I carried a few small bags of clay back with me from TX in late October, beginning a new relationship between me and the Department of Homeland security. Imagine a carry on bag with large plastic zip lock bags filled with clay, combined with a bunch of random wires (laptop plug, phone charger, headphones, etc.). You get the picture.
Anyway, the clay and I made it home and I began the long and laborious process of cleaning and processing the clay into something potentially usable. Basically you put the clay in large buckets and soak it in water for a couple of days, then squish / mix it into a thick, paste, complete with any rocks, sticks, etc. that came out of the ground with it, then you start pushing it through increasingly smaller and smaller screens until you have all of the physical impurities out of it. Then you have to dry it back out to the consistency you want it in to work with. In this case I want to test the clay to see if it is happiest being wheel thrown, slip cast, hand build, etc. So first, while it is in liquid form, I cast some of it in a plaster mold. Actually I cast several pieces in the mold so that I can then test the cast version of the clay at different temperatures to see how hot it likes to be fired. Then I continued drying the rest out until it was more solid. Solid enough to wedge, (which is like kneading bread dough) to get any air bubbles out of it and make the lump of clay into a consistent, unified body. Then I threw some pots with it to see how it felt to throw and to test the thrown pots at different temperatures. The pictures below are the process of what I have labeled Clay #1, which is the red clay from the tree roots. This clay didn’t love being thrown or cast, but it did love being fired hot, very hot. At cone 10 (between 2300-2400 degrees fahrenheit) it is a very beautiful, rich dark red / purple. Unfortunately, I have very little of this clay. But it will work its way into the final project somehow, for sure.