In Pursuit of Perfect Clay.. part deux

A couple of weeks ago we had a dumptruck load of clay delivered from the new clay deposit.  I guestimated the pile was around 5 tons or so, but as it turns out, our neighbor, who drives for the same kind of truck, told me one of those trucks heaped up with clay like it was, holds something closer to 27 tons (or more?)!!  All 27 tons, just for the cost of trucking it to our studio not 15 – 20 miles away.  (If you have bought commercially prepared clay, you can probably do the math for what the equivalent would be).

We’ve left the dumped clay uncovered and open to the elements now for two weeks or so, in order for the rain to wash away a little of the residual sand off that was picked up in the dump truck onto the clay’s surface. The mound is already starting to turn from a reddy orange to more of a amethyst-y pink clay color.  Yesterday I broke apart a clump  to reveal a piece of nice, clean, sandless solid clay.   Since the time the of the delivery, three or four batches of clay have been mixed.  I have thrown some of it,  and the rest I have left to age a little more.  ..well, until tomorrow, at least, when I start my throwing cycle again.

best digging toolBefore it was time to mix the second batch, though, Lowell took me out to the new deposit site for the first time to help gather some dryer clay for the mix, since the clay we already had at the studio was still a little too damp to crush to a powder.  So off we went..

We drove for about 20 minutes down familiar roads and around familiar turns, when all of the sudden Lowell turned into a little dirt driveway entrance.  It was a lot closer than I thought it would be.

clay mountainWell!  I thought the truck load that was delivered was a lot, but I saw where it was excavated from and it took barely a dent out of the mountain that lay before me.  Here is a picture of what I first saw.  It stands about 20 feet high and is at least 60 feet long .   Its mostly pink clay, though there are layers of white, and red, and a layer further in the middle of some dark shale-like material which I assume is the remnants of decomposed vegetation .

I was chipping away dry surface clay and filling up my bucket, as  the fog gradually cleared.  It was almost like a dream.  Off to my right, was another clay mountain .. and yet another further on.

excavated hillside revealing striationHere is a photo of a hillside that had been excavated with a backhoe.  Sorry,  I couldn’t get the entire hill in the shot but you can get an idea of the various strata.   This layer starts down about 6 feet from the surface and, in this spot, is about 4-6 feet thick.

I’ll try and post more pictures as I can.

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7 Responses to “In Pursuit of Perfect Clay.. part deux”

  • MeaganNo Gravatar Says:

    How exciting! How long will it take you to process all that clay?!

  • annewebbNo Gravatar Says:

    heheh that’s a good question, Meagan.
    Right now clay processing is pretty much relegated to the weekends. A batch of clay mixed will take up about 1/2 to 3/4 of a Rubbermaid Brute (55 gal.?) garbage can, which I guestimate is probably somewhere between 150 to 200 pounds (?). So if a ton of clay is 2000 lbs…

    While the way we process clay now is a lot more efficient than it used to be, we’re hoping to implement a few things in the coming months to help speed up the process and cut back on some of the more time consuming tasks.

  • judi tavillNo Gravatar Says:

    wow. pretty amazing.

  • cynthiaNo Gravatar Says:

    Holy Smokes, Anne! How fascinating to see clay like this vs. a hermetically sealed 25 # bag of commercial clay.

  • annewebbNo Gravatar Says:

    hehehe yeah.
    There used to be a big jug pottery tradition here in this area and this is why. You can also find indian pottery shards (low fire) in different places around the county, particularly along the shore of the bay or around burial mounds.

  • BrianNo Gravatar Says:

    That’s a lot of mugs, I would have to quit my day job to throw all that.
    Maybe one day though.
    I would love to see pictures of all that with maybe a 1600X1200 res.
    The bigger the better. :) Very educational stuff for me. Keep it coming.

    -Brian

  • annewebbNo Gravatar Says:

    Hey brian.. Yep.. Those mountains of clay looked more like a supply of clay to last a potter’s lifetime! (can you imagine having to turn it *all* into mugs? wat a nightmare that would be lol).
    RE the photos, actually even if i posted a high resolution image, the blogging platform resizes the image from what I have to fit the constraints of the page. I’ll try and post a closer view of the clay for you in one of my next posts. Maybe it will be a little easier to make out :) Are you looking for something in particular..?

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