Saturday, June 26, 2010

New Clay Experiments

I returned to the Tully Mudslide Friday after work. Back in April, 1993, there was a mudslide that covered a long stretch of road. The land was supersaturated with water after a snow blizzard and heavy rains that spring. Along the base of a mountain, the soil gave way and several homes were destroyed. There was 15 feet of clay and silty soil over the road. The dotted line shows where the underlying road is.  Between the red arrows are where the springs are.

I drove by and grabbed a handfull of what looked like pretty pure red clay many months ago. I did some initial tests with it, made a coil that wrapped around my finger and didn't crack, etc. I mixed it with my cone 10 stoneware in various percentages looking to lower my clay body by a couple/few cones, hoping to come up with a suitable clay body for the cooler back of my kiln. I have gotten a full cone 9 in the flues. I also knew that the "impurities" in it would give my clay some more character.

I stopped and talked to a few people, hoping to find the access to the posted land where I saw the tall "bank" of what looked like where the clay was. I stopped at this one house, and was greeted by some friendly dogs and Mike. We were joined by his brother Erik and they even grabbed a shovel and bucket for me (I had planned on returning later if I had gotten permission to dig). They were very generous with their time and met me down the road at the spot with their 4-wheeler and guided me to the sweet spot. We found a drumlin area that had mixed amounts of vegitation, and I liked the looks of this one barren, reddish clay looking spot that contained a "slippery when wet" clay. I filled the bucket with very pure looking clay.  It looks like it will take a minimal amount of preperation time to create test clay. I have a tray full of pieces drying so I can pulverize it and screen it.

 I will then mix it in various percentages with my clay and put it in my end of June firing.   I hope to end up with a clay body that matures in the cone 8-9 range that will be suitable for sculptures and pottery for the back of my kiln and in the secret chamber in the base of the chimney. I am also making some slips to try.  I have a 50/50 mix using both mixed hardwood ash and also pure poplar ash for a different color. Then there is a 40/60 and a 60/40 mix for starters.  Also in Jack Troy's book, Wood-Fired Stoneware and Porcelain, there's a great looking recipe "Jane Herold's glazes for once-firing". I'm trying #2, 

75 local red clay
15 ash
10 whiting
4 bentonite

Says it will make a dark celadon, amber over a white slip. There's a possible brine content in this clay, so it will be interesting to see the results. I'll keep you posted, or would that be blogged?  ;-)

Thanks again Mike and Erik Young! 

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