Welcome to the new blog! If all goes to plan this online journal will document my next three years of ceramic exploration and (hopefully) discovery as I embark on the BA Ceramics course at Cardiff Met University. Join me as I voyage into the magical world of clay and attempt to find out more about this material which has been a source of wonder to humans since prehistoric times. The adventure begins…
This summer I was asked to source a sample of clay from the area I live in north west Wales, break it into grape sized lumps and let it dry thoroughly. Today I learnt the next step in the process – how to refine the clay.
I began by pounding the dry clay into a fine powder with a pestle and mortar (improvising with a rolling pin and washing up bowl – it does the job). Next I added the powder to a bowl of water and mixed thoroughly until I had a kind of sloppy mixture. It’s important to do these stages with adequate ventilation since the clay dust easily becomes airborne.
The next step was to pour the mixture into a fine mesh sieve and push the clay through using a paint scraper, letting the liquid clay drop into the bowl below. On a plaster bat (n. a slab on which pottery is formed, dried or fired) I arranged four coils of pre-prepared clay into a rectangle and poured the slurry inside. The coils contain the clay while it’s in this liquid state otherwise it begins to flow off onto the floor (which we found out when some of the coils weren’t pressed down hard enough).
As if by magic the plaster sucked up the moisture and within minutes I could scrape it off dry. Kneading came next to get it of even consistency throughout then I was left with a plastic ball of my very own dug up clay, cleaned of all the grit and pebbles that were merged in.
I’m curious as to what gives my clay its distinctive dark green colour and what caused the film of black oil that formed on top of it in a liquid state. The next step will be to see how the clay fires at different temperatures!