Reclaim and Reuse

Pugmill brings new life to old clay for HPA art department

Trash cans in the corner of the ceramics room inside of Gerry Clark Art Center suddenly contain new life for eager Ka Makani sculptors thanks to a new addition — a pugmill.

So what is exactly is a pugmill? It’s a machine that is coveted by ceramics classrooms for its ability to reduce waste and eliminate the hard work of reworking scraps into useable clay. Clay that has dried out or become too stiff to work with can be run through the pugmill and its large blades to be made useable once again.

“When I was in college, there was a pug mill. I was trained in how to use it and it was pure magic to me!” said HPA ceramics instructor Mary Todd. “After I came on last year, the studio itself blew me away, prior teachers had done an incredible job at building it up. In the back of my mind, the pugmill would be an advantageous investment for the program.”


Todd estimates after just one year the machine will have paid for itself.

“Reclaiming dry, used clay is possible by hand, it’s just an arduous and time-consuming process,” Todd added. “Being able to efficiently reclaim clay using the pug mill allows for a more self-sufficient studio. We don’t need to buy more clay at the moment, pay for the tremendously high shipping costs, and can bring less waste to the island like plastic, tape, shipping, fuel costs, etc.”

Todd said she can barely keep up with the supply and demand, but it’s a good problem to have. On top of that, it has also helped change the mindset for students who want to take risks. They no longer have to worry about wasting clay.

“The students think it’s awesome!” Todd said. “It seems to also take away some of the apprehension typically associated with working on a project. They’re not afraid to take safe, creative risks on their projects because the clay being used can be repurposed and reused.”