Hunting for Clay
"You’re hunting for what?"
Yes, that was my reaction the first time I heard from Christopher that he was planning to hunt for pottery clay on M.A. Center grounds.
I guess it makes sense that there would be clay on the land here. So much of the soil is that impossible compacted clay that is the bane of every gardener’s existence. How many times have I thrown golf ball sized pieces to the side of the garden bed to make way for tender roots!
But a gardener’s frustration is someone else’s treasure.
“Through my work in the center orchard,” Christopher writes, “I realized how much clay was here. I became excited, knowing that we could use this clay in creative and artistic ways. With permission, we started searching for veins of clay in different areas, but there were problems with each one. The trail past the tractor barn had some but it was too far to lug our heavy treasure; the orchard clay was too stony; the community garden’s clay had too much organic matter in it. Finally it dawned on me: why not try the pond area?
Jackpot!! We found many different types of clay there on the water’s edge. And what a wonderful soft, silky clay that is easy to harvest!”
So with clay in hand Christopher and members of the San Ramon center Craft Guild went to work making mugs, planter pots, and traditional Indian oil lamps “Our artists and designers are playing around with different sizes, shapes, and designs of the oil lamps, pots and cups.”
Because the clay’s chemical composition was unknown to the team it took lots of trial and error to learn how to glaze and fire Amma’s earthenware clay without the pieces loosing their shape. “We finally got it just right.”
A little bit of patience certainly pays off. See the video of Amma receiving the fruits of their labor: