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Aged clay. 100 years in a cave!


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#1 futurebird

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Posted 03 May 2013 - 11:53 AM

The book that I'm reading says that certain clays would be stored in caves to improve their "quality." I've also heard about one family putting away clay in a cave for the next generation since 30-year old clay is "the best."


I know the plasticity of clay can improve when it rests in a dank place. I've had some success with adding vinegar to my reconstituted clay to get it more plastic.

But could there be other benefits to aging clay? Can it impact the quality and surface of the completed work? How long is enough to get most of the benefits?

Should I be looking for a cave in the Bronx so when I have kids some day they can have good clay to work with?

Or is this just a legend?
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#2 jrgpots

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Posted 03 May 2013 - 02:28 PM

The book that I'm reading says that certain clays would be stored in caves to improve their "quality." I've also heard about one family putting away clay in a cave for the next generation since 30-year old clay is "the best."


I know the plasticity of clay can improve when it rests in a dank place. I've had some success with adding vinegar to my reconstituted clay to get it more plastic.

But could there be other benefits to aging clay? Can it impact the quality and surface of the completed work? How long is enough to get most of the benefits?

Should I be looking for a cave in the Bronx so when I have kids some day they can have good clay to work with?

Or is this just a legend?



I live in Southern Utah where everyone golfs. People upgrade to very advanced drivers and putters that are suppose to be "the next best thing." Many people of average golfing talent or experience who buy these clubs will never reach a point in their golfing game where the clubs will make any difference.

I'm kind of like that with clay. Give a smooth plastic clay body and I can throw a pot. BUT give the 30 year old cave -aged clay I can still throw THE SAME TYPE OF POT.

I would love to see of the experts here throw with the best 30 year-old clay. I'd love to see what magic you guys can create with the best of materials...

Jed

#3 neilestrick

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Posted 03 May 2013 - 03:00 PM

Aging clay does a couple of things. It allows the water to seep between all the clay particles via capillary action. It also allows for mold growth. Mold is like long organic fingers that help to further bind the clay particles. This all makes the clay more plastic and workable.

Modern clay mixing involves the use of de-airing pug mills, which remove all the air and leaves all the clay particles coated with water. It's like instant aging. Plus modern clay bodies are formulated in such a way that they are generally quite workable and plastic without mold growth. The bodies that were used 'in the olden days', or are still being used in less modern cultures, were typically under-formulated by today's standards, simply because they didn't have access to the myriad of clays that we do today.
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#4 Pres

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Posted 03 May 2013 - 03:14 PM

Aging clay does a couple of things. It allows the water to seep between all the clay particles via capillary action. It also allows for mold growth. Mold is like long organic fingers that help to further bind the clay particles. This all makes the clay more plastic and workable.

Modern clay mixing involves the use of de-airing pug mills, which remove all the air and leaves all the clay particles coated with water. It's like instant aging. Plus modern clay bodies are formulated in such a way that they are generally quite workable and plastic without mold growth. The bodies that were used 'in the olden days', or are still being used in less modern cultures, were typically under-formulated by today's standards, simply because they didn't have access to the myriad of clays that we do today.


Yes most ancient clays were either of one clay, or clay bodies made up of clays within 50 to 100 miles of the pottery.

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#5 futurebird

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Posted 03 May 2013 - 03:53 PM

Aging clay does a couple of things. It allows the water to seep between all the clay particles via capillary action. It also allows for mold growth. Mold is like long organic fingers that help to further bind the clay particles. This all makes the clay more plastic and workable.

Modern clay mixing involves the use of de-airing pug mills, which remove all the air and leaves all the clay particles coated with water. It's like instant aging. Plus modern clay bodies are formulated in such a way that they are generally quite workable and plastic without mold growth. The bodies that were used 'in the olden days', or are still being used in less modern cultures, were typically under-formulated by today's standards, simply because they didn't have access to the myriad of clays that we do today.


I'm not really using a "modern clay*" -- I'm working with yixing and getting it plastic has been a problem much more so than with any other clay I've touched.
But its is strange, it will not bend without breaking, yet you can get it glass smooth with very little difficulty. I love it in so many ways! And I hate it in a few ways.

If aged clay is better I think I'll sock some away now by the time it is mature I may have the skills to do something wonderful with it.

And then there is the saying:

"If the student has the masters clay he soon becomes the master of the master has the students clay he becomes again the student."








*well it is modern, it was made in China, dug from a yixing clay mine, ground and processed, I don't know much about the processing. I'd really like to read more about the chemistry of clay it seems to be critical. I'd also like to leraning about blending clays.

What are some good books about mixing and making clays? Bonus if the book talks about yixing clay... I'm so startved for reading material on this stuff!!
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#6 ayjay

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Posted 03 May 2013 - 04:19 PM

If we were to postulate that Futurebird has found their cave, how would they wrap/prepare the clay to be in good condition in 30 years time?

