CBMS Choice-Based Art Studio

CBMS Choice-Based Art Studio
CBMS Choice-Based Art Studio

Thursday, November 1, 2012

An Eye for Local Clay

Is it clay or is it just mud?
A student delivered a small baggie of natural local clay to the art room the other day. He dug it up at the reservoir. Frankly, it looked like a little pile of mud – or worse. But “S” claimed it was clay, so I poured it onto a stack of paper towels and let it dry a little. When “S's” class appeared later that day, we talked briefly about where this clay was found, and then “S” set out to form it into something. We wanted to try a test firing. The clay was greenish brown. It had a few sticks in it. “S” made a small pinch pot and we left it to dry.

Pinch pot fired inside a larger pot in case the new clay melts in the kiln
 The next day, we checked the pot and it was holding together well. I explained to the class that we don't know what temperature this clay can be fired to – it could melt if it is fired at too high a temperature. The safe way to fire “S's” little pot would be to place it inside another pot made from our regular low-fire clay. That way, if it melts, the clay we know will protect the kiln shelf.

Finished pinch pot by "S" - Grade 5, made from clay from the beach at the Waterbury Reservoir
 Students predicted that the brownish-green clay would fire red, because I let slip earlier that a similar experiment with “playground clay” in Colorado started out mud-color and fired up red.
They were right! The little pot fired to a lovely terra cotta red.
There is something magical about this process. I hope more students dig up and bring in clay from our area. It will be interesting to see if there is variety in samples from different locations.