Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I haven't disappeared ... some thoughts on native clay






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 ...

19 comments:

Tracey Broome said...

Nice to see you back and with beautiful pots to look at as well! I'll be gone for a few days myself so I'll check in with everyone when I get back.

mudheartpottery said...

Beautiful pots - thought the clay would be more iron red to give you such good results with the shinos. I love using my local clay but it has a limited market where I am so have to curb my urges - we have a population of 3,000 and we are really really isolated so I will never be able to feed myself with my pottery sales.

Dan Finnegan said...

I was starting to wonder...

Hollis Engley said...

Yeah, Dan, I was starting to wonder, too. Gotta make pots.

janet said...

I love those pots - they ooze the earth - I know that may sound corny but I've held them and know how stunning they are. Rich and solid and textured yet full of the light of the island's summer sun. Make more.

Hollis Engley said...

Thanks, Tracey, Lyn and Janet. I should make more. Gotta harvest more clay, though. And it's all that way across the water. I'd love to find that kind of clay here on the Cape.

ang said...

i love em!! wow that iron coming through is just amazing, very oriental!! Glad to hear you're good, your pots always make me smile.. nice one mr hollis..

rwhendrix said...

Great pots. I work with local clay too and find it a challenge to shape as well. Good to see other exploring it.

gz said...

Try the local clay as a slip or glaze ingredient

ladyofclay said...

HI Hollis, isn't it nice to be missed ? !
You were.
I posted the "soup recipe exchange" on my blog earlier this month, if you're interested.

Hollis Engley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hollis Engley said...

Thanks, Colleen. I knew my blogging friends would wonder. I'll check out the recipe. Has spring come to Saskatchewan yet?

Craig said...

Sweet pots. Glad your back doin,,

ladyofclay said...

Spring in SK. (this year )is quite schizophrenic. Last week we had
22c - 23c (74f) it's cooled off this week-end This am we woke to a slight skiff of snow. I'm trying not to get too excited about it, because we need to be seeding by May 1st but I know we can use the moisture as well.

doug Fitch said...

They are indeed stunning and you are indeed missed :)

Hollis Engley said...

Thanks, Doug. I'll be back, perhaps as soon as tomorrow. We got the floor put down in the new gallery space a couple of days ago. I was up there this morning putting quarter-round molding around the floor. We're very close to having that done. But I have to get back on the wheel and back on the blog.

Dave said...

Hello,
Very nice work.
I use clay straight from the pit too. It is much more difficult to use but makes very interesting work.
Dave

Hollis Engley said...

Thanks, Dave. I like to look of your work.

Savage Man said...

When I process found clay I use a mosquito net stretched over a frame like a canvas for painting. Then once I have slaked the clay down to a slip I pour it into another container through the mesh (using a squeegee to push it through the mesh). This will get rocks sticks and particles out of your clay. Taking some of the larger particles out will help with shortness.