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Making Your Own Clay

Updated on June 23, 2012

Welcome

Welcome to the Kiln Goddess' Clay Pit about Making Your Own Clay. There are two basic methods to making your own clays, either to buy the ingredients or dig your own indigenous clay from the ground. Lets examine the process for both. This lens as all my lenses are always a work in progress. Check back often.

Mixing Purchased Clay and Ingredients

Clay when bought premade comes in nicely bagged and boxed deaired blocks. This is very convenant and easily stored but costs some money if you are producing/using a lot of clay.

Some clay bodies come in premixed but in powered form. This is a better bargin if you have the time to mix it yourself as you usually get a better price per pound and you don't have to pay to have moist clay shipped(moist means more weight to ship). The resulting clay will have the same properties as the premixed/prebagged clay but you have the advantage of price and controlling how moist the clay gets so it is the perfect wetness for your use.

Another option is to mix a clay body up according to a recipe. Many recipes can be found in books, internet source, schools, etc. Now why use a recipe? Well, the advantages of mixing a clay from raw ingredients is also one of economics. It will likely be even cheaper to mix your own using raw ingredient. Plus you have the ability to add more of this or that to customize the clay to your needs.

Digging Your Own Clay

While digging and processing your own clay is not for everyone, I think every clay worker needs to visit an indigenous clay source at least once to learn about the source of clay and how it occurs in nature. A wall of clay is an impressive sight.

The Pros and Cons of Digging your Own clay

Pros:

It is cheaper

Easily customizable

Using local clay can be a marketing plus

A clay pit is pretty darn cool

It's a great excuse for a picnic

Cons:

It takes time

It is messy

You must test it to learn the clay's properties

It takes muscle(clay digging, hauling and mixing ain't for wimps)

You might not be in a location for good clay

A Trip to the Clay Pit

I remember my first trip to the clay pit. My college professor(an adjunct) said if anyone wanted to learn where clay came from to meet up with her on Saturday for a trip to the local clay pit.

I was curious, I showed up, sadly only 2 other students did but the professor didn't waiver in her enthusiasism. Off we went on the 1/2 hour/45 minute car trip to the clay pit.

Over the river and thru the woods we did go. We parked on the side of the road and hiked into the woods bringing with us bags and buckets to haul the clay out with.

The surface at the top of the pit was mostly sand with quartz pebbles. Where ever a pebble and the clay met would be a small turret of clay with the surrounding clay washed away. Thousands on little castles formed the top edges of the pit, seemingly so magical.

We clamoured down into the pit. Exploring and admiring the clay walls surrounding us as we descended. The walls of clay were grey and pink with veins of brown and reds and purples.

We went to the bottom and found a clay slick. The professor advised us not to come shortly after a rain as the walls would be too slick to make it down safely and impossible to come back up. We had lunch of PB and J at the bottom and prepared to start working on getting some 'free' clay.

The digging really wasn't digging as we just grabbed big hunks, some larger than my head, off the wall. It went pretty easy tho we did run into a bunch of fire ants that were not too pleased with us disturbing their clay. We got us a bunch of 'free' clay.

Well the piper must be paid and the payment began, now we had to haul all this clay up the pit wall, thru the woods and load it into the cars.

We did it, tho we had to reshuffle clay bags to make them lighter so as to get them up the wall. I think we each scored about 200-300 pounds of clay that day.

I made many trips back to that clay pit while in college. It freed me of the financial constrants of supplies by being able to throw and throw and throw as much clay as I wanted for merely the price of a bit of sweat equity and a few bags of clay additives.

I now find myself in search of a clay pit in my new location, I will keep looking.

Test, Test, Test

Testing is an important step after making your clay no matter if you dug your clay are followed a published recipe. There are many test to perform:

Test for Plasticity

Test for Throwability

Test for Shrinkage

Test for Porosity

Test for firing temp/cone range

and others

Great Clay Books on Amazon

Clay and Glazes for the Potter
Clay and Glazes for the Potter

Great Book. So much info. More than you'll ever need.

