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El Ojoche- making adobe bricks

Posted by Abby Silver

Elinor Maroney is spending a year volunteering with the Nicaragua program.  We will be posting excerpts from Elinor’s journal.   At the time of this writing, she is in the remote village of El Ojoche helping the potters with their throwing skills.  I have excerpted a section about making new adobe bricks for an addition to the group studio:

The trail from Rosa’s house to the studio is different now and makes a longer detour since the Brigade helped excavate an area for a new studio addition. The area we excavated with pick, heavy metal bar and shovel is now filled with 700 adobe building blocks the women potters have made since we were here a month ago. The women were processing clay by putting it in water, breaking up the largest lumps with their hands and then putting it through a screen into a settling tank. They said it takes about 8 days to dry out to where they can use it.

bricks and clay  slaking clay

In the evening I watched while some young men cobbled together a pipe hook-up with a coke bottle in the middle that pumped water down to the studio. One of them pumped for about an hour while the other two carried the buckets of water to a clay pit nearby.

drawing water

While I ate breakfast I realized the crew was back pumping water to the studio. I had checked it out last night and they were putting water into a pit full of adobe they had shoveled near the studio. This morning they are using that adobe clay mixed with some tall grass chopped into small pieces with a machete and filling the mold over and over. This morning it is two young guys and their dad – family of one of the potters. Before the day was over they had made another 110 adobe bricks.

making bricks

Concepcion’s sons had blisters on their hands and bruises on their shoulders from carrying the buckets full of adobe from the pit to the mold. It was her husband and sons who made the adobe bricks. One of the young boys was in the pit in clay up to his knees. He shoveled the clay up the side of the pit into a 5-gallon bucket. His brother carried the bucket to the mold across the studio and dumped it onto a piece of burlap while the father filled the mold with his hands and smoothed the top with water. The mold was lifted and moved over for the next filling. They worked until the pit was empty.

 

 

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