Start at the beginning

This blog documents my exploits in digging and using local clay. This journey started a couple of years ago, and evolved through a sequence of events. I’ve always had a fondness for being out in nature, observing my surroundings, picking up bits of plastic and foraging for wild foods. I guess it was only a matter of time until I began collecting clay and rocks too.

November  2019
Visit to Burseldon Brickworks. I took the trip to our local brickworks in Swanwick, Hampshire. It is the only complete steam driven brickworks left in the UK. They used to make bricks from locally dug clay, and had a rather fine selection on display in the museum, as well as pipes, chimneys tiles and various equipment. Read more here

October  2019
Some of the remnant pipes that are visible at low tide around Pottery Pier on Brownsea Island. They've be partially reclaimed by the sea and are home to barnicles and seaweed. The colours of the glazes a derived from salt glazing. 

October  2019
Look at that rich black clay deposit. I grabbed a small handful of each of these layers. I'm curious to find out what the mineral content is. Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour used to a have a pottery. 
 Interestingly, it closed down as it wasn't sustainable due to the clay they were using. However, Poole harbour is home to some of the finest Ball Clay in the world. 

August 2019
What better way to spend a rainy afternoon than tucking into a good read! 
I am lucky enough to get my hands on a copy of this book - A Potters Life - autobiography by local potter Guy Sydenham. He worked at Poole Pottery,  built his own studio on Long Island where he also lived, on a boat with his family. He built his own wheel and used the wild clay from the natural banks. Work was then fired using driftwood and salt glazing with sea water.
Ingenuity at its best. This makes me want to get back to basics and use my own clay (I have clay deposits right outside my studio!).

I have taken an interest in the geology of Dorset. We have a rich history of ceramics in the area. Verwood is home to one of the oldest Roman pottery sites, and there was a working pottery there until fairly recently. There were also potteries dotted around Sandford (Wareham), Purbecks, and of course Poole (Poole Pottery being the most well know of recent years, sadly now closed and working from a factory in Denby). The reason for all this activity is down to the lay of the land, and the rich clay deposits of the area. 

In May 2018 I spent two days on a glaze making workshop run by Linda Bloomfield at Forest Row School of Ceramics.  This was a turning point that made me look at the materials in a totally different light. These glaze ingredients - sillica - flint - clay  - all from the earth, and formed over millions of years! Ancient rocks. I was fascinated and captivated.
The research and experimenting began. Through this alchemic process I have discovered so much, mostly that I still have a lot to learn!