Some ideas on rehydrating and storing your clay...
With the end of the school year I've been busy cleaning and storing supplies. Before I pack the unused clay away I go through the steps below. When I come back in the fall it is ready to go!
This works great for clay that has dried out after using it in class. It's ready to go in a day of two.
Keep your clay in smaller plastic bags within the barrel. In this picture this is the bag the clay came in. I've worked in schools where I've found all the clay dumped straight into the bottom of the clay barrel. After a year the clay dries out a little... a year after that and it's leather hard and an impossible dense mess that you can't get out of the bottom of the barrel. Smaller plastic bags keep the clay moist and easy to get in and out of the barrel.
The craziest thing I ever saw in a clay barrel: someone had wet a towel and laid it over the clay before putting the lid back on and leaving for the summer. When I opened the barrel in the fall the wet towel was BLACK with mold. Gak! I was freaking that I had breathed it in when I opened the lid. I closed it up again and hauled it to the custodian and told him to toss the whole thing and NOT open the lid.
Okay, so to hydrate the clay you'll need bagged clay and a long paintbrush.
Use the handle of the paintbrush to poke multiple holes into the clay.
Make the holes deep in the clay.
Pour water into the holes. Fill to the top of each hole.
Close the bag up again and place it back in the barrel.
With all the clay wrapped up in bags I usually lay some plastic over the top of the bags and close the lid tight. In the fall the clay will have absorbed all the water and be ready for you to use.
Thank you Kathy H. for sharing this tip years ago at one of our elementary art department meetings!