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thePatientPotter is a blog that is designed to encourage and inspire fellow Potters and Entrepreneurs as it takes them through the challenges and triumphs of a 'potter on a mission'.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Evaluating 2007: part 4

In order to process my hand-dug clay efficiently, I will need $12,250 to drop out of the sky and into my grateful little hands. Until that time though, I think I will start saving up for the one piece of equipment I think is most important, the Ball Mill. I believe the Ball Mill will make my clay more plastic and easier to work with. This would be a great starting point for me. I’m thinking I might be able to use it to mix my clay as well, which will also improve the plasticity. I’m excited about that because my red clay, at times, can be quite stiff to work with and better clay makes for better product.

Bailey Pottery has the best price at $702 for the unit, $95 per each 1 gallon jar (need 2), and $9.79 per lb of pebbles (need 16lbs). Total $1048. plus shipping.


Up to this point, inefficient methods of processing my clay have been reasons I was tempted to purchase outside clay for my studio. What I would like to do now is analyze the aesthetic reasons why I'm tempted and then figure out how I can overcome them.

The first one is color. My hand-dug clay is RED. Oklahoma Red to be exact. Red clay means lots and lots of iron. Lots of iron in clay overpowers whatever color glaze you apply to your pots. Most colors applied to my red clay come out brown. So far I have found only 2 glazes that look good on my red clay; midnight blue and a satiny, metallic brown. To get pretty colors you need a light colored clay. The clay I purchase is a nice light tan, color works well on it and I can get whatever look I want. What potter doesn’t like to play with pretty colors?

In my research I have come up with a few things I could do to remedy the color issue with my red clay.

- Send samples of my clay to a laboratory to have it analyzed. This will allow me to experiment with making my own glazes using a glaze software program that I got for Christmas. I need to know exactly what my clay is made out of in order to make a glaze that will fit well and maybe have color. To have my clay analyzed it will cost me approx. $100.

- Run my clay under a magnetic field to remove some of the iron. I have wanted to try this to see if this is possible. The one thing I don’t want to do though is change the color of my clay. The fact that my red clay is Oklahoma Red is a huge selling point in this neck of the woods.

- Use a Majolica glaze. Majolica is an opaque white glaze that covers dark clay. You can then paint your design in colors onto the white glaze background. Typical Majolica pottery looks like this.

- Use a Slip. Slip is clay, water and pigment. When mixed to a consistency of melted ice cream it is possible to change the surface color of a pot with one application. In this way, it provides a solid colored background for paint or glaze and is an inexpensive way of making dark clay appear white or another color. What I would do is make porcelain slip - porcelain is a white clay, and cover my red pot with it. That would give me a white base. The trick here is to make sure the porcelain slip will adhere well to my red clay through application and firing. Once that is accomplished then there are lots of things I could do with this slip. I could paint on it, brush it on the pot like paint, dip the pot in it, cover the pot entirely and then carve a design into it down to the dark clay underneath, etc.

All of these methods of coloring my clay is feasible and would be fun. I especially like the slip method and have already tested it on a few pots. To be good at any one method though will take time and will require patience on my part. I also really want to get my clay analyzed. I think this would speed up my testing and give me the security of knowing my product.

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