Photo: Wheel barrow of lumps of clay

Using a wild clay for 54 years

Douglas says;

“I have been asked to lay on a wild clay class. Well, I have been using a wild clay for 54 years here in Somerset and spent 3 months in Chiapas, Mexico hunting them out some years ago. I have used such clays in several other parts of the world as well and not just for the making of pots but also for making glazes.
Wild clay has in the last few years become a topic of great interest to potters and other clay workers. People are exploring the working and decorative possibilities of clay deposits in their areas of the country. These ‘wild’ clays have seemingly infinite variations of colours and qualities in combinations beyond what any of us could come up with if we start with the industrial products sold by pottery suppliers and attempt to mix them aiming to put life into the basic material of our craft. Nature and the millions of years that have gone into the forming of ‘wild’ clays to provided us with a wonderful starting point in creating clay works in our hands that result in communicating to the user a greater expression of human touch and richness of natural materials.

I started using ‘wild’ clay in 1968 when I just wanted to connect to the clay that had been used by Somerset potters for centuries before industrialization had warped our understanding of this incredible material. My amazement as to what ‘wild clays are has only increased over the intervening years, especially as I have traveled and worked as a potter around the world finding and working with, what can only be a few, of those clays. The subject is enormous and I would have to live a very long time to be able to say I really fully understand it. However, I have a lot of experience to pass on so as to get others well started on this journey.”

Geology of, finding, digging, identifying, testing and processing of these clays will be covered as will the making and and firing of small test kilns for quick result will be experienced. How to modify wild clay for use (if needed) is a subject that will also be discussed and carried out.
If participants bring some of their own found clay, so much the better.


Fees

The fee for the 2 day course, including teas and coffees is £240. 10am till 4pm
Dates as yet TBA. Registering your interest would be a good idea as these courses fill up very quickly and a waiting list already exists.


Thoughts on Wild Clay: from George Sutton the ‘accidental apprentice’ here at the pottery in Queen Camel
“It is difficult to effectively describe on paper the differences between commercial clays and their ‘wild’ counterparts. The truth is, they are worlds apart – not simply through how they handle and throw but perhaps more importantly through the romance and pleasure one can gain through the finding, processing, and use of your own clay. To use a cooking metaphor, it is the difference between the use of “perfectly” shaped supermarket bought vegetables and ones lovingly grown in your own garden. While they on the surface can make the same meal, the time and love which has gone into the home grown vegetable will shine. This is the same with clays, while they might on first glance make the same pot, the subtle qualities and variations shine through. The time which has gone into their preparation not only gives you a greater appreciation for their existence, but it also gives you an enhanced connection to your material. These clays are alive, and they feel this way in their use. “

George Sutton