Three big guys got into a small boat yesterday to travel from the Cape Cod mainland to an island that lies between Cotuit Bay and Nantucket Sound. I was one of those guys, lured to this deep sea (well ... not all that deep) voyage by the chance to dig native clay from the ocean. Pretty cool.
Some months ago, a clay bed seemingly rose from the water off the island and exposed itself to waterborne passersby. In all likelihood, a storm swept the sand overburden off the clay bed and exposed it. But we've got scientists looking into this. A friend, former editor and former softball player Dana Hornig, told me about the clay a couple of weeks ago. We decided we would travel out to the geological phenomenon and get a closer look.
So yesterday we loaded Dana's dinghy into my pickup and drove to Cotuit, meeting Lindsey Counsell at the town landing. Lindsey is another former softball player and is director of the Three Bays Foundation, a conservation group that tries to take care of the shallow water around Cotuit, on the south side of the Cape.
Three big men loaded down the dinghy, but the seas were calm and distance to the island was roughly 150 feet, so we set out. With Dana rowing, it took only a few minutes to cross the gut and haul the dinghy up on the sand.
What we found was a lumpy and sticky expanse of deep black clay, salt water from the rising tide slowly beginning to run through shallow channels and reclaim the clay bed until the next tide. I dug about 25 pounds of the clay and put it in plastic bags. We strolled about that end of the island, with Dana and Lindsey - both longtime Barnstable men - remarking on the way wind and tide changes sand islands. Then we rowed back.
The clay we brought back now is in my studio. As a throwing clay, it is very, very short. Virtually no plasticity on its own. I've wedged in some EPK to try to give it more stretch and a simple little bowl (fourth photo down) seemed to indicate that something like that might make the clay useful. I'll fire a couple of little buttons of it in my next bisque firing. If they survive, I'll put them in the next glaze firing, protecting the shelves by putting the clay button inside a scrap bowl, and see what happens. Most likely, it will melt. But maybe not. We'll see.
Meantime, I'm continuing to make inventory. Right now, brown stoneware plates are all over the studio. I threw 18 today. And more bottle vases are drying. Should be firing next week.
The photos: Dana Hornig at the oars, with the island behind him; looking over the clay bed toward the mainland; a closer shot of the bed; small clay bowl; plates drying.