The Sculptor's Muse - Clay is not created Equal

June 27, 2011

First, clay is not dirt.  A common misconception.  Clay is decomposed igneous rock, like granite, and dirt is, well, dirt, and all kinds of decomposing organic material thrown in for fun.  On the molecular level, clay molecules are shaped like discs or plates while dirt is a combination of anything.  This explains why when you garden without gloves (like I do) the dirt gets stuck under your fingernails and is a pain to get out.  Clay, however, dries and slides right out.  I never have any problems with clay and fingernails.

   Now, in the realm of clay bodies, there are many different kinds, and a sculptor or potter will choose the clay that best suits them and their needs.  For me, I like a speckled brown stoneware for small sculptures, a reddish brown stoneware with a fine grog for large sculptures and I've been experimenting with a light B mix ( a favorite with potters) for large peices.  However, the B mix, though it fires great, has no elasticity, feeling very similar to porcelain.  I'm still trying to decide if the trade off is worth it to me.  Robert uses a grey raku clay heavily grogged for most of his pottery.  So with at least four different kinds of clay in our shared studio, we keep clay boxes to hold all the dried bits of clay, and an interesting array of 5 gallon buckets for slipping the dry clay down so we can reconstitute it as needed. 

  So admist all the colors of clay, in various stages of being worked, dried and fired - it makes me muse on the various strengths and weaknesses of each clay body - and I wonder which I would be...

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