I'm assuming from reading the benefits of aged clay that it needs to remain moist.

#7 TJR

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Posted 03 May 2013 - 05:41 PM

The reason that clay is aged is to make it a consistent moisture level. If clays are mixed by hand, or with your feet, you can't get all those pesky dry lumps out. The most plastic [read throwable ] clays are made wet, as a slip, and then dried slowly. Most small studios don't have the kind of equipment or space to facilitate this. I reprocess all my scraps as a slurry and dry them for a day on canvas on a plaster bat. This clay is double bagged and aged in a dark corner on my wedging table. Before the invention of plastic, clay was aged in barrels or caves. Michael Cardew aged his clay in africa in a deep hole covered with wet burlap sacks. Plastic is good for some things.
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#8 Pres

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Posted 04 May 2013 - 10:37 AM

The reason that clay is aged is to make it a consistent moisture level. If clays are mixed by hand, or with your feet, you can't get all those pesky dry lumps out. The most plastic [read throwable ] clays are made wet, as a slip, and then dried slowly. Most small studios don't have the kind of equipment or space to facilitate this. I reprocess all my scraps as a slurry and dry them for a day on canvas on a plaster bat. This clay is double bagged and aged in a dark corner on my wedging table. Before the invention of plastic, clay was aged in barrels or caves. Michael Cardew aged his clay in africa in a deep hole covered with wet burlap sacks. Plastic is good for some things.
TJR.


Last job of the year every year at the HS was to pug up the slop buckets, cover the tops with damp sheets, and lids. By the time we returned in the Fall, the clay from the year before was much more plastic than the clay just delivered. I would usually get through 3 months of the clay in barrels before having to open boxes. This allowed me to slightly age the boxed clay. Little amounts, but it does make a difference.

Simply retired teacher, not dead, living the dream. on and on and. . . . on. . . .                                                                                 http://picworkspottery.blogspot.com/


#9 OffCenter

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Posted 04 May 2013 - 11:06 AM

Before the invention of plastic, clay was aged in barrels or caves. Michael Cardew aged his clay in africa in a deep hole covered with wet burlap sacks. Plastic is good for some things.
TJR.


Plastic is wrapped tightly in negative connotations, but what a miracle it is for potters. Imagine having to devote a large part of your already crowded studio to a wet room (closed off to drafts and hung with wet towels every day) to slow the drying process. Imagine trying to keep a pot leather hard with wax paper or wet towels. How would they sell clay without plastic? Would they ship it wrapped in waxed paper and oil cloth? Imagine the expense.

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#10 futurebird

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Posted 04 May 2013 - 11:56 AM


Before the invention of plastic, clay was aged in barrels or caves. Michael Cardew aged his clay in africa in a deep hole covered with wet burlap sacks. Plastic is good for some things.
TJR.


Plastic is wrapped tightly in negative connotations, but what a miracle it is for potters. Imagine having to devote a large part of your already crowded studio to a wet room (closed off to drafts and hung with wet towels every day) to slow the drying process. Imagine trying to keep a pot leather hard with wax paper or wet towels. How would they sell clay without plastic? Would they ship it wrapped in waxed paper and oil cloth? Imagine the expense.

Jim



It was shipped as powder out of yixing... still is.
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#11 Biglou13

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Posted 04 May 2013 - 12:12 PM

If we were to postulate that Futurebird has found their cave, how would they wrap/prepare the clay to be in good condition in 30 years time?

I'm assuming from reading the benefits of aged clay that it needs to remain moist.


No caves that I know of in da Bronx. Think double bag, or triple bagged, with moist towel. Under kitchen or bathroom, sink. Unless you have cellar.

What action science wise does beer, mold and or bacteria have on clay.?
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#12 ayjay

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Posted 04 May 2013 - 01:51 PM

Think double bag, or triple bagged, with moist towel.


I've not seen any thirty year old plastic bags in good condition, I know they don't bio-degrade particularly quickly, but I'm sure they won't last that long in a cave - rodents are prone to nibbling at plastic stuff too.

Wooden barrels rely on moisture to keep the wood swollen and thus watertight, wont the barrels just draw that moisture from the clay - maybe slowly, but it's still going to dry out.

It's sounding (to me) as though this stored clay is going to need plenty of attention, I'd envisaged squirrelling it away and leaving it for thirty years.

#13 Chris Campbell

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Posted 04 May 2013 - 05:36 PM

Dare I mention that caves are dark and damp and cold? No drying problems with moisture everywhere ...
Just ask wine makers who use caves to keep wine stored for years at a consistent temp and humidity.

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#14 Diane Puckett

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Posted 04 May 2013 - 05:38 PM

Tupperware!
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