Thursday, February 19, 2009

Earth from the bottom of the Earth


The dark gray "cake batter" you see here is in fact mud from 8,000 feet below the surface of the ocean, just off Antarctica. It's freshly sieved - removing a bit of sand from it - in preparation for making a slip or glaze to test in this upcoming firing.
We are blessed here at this end of Cape Cod with scientists who travel the planet and sometimes bring back exotic things from faraway places. In this case, a friend of my scientist friend Betsy Gladfelter gave her about ten pounds of this mud and she passed it on to me. Joan Lederman, a potter in Woods Hole (thesoftearth.com), has made a career of glazing pots with undersea sediment brought back by scientist friends. Her work is pretty amazing, with the best muds looking very much like dendritic wood ash glazes.
I have no idea at this point what this stuff will do when fired to cone 10 (2350 F). I do know that by drying it to the point of being able to work it, I've been able to make small balls and a couple of crude beads that fire safely to bisque temperatures of cone 07 (almost 1800 F). The black or deep gray mud turns an iron-ish red/tan. The higher glazing temperatures in all likelihood will melt it, but we'll see how that comes out. It could be wonderful, or it could be terrible. We'll see in a few days.

8 comments:

tsbroome said...

This is just the coolest thing! I can't wait to hear the outcome. Not that I will ever go digging for clay in Antarctica. I have it in my own backyard and I'm not digging it!

cindy shake said...

How cool is that!!! It will be wonderful to see how it turns out. It reminds me of clay we get here in Cook Inlet "Native Clay" that starts out a dark, slate gray and low fires to a rich, reddish brown....hmmm you have inspired me to go down to the Inlet -well as soon as those mega-ton ice chunks leave (maybe in June??)!

Hollis Engley said...

Well, we'll see what it does. I've fired native clay from Martha's Vineyard, just across the water from where we live, and it was a natural cone 10 stoneware. Tracey, I'd go out in the back yard and dig. And I'd love to try that Cook Inlet stuff.

paul jessop said...

WOW ! that is old old stuff, it makes you feel like it should be full of all sorts of minerals and wonderfull things. if it's usable that would inspire a whole new series of pots. but I guess this is the only batch you will ever get your hands on.

Hollis Engley said...

Hi, Paul. Well, this may be a foot in the door to get more stuff like this. But as to this particular mud, yes, it might be the only batch I see. Unless I dig my own. Unlikely, I guess.

mengley said...

Cool stuff pops -- can't wait to see what it looks like. Those Gay Head clay pots are some of my favorites from the last few years.

Hollis Engley said...

This should be quite a bit different from the Vineyard stuff, Marco. Much finer grain, for one thing. We'll see ...

Hannah said...

That's exciitng, maybe I should send you some of the stuff I "acquired" out of the Solway here, I made a slip with it for a special commission for some one last year, for a geo-scientist person's wedding.