In Search of local clay

February 22, 2017


Clay is imagination-inspiring, malleable, healing, abundant, accessible -- and messy.That’s the glory of clay.



There is an abundance of clay in my area, and I have occasionally thought about making work out of local clay, but the process seemed intimidating, so I never actually tried it (or maybe it was just pure laziness!). However, one of my very enthusiastic students turned up to class the other week with a rather large handful of clay that he had found in a beautiful little place in our village so I decided we should go out on a little field trip. It might not be practical for everyone, but if you're willing to do a little bit of manual labour, digging your own clay can be a great way to create an even closer connection to the work you make, and help lessen your carbon footprint in the process.


Firstly you have to find it which can involve clambering down steep banks in streams or rivers. Here is Liam very kindly making me a staff from a branch to help me clamber down the banks - I must admit that I looked rather like Gandalf!




Next we have to process the clay by breaking it up into small pieces and allowing it to dry thoroughly.


Next we have to slake it back down with water until it becomes a suspension of clay and other bits and bobs like leaves and then pass it through several sieves to end up with a fine silt of clay in water.


This solution is then allowed to stand until the clay settles at the bottom and the water is carefully poured away. This is repeated several times until you end up with a sludge on the bottom.


Eventually this sludge dries enough to be put out onto a plaster batt to take even more moisture out so that eventually we shall be able to wedge it and make something with it.



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