Preparations for the clay day had been going on for some time. When the pond was dug some clay was put aside to use for pots. At this stage, because of the summer drought, it looked more like a pile of rocks than clay!
The white flecks in the clay are particles of chalk, which is not good news in clay to be used for pots. To get rid of most of the chalk we first pounded the “rocks” into smaller pieces with a sledge hammer, and then mixed them with lots of water to make a thin sludge of clay and water (a “slip”, in potter’s language) and then poured and persuaded this through an ordinary household sieve. The sieved slip was then poured into large plaster moulds which absorb water from the slip so that you end up with clay again, but minus the chalk and stones!
At last we had some clay that could be used, now for the clay day in Grove Piece on October 6th!
The weather forecast was not good, heavy rain from 11 am to 6 pm, (and we were starting at 10.30 am) but we decided to go ahead and trundled clay, water, the gazebo, firewood shavings, sawdust and other paraphernalia down to Grove Piece, a job that was made much easier by using a four-wheeled garden trolley.
The first job was to fill the pit kiln with some pots made earlier, surrounding them with a mixture of sawdust and shavings, Then a fire of dry sticks was lit on top to light the sawdust and shavings and burn down slowly to the bottom of the kiln.
While we were doing this the first families began to arrive and soon all manner of pots and creatures were being made ……….
At the end of the morning all the creations were collected together to be fired when they had dried out.
There was a queue for hand-washing and then the children helped to improve the bottom of the new pond by stomping the clay to make a smoother and more waterproof bed.
Report on the day from Liz Hill
On 6 October John and Marie Rolfe and Marie’s sister Claire (a seasoned potter!) led a workshop utilising clay dug from the new pond at Grove Piece.
The event was very well attended by local families and everyone took part in making all manner of splendid objects. The clay was easily manipulated and we created birds, hedgehogs, dogs, heads, dishes, pots and beads. These were set aside to dry prior to firing.
A fire pit was used to bake items made previously, which had had time to dry out. The pit was filled with shavings, sawdust, the dried clay items, paper and dry sticks. After some persuasion the fire took hold and burned for several hours. All items were successfully baked with no breakages. Today’s clay made items were stored at Grove Piece to dry out but the tarpaulin failed in some places and the rain got it. Marie undertook some rescue modelling then left all to dry out fully. These items will be fired next weekend.
After a good clean up, the children assisted with “stomping down” the inside of the new pond by breaking down the earth. They also gathered some chalk which was of good writing quality.
As this was such a successful event, another will be planned for next year.