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Identify My Clay

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#1 MutantWizard



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Posted 13 March 2017 - 01:25 PM

Greetings all,


Am just starting out and excited about getting into experimenting and finding out what I can do.


Would appreciate if you could help with some advice. Local craftsman makes the pottery in the picture. The clay used is naturally occurring in the area and I would like to try making use of it.


What type of clay would it probably be, what properties and good for what applications other than the pots in the picture? One of my interests would be tableware and hope this would work.


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#2 Rockhopper


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Posted 13 March 2017 - 04:54 PM

Color looks a lot like "terra-cotta" flower pots - but that doesn't mean the clay is anywhere close to the same.


My guess would be a pit-fired earthen ware - but I've never worked with either pit-firing or earthen-ware, so just a guess.


It would probably help if you could tell us where "in the area" is. (Don't have to give an address - but if it really is locally dug, knowing what county & state would definitely help narrow it down.

#3 neilestrick


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Posted 13 March 2017 - 06:20 PM

For tableware it is best to have a clay body that vitrifies. As to whether or not that clay in the picture will work, you're just going to have to get some and test it out. There's no way of knowing it's working or firing properties without testing it. Get some, fire it to cone 04 and see how it looks. Then fire some to cone 2, and some to cone 5. Do absorption and shrinkage tests for each test. At some point it's going to vitrify or melt. If it's a terra cotta, it may be too brittle when it vitrifies. It may be too plastic, or not plastic enough. It may or may not be good for throwing/handbuilding. You may have to cut it with ball clay or kaolin fireclay or feldspar to get the working properties and firing temperature you want.

Neil Estrick
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Owner, Neil Estrick Gallery, LLC

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#4 preeta


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Posted 13 March 2017 - 08:50 PM

which country are you from? and which part? that will give us a big clue.


i agree. the ware looks like pit fired earthenware.


in the US if you are doing this on your own it will be far easier to use ^6 claybody and glazes. commercially available. 


as neil pointed out the others are available too.

"Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go." T.S. Eliot

#5 alabama


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Posted 13 March 2017 - 09:45 PM

Appears to be a natural gray vein of clay with limonite. The kind you'd make bricks from.
The one one the right seems to have been fired upside down judging from the smudge marks on the rims. Seeing no visible cracks makes me think the amount of grog in the clay is over 35%.
Probably made for tourist!

#6 Marcia Selsor

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Posted 14 March 2017 - 10:17 AM

If you fire it to the right temperature to vitrify, (need to test), it will work for table ware.
Marcia Selsor, Professor Emerita,Montana State University-Billings

#7 MutantWizard



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Posted 14 March 2017 - 10:48 AM

Thanks guys for a lot of good info. I am settling down in Philippines and this is in Romblon province, Tablas Island. Any ideas?


Its definitely good for throwing. Thats how the local craftsman does it. They also make bricks from it. Guys here use the bricks for lining hot parts of BBQs. Not likely made for tourists, not enough of them arround to make a living from tourists Mostly flower pots and decorative jugs and other shapes of pretty big size


To test it I would have to get a kiln which im thinking may end up not needed if it wont vitrify. At the moment am trying to figure out if there is even a point to get a kiln out here. Transporting it here will probably be close to half the kiln price.


Buying commercial clay here would probably be the same additional expense as the kiln so really would like to get away with using the local clay. Yea it may end up very brittle but it will be fun and cheap so it might be worth it anyway even with breaking and replacing half a dozen items per month.

#8 RonSa


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Posted 14 March 2017 - 10:53 AM

I read somewhere that is call FIG clay.


(Found In Ground)


#9 oldlady


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Posted 14 March 2017 - 02:59 PM

wizard, why not try to get close to the local craftsmen who made what we see in the picture?  they may not offer structured "lessons" but you can bet anyone who does such hard, physical labor can use a hand.

"putting you down does not raise me up."

#10 MutantWizard



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Posted 15 March 2017 - 12:00 PM

For sure I will find out how the local guy does it but was trying to figure out if instead of pots the FIG would be good for tableware.


In any case thanks a lot for all the help. Looks like firing a few samples will be necessary after all.

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