I love making ceramic beads. And while most ceramic artists will tell you that glazes are their favorite obsession, and though I like them too, I like clay just about as much. I am a clay hoarder collector. While on road trips, anytime I happen to be near a clay supplier, I am sure to stop in and check out the clay they have in stock, and will usually leave with 3 or 4 bags.
|Fired clay body samples; from clay obtained in the southeast US. (Stone Mountain Clay).|
“Clay is a natural product dug from the earth, which has decomposed from rock within the earth’s crust for millions of years. Decomposition occurs when water erodes the rock, breaks it down, and deposits them. It is important to note that a clay body is not the same thing as clay. Clay bodies are clay mixed with additives that give the clay different properties when worked and fired; thus pottery is not made from raw clay but a mixture of clay and other materials.”
~ Encyclopedia.com / Pottery.
Ingredients are added to raw clay to stabilize workability and firing properties. This changes the clay from simple raw “clay” to a “clay body”:
“The term ‘clay body’ will be used to indicate a mixture of clay like materials with other inclusions for a specific ceramic technique. In other words, a ‘clay body’ may have several different kinds of clay, fluxes, silica, grog, and other ingredients for color,plasticity, warping, cracking, shrinkage, porosity, firing temperature,texture and etc. A single clay from the natural world will seldom have all of the characteristics which the potter will need for a particular ceramic technique. The principles of forming a body are the same regardless of whether it is earthenware, stoneware, or porcelain.
~ Basic Notes on Clays and Clay Bodies by Robert Fromme.
There are 2 major groupings of raw clay from which clay bodies are created:
|The cart where I keep my most-used clay bodies in the main studio.|
There are 3 types of clay bodies used by most ceramic artists. They are typically commercially mixed. Each of these have distinct characteristics and firing routines:
It is also possible to gather your own raw clay and mix your own clay bodies. Raw clay comes from a variety of places, but can be readily found near springs, creeks or riverbeds. As a young child living in rural Georgia in the early 60s, I often played in and around mud puddles along the gullies and edges of the Georgia Red dirt roads. That dirt was very rich in clay. Making mud pies and even crude little pinch pots was possible, which provided endless hours of outdoor fun in the hot humid summers.
|A few of my clay bodies, ready for use at the bench.|
|Just a few of my clay body samples.|
|Spiral Fossil Discs in a variety of clay bodies and glazes.|
|Bead strands with beads in a variety of clay bodies and glazes.|