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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.
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.