Wild Clay & Natural Glazes Gallery

Rachel Fooks Ceramics – Hand dug clay being passed through a sieve.

My love for digging clay and making pots began as a young child. I have beautiful memories of digging soft pliable red clay out of a friends back garden to make little pinch pots. We’d leave them to dry in the baking summer sun and later use them for making rose petal perfume. It’s this innocent sense of play, magic and wonder that ignited my interest in working with clay. 

The landscape around me is rich in clay and ancient history. When walking in the fields and common land surrounding the village of Corfe Castle where I grew up and live today, it’s easy to imagine our bronze age ancestors in their thatch and cob roundhouses, the air filled with wood smoke and communities farming, preserving and making pottery. Gathering and processing raw materials from the earth to make pottery was fundamental to their survival, clay being a necessary and integral part of our ancient culture. 

Partly a romanticised vision of the past and partly in response to the damage and high carbon footprint caused by the quarrying, storage and transportation of ceramic materials, I felt an overwhelming urge to form a deeper connection to the landscape, the past and my inner child.

The Clay

The clay I collect from around Corfe Castle is a ‘Wealdon Clay’. It has a high iron content which creates a varied palette ranging from a beautiful sunshine orange to a deep burgundy red. The clay fires at a low temperature and was used historically for making functional ware such as storage jars to the present where it’s used for making hand made bricks. A little further afield, my pottery studio in Furzebrook is surrounded by ‘Ball Clay’ which is best known for being Josiah Wedgewood’s ‘secret ingredient’. This high firing ball clay is an extremely rare rock, only found at a handful of locations around the world and is valued as a base material in the manufacture of ceramics with numerous uses from floor tiles to fertiliser! Today, the local ceramics industry goes mostly unnoticed and we have all but forgotten our clay heritage.

The Journey

When I began this journey I had absolutely no idea what form my new work would take which was terrifying but incredibly exciting! I’ve kept a diary of thoughts, details of research and experiments which I’ve presented in my blog.