 
Electric Kiln Ceramics: A Guide to Clays and Glazes
Electric Kiln Ceramics: A Guide to Clays and Glazes

Excellent book. I suggest anyone who is going to use a electric kiln to fire their clay get this book. Very complete.

 

Clay Stuff on Amazon

Nail Brush-Deluxe Earth Therapeutics 1 Brush
Nail Brush-Deluxe Earth Therapeutics 1 Brush

To get that clay out from under your nails...a must have.

 

I welcome your feedback. Would you like something added? Know a good link or book? Did I manage to misspell something? Did you find a dead link? Let me know, afterall this Kiln Goddess isn't all knowing ;-)

Suggestions and Feedback

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    • profile image

      CamBrown 10 years ago

      What a great informative and well-organized lens. I'm not even into clay and I enjoyed it!

    • profile image

      Robbin 10 years ago

      Congratulations on making Lens of the Day! Very interesting information. I've got to explore your other lenses. Love your memories of the first clay pit you visited, good luck in finding a new one.

    • Her-Motorcycle profile image

      Her-Motorcycle 10 years ago

      I love your lens - small little niches are interesting! Makes me want to go dig up some clay!!!!

    • M Schaut profile image

      Margaret Schaut 10 years ago from Detroit

      Well, you could have fooled me! This is an excellent lens with top notch information. You're SO INSPIRING!

    • KCStargazer profile image

      KCStargazer 10 years ago

      Hey, I can really "dig it"! Welcome to the Kaleidoscope Group!

      KCStargazer

    • M Schaut profile image

      Margaret Schaut 10 years ago from Detroit

      This is a wonderful lens. Will you please contact me?

    • profile image

      anonymous 10 years ago

      I found this a very interesting and fact filled lens thanks for teaching on how to make clay.

    • groovyoldlady profile image

      groovyoldlady 10 years ago

      The girlies and I just made our first lopsided little pots with a "toy" pottery wheel. It was incredibly fun and therapeutic! So we are on a quest for more clay and maybe a "real" pottery wheel. My whole garden is basically a wee bit of topsoil over clay, so we may give digging our own it a try!

    • Christene-S profile image

      Christene-S 10 years ago

      Blessed by a SquidAngel

    • Lexi LM profile image

      Lexi LM 9 years ago

      A fine lens indeed!

      Years ago in Arizona I used to take my dry clay and throw it in a Maytag wringer washer and mix it with water, pour it out into buckets and let it dry to a usable consistency. That would be a poor solution in a wet climate though!

      Lexi

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Wow! I can't wait to get my hands covered in clay! This is an incredibly helpful resource; thank you SO much!

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      thank u

    • vitar profile image

      vitar 6 years ago

      Great idea for a lens.

    • profile image

      StockNewsTrader 6 years ago

      Nice, I'll have to try this with the kids.

    • profile image

      cmaethom1991 5 years ago

      I never really thought about digging my own clay before--I'm going to have to try this. Thanks!

    • tomtaz517 profile image

      tomtaz517 5 years ago

      Great lens on such an interesting craft! I really enjoyed it.

    • profile image

      BillSimmons 5 years ago

      Awesome lens! Nice job.

    • Pam Irie profile image

      Pam Irie 5 years ago from Land of Aloha

      Digging your own clay would certainly create a real connection with this art. :)

    • TolovajWordsmith profile image

      Tolovaj Publishing House 5 years ago from Ljubljana

      Digging clay on my own is messy, but rewarding. I love it!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Thanks for the good info! I live in SC, USA and have started digging and processing my own clay. I actually blunge and dry in old jean legs. My clay is a bit sandy so I am playing with the addition of Bentonite and other things to improve it's qualities.

      A couple of your links here were VERY useful!

      Thanks loads!

    • YogaAngel profile image

      YogaAngel 5 years ago

      interesting lens!

    • profile image

      cherricopottery 4 years ago

      great resource for processing earthen clays, thanks for sharing!

    • casquid profile image

      casquid 4 years ago

      You have let us in on some good information. I have experienced my sister's triumphs with firing objects in her kiln. Never knew how much work that was or what process she used. Just appreciated the beautiful jars, plates and ornaments she sent to me. I can only imagine, now. Thanks!

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