Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Compost Crocks

I first saw what was referred to as a "compost jar" in California over five years ago. I was mesmerized. I won't say I was impressed with the design or shape, but the idea of a ceramic version of the increasingly popular metal can that was popping up on the market was appealing. If you are not familiar with the form, they are for storing table scraps before transporting said tables scraps to the compost pile. So, not a composter, but a pleasant way to hold compost on the countertop, rather than hiding a plastic bucket under the sink (which I was once guilty of)!

The design I have for the compost crocks has come a long way since I started dabbling with them in 2010 and 2011. I really enjoy the ovoid curve they have taken on now and the wood-fired, often toasty, surface they have. Firing them in the wood kiln without any glaze on the exterior is also exciting because I never do know what they are going to look like when they come out. Sometimes they are heavily salted and really shiny, and sometimes they are lightly salted and buff. The white slip-trailed decoration comes from various patterns of historic pottery decoration and is a subtle pattern to grace the shoulder of the vessel. I am pleased to have them listed on my Etsy shop and am always excited when they find good homes!

Decorated compost crock
I have made a few decorated compost crocks with a white, porcelain slip ground and cobalt blue decorations, and intend to get a few more in the works for the coming year. 
Carbon filter under the lid

Holes for ventilation in the lid

It took me a while when I was developing them to figure out just how to get that carbon filter fitted into the lid and still be removable. The ventilated lid helps air out the compost so it does not become a liquid-ey mess, and helps keep the smell down. All compost vessels need to be emptied at least weekly. The lid and carbon filter also keeps the fruit fly population down, however, fruit flies are fairly inevitable. I recommend trying diatomaceous earth (or D-E) sprinkled in your compost crock, it keeps fruit flies from producing quite as heavily and breaks down their little pesky bodies (gross, but rewarding in the end!).
Sometimes they get a nice splash of ash and salt on one side in the wood kiln
Stoneware is a fascinating material. In historic kitchens, it was prized for its ability to hold liquids because of the vitrified state of the body, which made storing salted materials or pickled materials much easier than in earthenware. It was also prized because it was odorless, or did not absorb the contents of the vessel like earthenware was apt to do, and had a less likely chance of rancidity. This concept plays into why I make ceramic compost crocks. Unlike metal and plastic, ceramic is less likely to absorb odors, and with a glazed interior, are much easier to clean.

Breakage is sometimes a concern, but I make the rims and feet fairly thick. I'm fairly rough on my pots, and stoneware is a pretty sturdy material. Dropping it on the ground (not concrete) has been known to happen and still survive! Although, all ceramics have to be cared for in one way or another.
I'm happy to have developed a functional form that is pleasing to the eye and appealing for use in a kitchen setting. It also connects to our farm and the sustainable practices we support, such as composting. Spring is coming, consider composting!

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