Yesterday it became very apparent that refining clay really isn’t going to be a quick process! The clay that was dug last week was left for days to dry out, hopefully making it easier and quicker to slake, (which basically means soaking the dry clay in water to form a slip). I roll small pieces of dry clay with a rolling pin, pop the rolled clay in an old empty glaze pot filled with water (which I have hundreds of because ‘they’ll come in handy one day!’) and I leave the clay mixture to soak overnight.
Today, I find the clay and water have mixed together nicely and I now have a deliciously creamy slip that is ready to strain. I only have a 60 mesh sieve, so it takes quite a long time to pass through (maybe the slip is too thick), but the result is a gorgeous tan coloured slip that really does look good enough to eat! I’m a sucker for anything that resembles chocolate!!
To add to today’s excitement, I can now start experimenting… I paint the slip on 3 small test pieces, 1 to 4 coats which will be fired at 800oC and 1245oC.. I really enjoy experimenting and recording results so I’m keen to apply codes to all my test pieces and record the results in a lovely new notepad!
I also need to test the ‘qualities’ of the clay, for example what the shrinkage rate is and what the clay is like to build with. To do this I need to have a lump of clay (preferably quickly!), so after hunting around my studio looking for something to use I decide to pour some of the slip onto the back of a plaster mould (I really need to make a plaster batt). The plaster quickly absorbs the water, so that I’m left with a sheet of clay to knead into a ball.
After a bit of work the clay takes shape and I’VE MADE CLAY! Well, not literally, but it feels pretty good to have my first ball of hand dug clay in front of me. It’s so beautifully smooth. I make a shrinkage ruler, a couple of test tiles and a small bowl with it. Hopefully they’ll dry overnight and I can pop them in the kiln tomorrow.
Cross fingers that I get good results… I really hope the clay isn’t a low firing type as I need it to be able to cope with the high temperatures necessary to use natural glazes. We’ll just have to wait and see!