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PatJ

micaceous cooking pot use

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Hi all,

 

Has anyone here ever made or used micaceous cooking pottery?

I have been making some micaceous pottery but I have never put them to the cooking test. Guess I am a bit scared to. The pottery that I have been making is from clay which i have dug up myself. I have been told by some more experienced mica potters that you don't need to add any additional temper since the clay is already infused with mica and it should work fine as is for cooking. However I have noticed that a lot of historic and prehistoric micaceous pottery and broken pottery sherds that i have been fortunate enough to examine appear to have MUCH MUCH more mica in them. Also many of these old pots also have quite a bit of volcanic sand of various sizes incorporated into their clay bodies. My question is: Do I need to add more mica and/or sand to make my pots more suitable for cooking.

 

Also I have read some old archaeology articale that indicated that these pots were not fired to the point of being fully vitrified. Should I be under firing them for the purpose of using them for cooking?

 

Also does anyone have any recommendations on how to best cook with them. I know that historically they were used over a fire, and I have seen references to prehistoric mica pots being placed on top of 3 stones which elevated it over a hearth fire, but I have also seen a photo of one placed directly on to a hot bed of coals. I have also seen a photo of one cooking away directly on top of a modern gas stove top burner.

 

I know people who make micaceous pottery, but i don't know anyone who actually USES it for cooking, which I know was its primary purpose before metal pots and pans became available here in the American southwest.

 

Any thoughts, advice, comments?

PatJ

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Hmm, good question. I use a micaceous clay, but it's not one I've dug myself it's commercially made by a local ceramic supply company. The clay is a low fire red earthenware body which has gold mica flecks in it. There are a fair amount of them in the body which are there to give gold flecks in the finished ware. I can't speak to the mica providing refractory qualities in clay bodies as this one also has talc which helps with heat shock. The pots I've made are safe from leaching and for use in an oven, though I don't choose this clay for it's oven ware use, but more as a decorative use clay. I have dug micaceous clays out of the ground, but have been reluctant to use them in my production work because the mountains around here have spewed a fair amount of lead out in the ash. I have one that I'm fairly certain is safe because the guy has a well through it and doesn't have to even filter his water out. It's a partially decomposed micaceous clay with some aggregate ash incorporated.

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I was looking into this a while back, being that I also dabbled in hand dug clay in the GA area. I sifted and filtered it to try and use it. It has a lot of mica to it and theres a spot in town that I can pick up, literally off the road side, 3 inch chunks of mica that I can mill down and add to the clay. I know its not a very flexible clay from what Ive found, and even the Micaceous clay you can buy is almost fluffy...if that makes sense. And yes Mica does help with thermal shock.

 

When it comes to cooking with it, which theyre usually low fired pots, I read that you should fill the pot with potatoes and water and let it boil down. The starch should seal the pot for use. They say that once the pots are "seasoned" you shouldnt really clean them....like clean them but dont clean them :P kinda like the cast iron skillet approach. I also heard the use of grape juice or red wine can help also, being that the tanins will seal the pot....might as well just buy grape tanin from a home brew shop if youre going to take that approach. You could always just use a dinner ware safe ^06 glaze if you really just want some extra sealant, not that it will perfectly seal it.

 

As per the cooking technique Ive heard them being used on the stove, on a fire, on a grill, and even enclosed and covered over with coals in a fire. They say once "seasoned" and used, they make great pots for beans etc.

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Hi all,

 

Has anyone here ever made or used micaceous cooking pottery?

I have been making some micaceous pottery but I have never put them to the cooking test. Guess I am a bit scared to. The pottery that I have been making is from clay which i have dug up myself. I have been told by some more experienced mica potters that you don't need to add any additional temper since the clay is already infused with mica and it should work fine as is for cooking. However I have noticed that a lot of historic and prehistoric micaceous pottery and broken pottery sherds that i have been fortunate enough to examine appear to have MUCH MUCH more mica in them. Also many of these old pots also have quite a bit of volcanic sand of various sizes incorporated into their clay bodies. My question is: Do I need to add more mica and/or sand to make my pots more suitable for cooking.

 

Also I have read some old archaeology articale that indicated that these pots were not fired to the point of being fully vitrified. Should I be under firing them for the purpose of using them for cooking?

 

Also does anyone have any recommendations on how to best cook with them. I know that historically they were used over a fire, and I have seen references to prehistoric mica pots being placed on top of 3 stones which elevated it over a hearth fire, but I have also seen a photo of one placed directly on to a hot bed of coals. I have also seen a photo of one cooking away directly on top of a modern gas stove top burner.

