Kevin B. Posted August 17, 2016 Report Share Posted August 17, 2016 Hi All, long time infrequent visitor to CAD, first post - sorry it's a bit of a long one. So, through a long series of events, I'm coming back to ceramics after several years of not touching any clay. As an Anthropology and Archaeology student in college (with an art history minor) I learned to make pottery with experimental archaeology - basically recreating local examples of native pottery using the methods and materials that were used centuries ago to make earthenware. However, what we learned on was a somewhat locally produced modern processed clay body with lots of sand mixed in to withstand bonfire and pit firings. Don't get me wrong, I still use that clay body and experiment with it still since it is totally reliable in a pit firing, and even with all the grit added it's a pleasure to work with, but I've always thought of using clay harvested with my own two hands. As chance would have it, I have a relative who lives in town and has local clay deposits popping up all around the spring fed pond on her property, and she recently gave me the OK to collect clay. What's more, her house is literally less than a mile from an area with a known archaeological ceramic history. (I've actually worked with the head archaeologist overseeing the current dig in the area, lovely woman with a wealth of information on our local native peoples and their material culture. - small world, right?) So this past week I collected some rough clay from the pond, made a thin slip and ran it through a 1/8" screen to remove the small rocks, gravel and sand. What I was left with was a clay that dang near matches what has been found archaeologically - gritty, silty, and predominantly large clay particles resulting in a mildly plastic, sticky, grey clay body that almost entirely settled out of suspension and left a layer of clear water in under 24 hours. In other words, good thing I wasn't planning on making terra sig from it, I'd have to dig a ton just to get a couple pounds... However, it suits my purposes perfectly since I'm going to me using it for hand-built recreation native pots and possibly some traditional raku-style chawan if it proves plastic enough. Here's where it gets interesting... Remember I mentioned an odor in the title, right? While I was processing the clay I noticed a mild aroma. At first I couldn't put my finger on it, but then I realized the closest thing I could describe it as was the same leathery, smokey smell you get from a German rauchbier that's been made with beechwood smoked malt. Now, I was going to have the clay tested anyway to see if it's foodsafe, but this odor has me wondering if there's any point to going ahead if there's already some known chemical or toxin in the clay resulting in this aroma. Or maybe it's because the clay is fresh and has a lot of organic material to rot out, I honestly don't know. Thing is, I've poured through all my ceramic books and searched the net to see if this smokey smell has ever been documented, but I haven't found anything where anyone describes this phenomena. So I guess that's my story and question all rolled into one - anyone know what would cause clay to have a leathery/beechwood smoke odor? Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.