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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'.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Why I like digging my own clay

In the past I have had trouble explaining, in a condensed version, why I enjoy digging my own clay. There were just so many reasons for it and I found it very hard to describe the feelings that come from the process of mining one's own clay.

Until one day...

... when I joined a blog community challenge that forced me to write a blog post containing a list.


A list allows me to pinpoint specific reasons, one-by-one. And, the timing could not be better. This topic recently came up in a pottery group I belong to so the question is out there and it needs to be answered.

So, Here Goes.

10 Reasons I Like Digging My Own Clay

1. I feel one with nature: the process of digging, cleaning, shaping, firing, and using the end product brings me closer to mother nature and her contributions to life.

2. There is great satisfaction knowing that if the whole industrialized nation around me collapsed, I would still be able to make pots.

3. I feel honored that I am able to give a tangible piece of Oklahoma to someone who cherishes the piece as a memento.

4. I love the fact that I can make something beautiful and useful out of something that is normally a 'sticky, staining, red, messy, pain in the butt!'.

5. The whole process of digging, cleaning and pulverizing the clay is soothing to my soul. It's very rythmic and sends my mind wandering to all sorts of different places.

6. Designing my own clay from scratch gives me a built-in niche that no one else can duplicate unless I want them to.

7. I can design my clay to meet my specifications. I can make simple versions, complex versions, and many in-between versions.

8. My pottery has a story to tell. Everyone loves a good story.

9. I feel a special kinship with the potters of long ago, who knew no other way than to dig their own clay.

10. And, last but not least, I love that my husband is the one who found my clay and saved every last ounce of it for me.

Have I left any out? If so, let me know.


  1. This is incredible Julie! #9 is my favorite - I love the thought of you connecting with all the clay digging potters of times past. And that last photo is terrific!

  2. I think I understand something of what you feel. I built something from wood I harvested from my own property and it was a soul satisfying feeling. Much more so than buying a board at the store and making the same thing.

    Stephanie Suesan Smith, Ph.D.

  3. Thanks Allison. The turn of the century potters and the Maricopa potters are my favorite.

    Stephanie. Exactly!

  4. wow, I am impressed. That hole is so deep. lol It reminds me of salt crsytal mining.

  5. What a wonderful list! Making something from scratch is very satisfying isn't it? I love the item about being able to still make pots if the whole industrial world collapsed.

  6. I love the connections you feel when digging your own clay: you're connecting with Oklahoma, long ago potters, and your husband. I'm sure your appreciation for these show in your pottery.

  7. Pam, That hole was dug to fit a 6'x5' cement resevior which we use to water out gardens. The 3rd layer is my clay:)

    Nellie, I love living off of the land using nothing but my bare hands. I'm totally into the whole 'being self-sufficient' thing.

    Camden, One connection I forgot to mention are the people who acquired our land in the Oklahoma land run of 1891. On my About Page on my website I write about them. I feel a very special kinship with them. I am still picking pears from pear trees that they planted.

  8. Wow, that's amazing. That last picture, wow. You're husband's amazing. I come from a clay area and often wondered about this but wasn't sure it was possible or helpful but I can see from your list that indeed it is and in fact desirable. What a great list!

  9. People need to be aware that the hole in the photo is hazardous unless you take proper precautions. The danger is that the walls could cave in, burying anyone inside the hole.

    One way to avoid this danger is to slope the sides of the hole instead of going straight down. Another method is "benching" the sides (forming a series of steps from level to level until you get to the desired depth).

    A study of OSHA fatality data showed an average of 65 deaths per year in the U.S. due to trenching accidents. OSHA, of course, only counts workplace fatalities.

    OSHA's trenching regulations kick in whenever a hole is 4 feet deep or deeper.

  10. Allison, Thanks. My husband is thrilled you think he's amazing;)

    Neal, Thank you for adding that we need to take cautions when digging holes so large and deep.

    I want to point out that to reach clay a potter need not go so deep. My husband was actually digging a resevoir and 'happen' to find clay about 3' down. Lucky me.