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As you may know, the majority of the clay we use for our functional ware is native clay which we dig locally and process right here at our studio. (I posted previously about our clay mixer)
A few weeks ago we got a lead on a new clay deposit, again, here in Baldwin County. We are quite lucky here in this part of the country because you don’t have to dig very far from the surface to find clay. Typically it can be found along road sides, waterways, and construction sites. The clay we use is not of any use to anyone but potters, it seems. In construction, it is just cast off or covered over and is sometimes referred to it as “chalk”. Of course its not chalk, but its not the kind of clay that’s good for road base, like that bright orange clay one typically sees everywhere down here and what Alabama is known for.
The clay we look for is typically bubble gum pink to white in color. We fire it to cone 10 (approx 2400 degrees Fahrenheit), but I know through experience that it can go higher. It makes for a nice durable stoneware body, that usually fires to an offwhite to toasty light brown in reduction. Clay that is more yellow or orangey red (more iron) seems to have a lot more imperfections causing problems in firing such as popouts, bloating, pinholing etc.
Anyways, I wanted to share a photo of what the clay looks like right out of the ground. Its very pretty and is almost amethyst in color. In fact, its probably about the pinkest clay I’ve seen since coming here. It is remarkably clean and relatively free of debris, and it crumbles so nicely.
Over the weekend, the first batch of it was slaked down and mixed. This batch has about 85% of this ‘new’ clay and the rest is reclaim. Unfortunately its still a little wet to try to throw so I’ve got some drying out on the wedging table. Its very strange to see it next to our usual clay which I always thought had a bit of a pinkish tinge, but this new stuff is positively rose colored.