your own clay body formula vs. buying a pre-mixed clay from a ceramics supplier. A question you must ask yourself is, how much time is spent buying raw clay, storing and mixing the clay compared to how many pots could be made in that same time. The time and labor equation also applies to reprocessing clay. Your labor is the largest cost of production. Essentially you are paying .38 cents a pound for most clay and your labor is certainly worth more than these pennies. There is an old saying that professional potters use, “the more you touch the clay, the more expensive it is to make.” Every time you put a handle on a cup, stack a kiln, package pots for sale, etc. it adds to the cost of production.

For those deciding to use their valuable time making pots and not clay find a ceramics supplier who has the best quality control procedures when mixing clays. Again, the cost of the clay and shipping are insignificant if you are able to use clay that is mixed accurately. Saving a few cents per pound in clay or shipping is not worth making an entire kiln load of defective pots from clay that has not been mixed correctly. The cheap can be very expensive.