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The supplier I'm using has a lot of different clay types and I'd like to use about 3-4 in the cone 5-6 range with as much variety in between them appearance-wise as possible. I don't see how I can really figure out what will work best without buying and testing each one, but I've already ruled out a few based on general preference. I've discovered a porcelain I like, and they only have one type of blackish so that's two. So far I like working with a general clay they have with quite a lot of sand in it, which will fire light grayish supposedly, much more than their version of G mix which seemed really chalky and bleh. If this gray clay works out I'll have my basic handbuilding clay for a lot of purposes, but I'm also considering red and buff; I want the darkest yellow buff I can find. Maybe I can't see the forest for the trees. Any suggestions along this line of thought?

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Your supplier should have some test pieces for you to look at before you make your choices. If not, maybe you can ask them to fire some pieces for you or get them from the manufacturer. My local suppliers have test samples displayed for all the clay bodies they sell...

JohnnyK

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My local supplier too has fired samples of each clay they sell.  What you can't tell from those samples is how they feel on the hand or how they handle in hand building or on the wheel. But the people at the store can help with that.

I am glad clay is so inexpensive. If you get a bag and just hate it, you are out $11 or so.

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I’m guessing you are using Georgies clays since you said G Mix, you live in Oregon and you bought your kiln from them? What are you making? All non functional handbuilt or some functional? If you are making some functional work some of their clays porosity is too high, you can rule out some just by looking at those. I’ve used their Dundee Red, it is a very dark red but they have included some whiteish grog in it so if you scrape it back and don’t use glaze the white shows, even with burnishing, and I found it detracted from the rich deep red of the clay. Their new red clay, Mazama looks good, if you have used any of the Pioneer clays from them and liked them this is a red version of that clay. White salmon is very popular, I found the porosity to be higher than what they post though, for non functional not a problem though. Trail Mix original I’ve used, again I found the porosity  was much higher than what they post, I found it quite sandy. I haven’t used the Trail Mix cinnamon but it looks a bit richer a red than the Mazama. It does look like many of their clays are variations on just a few bases. 

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@Min:Yes it's Georgie's and I could probably give them a call, they've been helpful so far. How dark does the Trail Mix turn out? Their catalog description looks like it's confused with the other trail mixes. Timberline is the gray I've mentioned, nice hand feel but I've yet to fire any except the 'Sculpture' version which on bisque fire came out bright white, maybe it will darken at ^6, not sure yet, and I like the idea of a gray end product after firing. Otherwise I'm working with Silver Falls and Trail Mix Dark Chocolate and Mazama Red. Luckily I've picked up Mazama instead of Dundee so that's another I don't have to try. 

So far my work is mainly this and that in regards to ware, I'd definitely like some of it to be porcelain for the market boost but Silver Falls is a bit pricey at $20 bucks a pop and I think the price may have just gone up, so it will be a line of small stuff. The rest I need something easy to work with, food safe at cone ^6 or less and durable, with a little personality. For that I'm aiming at Timberline or -probably not Trail Mix anymore if it's too porous. My main interest is still the art tiles aimed at quite small indoor mosaic works. For these I'd mostly like a dark clay to which I'll add sand and grog as needed depending on the subject of the mosaic, but I'll also need a medium pale clay that works well with glaze for about 20% of the tile work also. 

They indeed have tiles and lots of example work sitting around their shop but it's a little over a 2 hr drive one way. I'll have to go there eventually to pick up the stuff I want to continue using, and I'm trying to have it figured out by then. The more stuff I can throw back in the bucket and not spend time/clay/power bill on at this point would be nice.  

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6 hours ago, yappystudent said:

How dark does the Trail Mix turn out?

For me it fired a bit darker than the picture in the catalogue, Pioneer Dark is more of a cardboard colour than what the catalogue shows.  

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I only use 3 clays mostly, a buff with lite bit of texture that is good for the wheel and most handbuilding that i do. A white with near no tooth to it for translucent glazes. And a low fire terra cotta for yard art and such. Occassionally i use a dark brown just cause i like the color of the clay and  use it unglazed but only for special projects and raw it looks a lot like my terra cotta til fired so can easily be mixed up.  I don't like to many clays going on in my studio cause it makes recycling a pain.

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Pick a clay body not based solely on color, but on its handling characteristics. If you only handbuild, then a super plastic body may not be the best for you. If you like the tooth and grog, then go that way. If you're making utilitarian work, then it needs to vitrify properly. If you already have glazes you use, make sure its a good fit on whichever clay you want to use.

 Use the same clay body for everything and if you want a different color surface then just spray/dip/brush a colored slip on your pots. Otherwise you'll have 3-4 scrap buckets for reclaim, etc. I tell students when they start glazing to focus on a palette of 4-6 glazes and learn how to exploit those to produce a range of 20-30 colors. Same principle here; you're making more headache for yourself than its worth.

    Short answer, pick the mid range, "grey body", with little-no grog. Easier to color a grey pot with black/white slip, than it is to color a black pot with white slip.

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3 hours ago, hitchmss said:

Pick a clay body not based solely on color, but on its handling characteristics. If you only handbuild, then a super plastic body may not be the best for you. If you like the tooth and grog, then go that way. If you're making utilitarian work, then it needs to vitrify properly. If you already have glazes you use, make sure its a good fit on whichever clay you want to use.

 Use the same clay body for everything and if you want a different color surface then just spray/dip/brush a colored slip on your pots. Otherwise you'll have 3-4 scrap buckets for reclaim, etc. I tell students when they start glazing to focus on a palette of 4-6 glazes and learn how to exploit those to produce a range of 20-30 colors. Same principle here; you're making more headache for yourself than its worth.

    Short answer, pick the mid range, "grey body", with little-no grog. Easier to color a grey pot with black/white slip, than it is to color a black pot with white slip.

It hadn't really hit me that I might want to use just one clay body....<_<. It makes a lot of sense, and my left brain is attracted to the notion, I currently have a crush on the Timberline you mentioned (but I fear it's going to fire white at ^6 not the gray I wanted, about to find out in a few hours). My right brain likes the gained (lazy) creativity of working with slips instead of fighting with various clay bodies, and an excuse to do more sgraffito. However, I'm going to have a lot of colored slips for a long time. 

TYVM hitchmiss, giving this a try. 

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3 minutes ago, yappystudent said:

It hadn't really hit me that I might want to use just one clay body....<_<. It makes a lot of sense, and my left brain is attracted to the notion, I currently have a crush on the Timberline you mentioned (but I fear it's going to fire white at ^6 not the gray I wanted, about to find out in a few hours). My right brain likes the gained (lazy) creativity of working with slips instead of fighting with various clay bodies, and an excuse to do more sgraffito. However, I'm going to have a lot of colored slips for a long time. 

TYVM hitchmiss, giving this a try. 

Glad I could help; with the vast amount of variables ceramic artists face, eliminating excess is a great way to produce solid work. Good Luck!

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The notion of going to just one body is so, so, sensible and tempting. But.....no. I'm still in clay-crush mode and suspect it will take something dramatic for me to stop checking out a bunch of bodies, pennies permitting.  I'd rather have 20+ (oh---I do!) scrap containers for reclaim of diff. bodies than miss any part of that journey. Maybe next year...'cuz I know it is in my best interest to simplify and concentrate.  Next years mantra will be "simplify, simplify, mix-it up, simplify".  I like black, white , and gray, and have discovered wonderful bodies for each of those. 

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