In 2016 I started using a local South Jersey clay that was available to me. The commercial clays that I have always used are made in a factory from a blend of materials. This clay comes straight out the ground and has nothing added to it. The clay has a tremendous amount of quartz in it that has a significant influence on the finished look of the pieces. This is a huge departure from the type of work that I normally make.
This thumbprint teabowl was made from that clay body. A flashing slip was applied to the surface after it was thrown on the wheel. The clay shrunk during the firing, and the quartz created small stone bursts where it came through to the surface.
I fire this type of work in a salt kiln. Rock salt is introduced at the end of the firing and the vapor forms a glaze on the outside of the pot. The final look of the piece is a result of the interactions of the wild clay, the flashing slip, and the salt glaze.
I mix water with the dry clay to turn it into a liquid and then run it through a screen to remove the large pieces of quartz, which make the clay unworkable for the potters wheel. However, I want the small bits of quartz to remain in the clay body.
Drying the Clay
The clay is dried on plaster and then wedged to make it uniform and remove the air. The clay that I have used for 30 years always arrives in a box ready to use. Preparing this wild clay is a labor intensive process and there is a much higher loss ratio working with this clay. However, when I unload the finished pieces it makes all the extra effort worth it.
After the pieces have been thrown on the wheel, a flashing slip is applied to the surface. This flashing slip creates a stronger contrast to the clay body underneath it when the salt vapor eats away the flashing slip during the firing.
Join the Rempe Pottery Email List: I will never share your information and I'll only email a few times a year.