 

I know people who make micaceous pottery, but i don't know anyone who actually USES it for cooking, which I know was its primary purpose before metal pots and pans became available here in the American southwest.

 

Any thoughts, advice, comments?

PatJ

 

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Hi Pat,

I've taken one micaeous clay class at the local university. I use the micaeous pots on top of the stove almost daily. These are cooking pots and they make the food taste sweet. It's a shame not to use them for cooking. I love the way they look but I love the way they cook even more. It's a blast to be able to make your own stovetop and oven safe cookware. I also have taken them full of food from the fridge straight to the stovetop.

 

We fired to cone 014, very low fire, and then smoked them in a pit fire with lots of pine bark. The pit firing creates fire clouds and is for beauty. After coiling starting on a puke and smoothing them, we water-scrape them when they're leather hard or dry. Never waterscrape the inside and outside on the same day because you'll lose the pot. To waterscrape, use water or better, use a thick slip and a rib. After that, let them get bone dry and sand them with several grades of sandpaper while wearing a mask. Blow them or use an air hose to blow them to find flaws. Fix the flaws by pecking at them with a pin tool and filling them with slip. Sand those spots again and fix them again if they still have holes. You can use a rough tile or brick to rotate the rim or bottom on to get an even rim or flat bottom if it needs adjusting. Sand afterward. Finally, make a polishing slip out of mica and clay (I don't have the recipe) and polish til your arms fall off. This gives a higher mica content to the outside and is for looks.

 

My teacher explained that mica burns out at higher temps. We could fire to cone06 with the locally dug clay or the commercial micaeous clay, but it might not be able to be used on the cooktop. The low fire cone 014 maintains the mica content and makes it stovetop worthy. New Mexico Clay sells a Mica Red clay which is what we use when we're not using locally dug clays.

 

Brian Grosnickle was my teacher. http://www.micaceouscookware.com/ Brian has videos on his website on his forum on the process.

His teacher was Felipe Ortega. He is an Apache medicine man in addition to a potter and teacher. Felipe did a lot to revive the 800 year old micaeous tradition in northern New Mexico. http://www.felipeortega.com/

 

I hope this helps. Sorry I can't answer questions about your locally dug clay.

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Also Felipe Ortega has posted an article that tells the history and steps in making a micaeous cooking pot:

 

http://www.felipeortega.com/pdf/Felipe%20Art%20and%20Practice.pdf

 

Hi Pat,

I've taken one micaeous clay class at the local university. I use the micaeous pots on top of the stove almost daily. These are cooking pots and they make the food taste sweet. It's a shame not to use them for cooking. I love the way they look but I love the way they cook even more. It's a blast to be able to make your own stovetop and oven safe cookware. I also have taken them full of food from the fridge straight to the stovetop.

 

We fired to cone 014, very low fire, and then smoked them in a pit fire with lots of pine bark. The pit firing creates fire clouds and is for beauty. After coiling starting on a puke and smoothing them, we water-scrape them when they're leather hard or dry. Never waterscrape the inside and outside on the same day because you'll lose the pot. To waterscrape, use water or better, use a thick slip and a rib. After that, let them get bone dry and sand them with several grades of sandpaper while wearing a mask. Blow them or use an air hose to blow them to find flaws. Fix the flaws by pecking at them with a pin tool and filling them with slip. Sand those spots again and fix them again if they still have holes. You can use a rough tile or brick to rotate the rim or bottom on to get an even rim or flat bottom if it needs adjusting. Sand afterward. Finally, make a polishing slip out of mica and clay (I don't have the recipe) and polish til your arms fall off. This gives a higher mica content to the outside and is for looks.

 

My teacher explained that mica burns out at higher temps. We could fire to cone06 with the locally dug clay or the commercial micaeous clay, but it might not be able to be used on the cooktop. The low fire cone 014 maintains the mica content and makes it stovetop worthy. New Mexico Clay sells a Mica Red clay which is what we use when we're not using locally dug clays.

 

Brian Grosnickle was my teacher. http://www.micaceouscookware.com/ Brian has videos on his website on his forum on the process.

His teacher was Felipe Ortega. He is an Apache medicine man in addition to a potter and teacher. Felipe did a lot to revive the 800 year old micaeous tradition in northern New Mexico. http://www.felipeortega.com/

 

I hope this helps. Sorry I can't answer questions about your locally dug clay.

 

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