A couple of UK blogger-potters - Paul Jessop and Doug Fitch - have posted in the past few days about their use of native clay. I thought I'd mention my limited use of native clay dug from the woods off Tea Lane in Chilmark on my home island of Martha's Vineyard.
A couple of years ago, an island friend called and asked if I wanted some of the clay she has in abundance on her wooded property. I said, "Sure, bring it over." And a week or so later she did, dropping maybe 75 pounds of bagged dirt in my driveway. It was iron yellow, loaded with rocks, roots, branches, leaves and sand. It didn't look promising.
But I broke up the clay, pulled out as many of the roots and rocks as I could, dried it and then slaked it, dried and wedged it.
It turned out to be wonderful, though so short that it was barely throwable. But I learned not to expect commercial clay throwability, adapted what I wanted from it, and it worked pretty well. It was rough on the hands, loaded with small rocks that only showed up when they broke through the surface during a firing. But it was good for simple forms, small vases and teabowls, for example. And it took to my Shinos wonderfully, from thin iron-red glases to fat white feldspathic ones. And the clay body, full of the iron that gave the raws clay that yellow color, reduced to a dark, dark iron red.
It was well worth using and, amazingly, it sold very well. I'll post a few examples; one of the balls of wedged clay and several of finished pots.
On the subject of my lack of blogging ... I've been away from the studio, painting the new gallery space, pulling up the carpet, stripping the stairs, learning to play the guitar ... well, mostly it's not the guitar. I haven't thrown in a few weeks. But I'll be back. Summer's coming ...