Clay, Clay and More Clay!

Durable, Usable and Beautiful

 

We give little thought to the raw beauty of clay and how it has enriched our lives in so many ways. This organic form of earth has proven through the ages to be functional, medicinal and beautifying.

 

Functional Use

 

Man discovered clay when digging, and while rolling the mound of earth within his hands, he pondered and experimented in forming it. Making different objects, he learned that if shaped into vessels, he could store food and water in them. Clay had found its function.

Functional uses of clay can be seen in everyday use such as dishes, fruit bowls, flower vase, terracotta planter pots, bean pot and many other things. And let us not forget the toilet!

 

One slightly odd and unique functional use of clay is 3D printing with clay. A group called WASP invented a 3D printer that extrudes clay to build forms, functional pieces and can even create a shelter that also includes straw. The shelter resembles a beehive. This ingenuity lacks the human touch with clay but does provide compositions that are uniform and beautiful.

Medicinal Use

 

Most are not aware that clay has medicinal benefits and has been used to treat ailments throughout time.

 

  • Antibacterial
  • Gastrointestinal Problems
  • Detoxifies
  • Laxative
  • Diaper Rash

Beautifying Use

 

Clay has been known to be skin’s best friend. Spas worldwide offer treatments that have added benefits of using clay. It is considered a luxury to have a mud soak in a tub or have a clay massage.

 

Cosmetics and beauty products now come packed with the benefits of adding clay.

 

  • Foundation, concealer, and mineral face powder promote a healthier appearance and fight acne.
  • Facial masks containing clay exfoliates and purifies skin cells and has a rejuvenating effect.
  • Hair Products such as pomades, mousse, paste, and wax contain clay promoting healthier and shinier hair.

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The Evolving Clump of Clay

No Red Carpet for the Brick

The simple little brick has never stood in the spotlight and severely lacks any palpable beauty or luster. It has changed the appearance of our world. What once was a barren horizon, now abounds with structures reaching for the clouds. All because of one little brick!

The Origin of Bricks

 

Around 7500 B.C. man took a clump of clay and formed it into a shape allowing it to dry and harden in the arid sun of Turkey. A brick was born!

Brickmaking

 

Thousands of years ago, brickmaking was labor intensive and was produced by hand. The clay was kneaded by bare feet and pushed into wooden molding frames. Excess clay was wiped away, and the frame lifted exposing each individual brick. The brick was left exposed to the sun to dry.

Up until late 1800’s, bricks were made by hand yielding up to 36,000 bricks a week. However, once machinery took over and started mass production, the weekly yield was 80,000 bricks.

 

Because of the low cost and quick production of bricks, raw materials were no longer the preference for building structures. The anatomy of a brick structure was resilient, durable and cost less than those made with wood or other materials.

 

Did You Know???

 

  • Bricks are much more energy efficient because they hold the heat in during daylight hours and release that energy when it becomes dark.
  • Dark red or cranberry colored bricks have the deeper tint of red from being heated and fired at extremely high temperatures.
  • 70% of the world’s buildings are made of brick.
  • The Empire State Building has over 10 million bricks.
  • The Chrysler Building is the tallest brick building in the world.
  • A standard size brick weighs 5 pounds.
  • The BMM300 is part truck, part Zamboni and part locomotive which is filled with a mixture. As it drives, the mixture is extruded out onto the ground in perfect shapes of bricks. It can produce 300 bricks in 1 minute.
  • Some bricks have three holes in them to provide stability when used for walls, chimneys or foundations.

Getting Creative with Brick

 

Acme Brick in Ft. Worth, Texas set their creative gears in motion to set a precedence for their business. Gathering clay material from twenty three of their brick plants, the crew quickly put their thinking caps on trying to design the world’s largest brick.

 

After four failed attempts, moving forward a fifth attempt was made. Not only was it a success, but the birth of “Clay” set the world record as being the largest brick.

 

“Clay” weighed in at a whopping three tons and measured nine feet long.

