Wild Clay Process

dig your own clay

I make my work using wild clay which I dig near my home in Sussex, in the woods where I teach my courses. The clay here is Weald Clay, an iron rich earthenware. This area was known for its medieval potteries and also brick and tile making (still taking place in some areas today)

I dig small amounts of this woodland clay at a time, with minimal impact on the land. I always make an offering before digging: a gesture of reciprocity.

I use 100% wild clay (no commercial clay added) because of the importance of connecting to place. And because of the rich texture wild clay has when fired. It gives a natural vibrancy, and I leave some surface marks on my pieces from the making process, which connects you to the hand making involved.

Each piece unique, each connected directly to the land. Echoes of ancient processes.

What does it mean to have an intimate connection to the plants, seasons and land where we find ourselves? There is an embodied process in harvesting and using foraged materials. A rhythm and relationship inherent in the act of making. It’s a counterpoint to the pull of our increasingly digitalised and disconnected lifestyles.

wild clay sussex
Clay dug from the Sussex woods.
clay tools
Bone & wood tools. Pieces all hand-built in the studio, no potters wheel, evidence of the hand-building process left visible on the surface of each piece.
Firings are all done out in the woods. Lighting the fire using ancient techniques of flint and steel: the small spark caught on wild clematis bark. Fragile ember coaxed into a larger blaze, fed with local oak wood.
wild pottery course sussex
Open firing: a short, fast firing with great thermal shock: the original, ancient way. Alchemy visible as the clay transmutes into ceramic.
clamp kiln firing sussex
Clamp kiln firing: earth is piled on top of the fire to insulate the firing, watching over it as it burns for a day and a night.
Textures of wild clay, bonfire-fired, clamp kiln-fired. Smoke clouds imprinted on the pot surface from the fire; every pot is unpredictable, every firing a leap of faith.

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Know the ways of the ones who take care of you. Introduce yourself. Be accountable as the one who comes asking for life. Ask permission before taking. Abide by the answer. Give thanks for what you have been given. Give a gift, in reciprocity, for what you have taken.

Quote from ‘Braiding Sweetgrass’ by Robin Wall-Kilmmerer

Read about how I forage for plant fibres and also how I forage for bark

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