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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.

best digging toolBefore 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.

clay mountainWell!  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.

excavated hillside revealing striationHere 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.

TweetLowell came in this morning with this little baby mockingbird he found hopping across the road with no parents in sight, no nest in sight, and on his way to getting run over. Pretty obvious he had fallen out of his nest. He is quite a skilled hopper, even for a little guy.

For now, we are spoon feeding him and hopefully we’ll be able to set him free once his flight feathers grow in. As anyone who has found little wild chicks like this can tell you, it can be a challenge to keep baby wild birds alive once you take them in. I hope this little guy, who my daughter has already nicknamed “Tweet”, makes it.

To feed him I am using a tiny baby spoon which is actually just a little narrower than the inside diameter of his beak. A teaspoon can also work well if you bend the edges of the spoon in and kind of over to fit inside the bird’s beak enough to get the food down its throat.

Hooray! Finally, a day without any rain in the forecast so I can do a bisque firing!

River flowersLate yesterday we were out on the boat and took a ride up the river to see if I could catch any photos of the shoreline, shore flowers, and hopefully an egret or heron. There’s so many things out there in nature to look to for inspiration. We did see a blue heron but, unfortunately, he flew off before I got a chance to get close enough to grab a shot. (Did I mention its hard to snap shots with a chatty and fidgity 4 year old in an aluminum boat)

I’ve been curious about the movie function on my digital camera for a while and how it would look once I uploaded it to YouTube. Unbelievably, I’ve had this camera for close to 4 years now and have never used the movie function. Anyways, on our trip up the river, I tried it out. (Maybe now that I have straddled that hurdle, I can start putting together some demo clips. ) Unfortunately, I discovered, the zoom capability (macro) on my camera only works when taking still shots. For now, though, I will just have to work with the technology I have.

I had a bit of fun last night editing it with the MyMuvee AutoProducer software that came with my computer then I uploaded the clip to YouTube so see how much distortion there would be. I am glad to say, I noticed no difference playing the video off my hard drive than online. I had hoped to just upload a straight shot, but the editing software I was using (that I’m not all that familiar with yet) kind of forced me to use a “style”, so I chose “classic sepia”. Its not all that bad though because the sepia and the addition of a bit of music seem to distract from the roughness of the filming.

Knowlty Creek is not 2 miles from the studio. Its part of the tributary system that feeds Weeks Bay, Mobile Bay and eventually the Gulf of Mexico. Its part of the Weeks Bay Watershed. It is also part of one of the two remaining water postal deliver routes in the U.S..

Pink AzaleasI’ve been down here on the Gulf Coast now for about 8 years now. While I don’t care for the oppressive humidity in summer or hurricanes, I do like the fact that when I get the Feb-March gardening jitters and break out the seed catalogs, I know spring really is right around the corner. The unfortunate thing is it makes it very hard to be in the studio because you just know that if you don’t get out there asap, the weeds will take over and you never seem to catch up.

Our area is considered ‘sub-tropical’ which means we can grow certain varieties of citrus that will tolerate mild winter freezes including Meyers lemons and satsumas, as well as other plants too that could only be grown as houseplants or annuals further north. Here are just a few examples of what we have growing: a spineless yucca, a philodendron, and a loquat.

Spineless Yucca

Philodendron

Loquat tree



Yesterday I was just getting ready to cut and slam wedge some native clay that had been sitting on the wedging table to dry out, as I often do to pick out the odd little rock or left over hard chunks of debris. Found this little fellow “hunkered down”, as they would say here in the South. He had chewed and burrowed his way about an inch into the clay.

Earlier in spring and summer, we are pestered by some much smaller black beetles, resembling this one, actually, only about 1 to 2 millimeters in length. They come out once the sun goes down and make their way into the studio, seeking out leather-hard pots and damp clay. Groups of them will actually burrow right through the sides of pots. Sometimes I think they make a point to go for those pots you have spent the most time on trimming or carving a design into …pure coincidence, of course.

Since we don’t have screens on the windows and the studio is kind of open, we usually try and wrap or cover pots with dry cleaner’s plastic. We have to also make sure we turn the lights to the studio off when we leave, since they don’t seem to nibble in the dark.

Once again this year our self-representing artist collective of local and regional working artists, The Coastal Artisans, will be holding our Annual Christmas Art Show and Sale on the first Saturday of December at the Mobile Botanical Gardens.

This will be our second year and will once again be held in conjunction with the Garden’s Master Gardeners Christmas greenery and Poinsettia Sale.

To learn more about this event and our artists, please visit our website:
http://thecoastalartisans.blogspot.com

My name is Anne Webb and I'm a studio potter living and working just outside of Magnolia Springs, on Alabama's beautiful Gulf Coast. Please leave comments!
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