The two clays that I have been using in my clay mix are no longer available and so I have to come up with a new mix. It’s not a simple job to swap one clay for another and my original mix had 4 clays in it (SB15, Cream stoneware, Crum and Rahu clay). I’m also swapping clay suppliers to one that is closer to home and makes the majority of their clay from New Zealand sources. Wood firing and soda glazing complicates further the situation as the new mix has to look good in the different zones of the kiln and with varying amounts of soda. Although I do have an ability to influence the final colour and surface by using my flashing slips I still need the base clay to have the right shrinkage, vitrification and feel.
So after 8 trials I think I’m nearly there with a mix that again has 4 clays in it (Macs Whitestone, white, buff and Rahu clay). The challenge now is in the making of the pots, the way the clay behaves on the wheel, responds at different scales and with different throwing techniques. How will it take the slipping process? Tests only tell you a part of the story; how much you have to adjust your techniques and style is only revealed when you have a reasonable batch made up and you try out all your familiar forms.
The best bit is the surprises, maybe the way the clay moves on the wheel opens up new ideas or the way it fires reveals new colours/surfaces. So it’s another journey and one that I embrace as I learn more and explore the amazing world of clay.