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The Potter’s Studio

Breathing Life into the Clay

Working the clay over and over within their hands, the potter waits for the clay to speak to them. The feel of the clay’s dimensional form evokes a vision in the potter’s mind of what will be created. With every turn of the wheel, the potter gently guides the clay while its form is taking shape.

As the potter steps back, they are in awe of the beautiful masterpiece that rests upon the wheel. Slowly turning the wheel round and round, the potter looks at the clay form. The imperfections and wonky angles of the piece lend to the organic appearance.

 

The potter carefully selects the glaze for their piece. Stroke after stroke the glaze is applied. Now comes the firing phase where the piece is lovingly placed in the kiln for the final step of the process.

 

Anxiously awaiting to see the finished piece, the potter removes it from the kiln. As their eyes gaze upon their creation, a twinge of emotion overtakes their heart while feeling proud of the beautiful object before them.

 

Did the potter chose the form and shape of what the clay was to be, or did the clay take command of the potter’s hands guiding every movement?

 

Fired Up for the Setup!

 

We would all love to have that little retreat area where we can go to escape the rigors of daily life. This space should be peaceful allowing our mind to wander. For some, their “space” is their studio where they create pottery.

 

To set up a dedicated area for pottery, it does require an investment of both money and time. For the serious-minded potters, careful thought and planning should go into creating your studio. Equipment, materials, tools, space, and supplies are just a few factors that need to be considered in organizing the setup.

 

Dedicated Space

 

A space large enough to accommodate your needs should be planned before purchasing the things you will need. If you are doing pottery as a hobby, you may find that a small room in your house or garage will be ample. However, if you plan to pursue ceramics as a means of income, it would be wise to have a shop dedicated to your pottery.

 

When planning on the amount of space needed, take into consideration:

  • Placement and size of the kiln
  • Worktable
  • Tool Area
  • Damp Room
  • Space for your wheel
  • Shelving area
  • Glazing area
  • Storage area for clay, tools and supplies
  • Sink area

 

Research and educate yourself on the various equipment, tools, and supplies before purchasing. The old saying of “you get what you pay for,” is very true. Cheaper not does mean better!

Kiln

 

This will be your most significant investment in equipment. Your purchase of a kiln should be based on your production goals. The more you want to produce, the bigger the kiln.

 

  • Decide if you want an electric or gas kiln.
  • Choose a kiln based on your needs.
  • Measure area kiln will be placed in before buying.
  • Make sure electrical wiring or gas plumbing is installed for kiln
  • Properly install kiln
    • Place on concrete floor
    • Have proper ventilation
    • Ensure there is enough room to walk around the kiln

 

Wheel

 

Your wheel will be the paramount piece of equipment for producing pieces. A few things to take into consideration before purchasing:

 

  • Do you want an electric or manual kick?
  • What horsepower do you want?
  • Do you want a reverse switch?
  • Portability
  • Wheel-head options
  • Splash pan area

 

Work Table

 

It is ideal to have at least a 4’ x 8’ work area that is flat. To efficiently work with clay on your table, it should be covered with heavy canvas. A DIY approach to a table is quite simple by using a sheet of plywood and stapling the canvas to the underside of the wood.

 

Damp Room

 

Pieces that are not finished need to be stored in an encapsulated area. This prevents the piece(s) from drying out and keeps it damp enough to continue work on it. Some DIY ideas to make a Damp Room:

 

  • Old refrigerator (unplugged) with shelves
  • Shelves with plastic wrapping around it

Make It Your Own

 

Your studio is your personal space where you are free to create and relax. Personalize it with bright colors, whimsical art, and soothing music. Candles not only help with the odor of the clay but creates a warm, inviting atmosphere.

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About Laura

 

Greetings pottery fanatics

Who loves pottery?

We definitely do!

Our passion and special artistic forte is pottery. Every and anything to do with pottery, it’s origins, it’s different forms around the world and it’s many uses. We will also be sharing our own forms of artistic expression through art.

Feel free to send us pictures of your own artwork or beautiful pieces you come across. Send all correspondence here