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A couple of weeks ago we had a dumptruck load of clay delivered from the new clay deposit. I guestimated the pile was around 5 tons or so, but as it turns out, our neighbor, who drives for the same kind of truck, told me one of those trucks heaped up with clay like it was, holds something closer to 27 tons (or more?)!! All 27 tons, just for the cost of trucking it to our studio not 15 – 20 miles away. (If you have bought commercially prepared clay, you can probably do the math for what the equivalent would be).
We’ve left the dumped clay uncovered and open to the elements now for two weeks or so, in order for the rain to wash away a little of the residual sand off that was picked up in the dump truck onto the clay’s surface. The mound is already starting to turn from a reddy orange to more of a amethyst-y pink clay color. Yesterday I broke apart a clump to reveal a piece of nice, clean, sandless solid clay. Since the time the of the delivery, three or four batches of clay have been mixed. I have thrown some of it, and the rest I have left to age a little more. ..well, until tomorrow, at least, when I start my throwing cycle again.
Before it was time to mix the second batch, though, Lowell took me out to the new deposit site for the first time to help gather some dryer clay for the mix, since the clay we already had at the studio was still a little too damp to crush to a powder. So off we went..
We drove for about 20 minutes down familiar roads and around familiar turns, when all of the sudden Lowell turned into a little dirt driveway entrance. It was a lot closer than I thought it would be.
Well! I thought the truck load that was delivered was a lot, but I saw where it was excavated from and it took barely a dent out of the mountain that lay before me. Here is a picture of what I first saw. It stands about 20 feet high and is at least 60 feet long . Its mostly pink clay, though there are layers of white, and red, and a layer further in the middle of some dark shale-like material which I assume is the remnants of decomposed vegetation .
I was chipping away dry surface clay and filling up my bucket, as the fog gradually cleared. It was almost like a dream. Off to my right, was another clay mountain .. and yet another further on.
Here is a photo of a hillside that had been excavated with a backhoe. Sorry, I couldn’t get the entire hill in the shot but you can get an idea of the various strata. This layer starts down about 6 feet from the surface and, in this spot, is about 4-6 feet thick.
I’ll try and post more pictures as I can.
Several years ago, when I was *very* new to clay, I attended my very first clay conference. It was really my first introduction to the clay community. I remember it being a wonderful and unforgettable experience. I got to try rakuing for the very first time at the preliminary workshop hosted by Ottawa Valley artist Leta Cormier in her, as I remember, extremely immaculate studio. I also got to take part in my first mug exchange in which I remember receiving a lovely salt-glazed mug by potter Jackie Seaton. My name was even drawn and I won some nice oriental brushes. But that was not all (and this was the pinnacle for me), John Leach, of Muchelney Pottery, was the main presenter. His pots were like nothing I had seen before (I told you I was new to clay) and I was impressed by what a real person he was … very gracious, generous, and down to earth. He left a lasting impression on me.
I recently discovered John’s brother Simon Leach has posted a series of videos on YouTube over the last year or so, showing demos, kilns, visits back to England and to friends’ studios, his philosophies, etc etc. What I like is he presents things face on and shares his victories and disappointments, the good and the bad, taking it all in stride. I don’t think a lot of people are aware how hard it can be to be a potter and that things, quite beyond your control, can go extremely wrong after many, many hours of hard work, and all for naught. Here is the 2nd of 2 of Simon’s videos taken while unloading Seth Cardew‘s kiln: