Thursday, January 12, 2012

Going to sea for clay






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.

11 comments:

Michael Kline said...

very cool! I wanna go there in MArch!

Hannah said...

It'll be salty salty won't it. Interesting stuff.
I wanna go there in March too!

Tracey Broome said...

Lets all go in March! I have said it before, you hav e the very best life up there!

Hollis Engley said...

Everyone is welcome. But we're going to need a bigger boat.

cookingwithgas said...

there is no way I am not coming if you are all going! I want to come too- bring a life vest!
Funny today as I was working I was wondering how you get your clay so it comes from the sea...figures...I bet you have mermaids who help you dig it.
Geez...

cookingwithgas said...

there is no way I am not coming if you are all going! I want to come too- bring a life vest!
Funny today as I was working I was wondering how you get your clay so it comes from the sea...figures...I bet you have mermaids who help you dig it.
Geez...

cookingwithgas said...

I'm seem to have a double....

Kings Creek Pottery said...

Looks like it was a beautiful day for a clay dig!

cindy shake said...

Heck with waiting until MARCH! I want to be there now and I wouldn't even need a boat, I'd SWIM -SAVE ME from all this snow up here in Alaska!! Love seeing the colors in the clear water. ooo, cool name idea Meredith... "Mermaid Clay!"

Otto Wenger said...

My Son brought back a bucket of very similar stuff from the shores of Haystack a couple of years ago. It also was short and a very dark grey. I fired it to cone 6 and it didn't melt but was left with a glossy sheen. At bisque temp it turned terracotta in color and at cone 6 a dark red brown. It will be interesting to see what color yours ends up. It is a lot of fun to play with this local stuff.

Marcus said...

"we're going to need a bigger boat"... I mean, tell me that you did that on purpose, because if you didn't...

This is the kind of story and clay that I love and why I was so disappointed to have broken my Gay Head clay mug. If this new stuff works out, put me down for a tea bowl of it.