For the last month I’ve been reading geology books, trawling through mineral extraction reports and marking places to look for resources on my much loved Ordinance Survey Map which now lives happily on the wall of my studio. I LOVE MAPS! Maps offer so many exciting adventures, secret footpaths and new places to explore. BUT today I realise that I’ve done enough research, I know where to find the best clay and now I actually need to go and get some. Immediately, I find myself checking emails (again), then Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp and Messanger… I’m procrastinating… It turns out that I’m actually afraid to go and start digging! Why? I think because it will turn a crazy idea into something real – once I have some clay, I’ll have to do something amazing with it.
Instead of going to one of the places that I’ve carefully marked on my map, I text my friend who lives a mile down the road as I’m sure she has ball clay in her back garden. She’s home and happy for me to dig, so I chuck my spade and bucket in the back of my car and head off to her house – not at all the ground breaking occasion I imagined it was going to be (no pun intended!!).
It felt very strange to be turning up at someone’s house to dig for clay, typically I’m used to digging for potatoes or planting trees! I’m directed away from the house (!) but unfortunately there’s no sign saying ‘dig clay here’, so I have absolutely no idea where to start. After a while of searching for the ‘right’ place, I notice some grey clay on the surface of a ditch located close to the road. I jump in, shove my spade in the ground and start to dig.
After digging a spits depth I come across top soil. As a keen gardner and watcher of archaeology programmes I know that this is definitely the wrong way round! How can there be top soil under the clay? I keep digging and quickly come to more clay (grey and orange) under the top soil. Brilliant! With nobody there to share my excitement (except for a herd of dear who’ve been watching me closely since I arrived), I do a little ‘yes’ in my head, smile to myself and start filling my bucket which I then take to the car. This sounds much easier than it actually was – clay is very heavy, the car was quite a long way away and it’s a very, very hot day – my friend is in shorts and t-shirt whilst I’m wearing jeans, a woolly dress, long sleeved top and fur lined DM’s!
Lesson number 1. Always make sure that I park close to where I’m digging, or have someone strong to help me carry the clay (or both)!
Lesson number 2. Always check the weather forecast and dress accordingly.
Still confused as to why there was clay on top of the topsoil I ask my friend. She tells me that it’s the residue from when the road is washed by the clay extraction company who are located opposite her house. Obviously! As I turn to look at the road I see a huge truck carrying tonnes of clay and I compare it to my small bucket full. I’m starting to feel worried again. How am I going to dig and transport the large amounts of clay that I’m going to need? I’m starting to think this whole thing is a bad idea!
Hot, sweaty and stinking I return to the studio to start refining the clay but I notice the time and realise I’m going to be late collecting my daughter from school. Argh!!! That’ll have to wait until tomorrow!