All things must change. And this applies to clays as well as everything else. Recently, our studio decided to bring in some new clay bodies. For the past year or so I've been using B-Mix, but lately it's been arriving so hard in the bags that I've worn out my wrists trying to wedge it aaaand the studio has decided to bring in clay from some other locations. And so that is the back story to my new burgeoning relationship with grolleg porcelain.
So here's the good news. IT'S PORCELAIN. That means at cone 10, it will fire white in reduction. It's made with Grolleg kaolin from England and it's buttery soft with incredible plasticity. That means wedging it is a dream (after wrestling with the brick that was b-mix on import to unbearably hot Texas), it will fire white and glazes will pop with brilliance and do lots of incredibly cool things under the right circumstances.
So why am I scared?
Because I threw with it for the first time yesterday and to say it was a challenge is an understatement. I wired off a six pound hunk of clay and I may have even cooed audibly as I wedged it. That should have been my first warning. I smacked it on the wheel and centering was fast and simple. Drilled a hole and that's when I started wondering..."how tall am I going to be able to pull this?"
Minutes later, I was looking at gloppy, sloppy pile of mud pie after my first failed attempt at...anything. First lesson? Use little to NO water. In fact, I've been reading off and on today about Grolleg (clay geek) and it's actually more effective to throw using slip (or slurry) to coat the clay and your hands. Second lesson? Start SMALL and work your way up. I scaled down on my 3rd or 4th attempt and found I had better results - but even then...ribs were definitely my friend.
I've committed to mastering this clay. So I know there will be many more lessons to come. When I return to the studio on Sunday, I'll be starting off small...perfect time to resume that big order of cups I've been slowly working on. I just keep reminding myself that every clay body I've ever worked with required an adjustment. This will too. And, if I'm resilient enough, patient enough and diligent enough...I'll look back on my first attempts and I'll laugh. As for right now, I'm just wincing.
But I still managed to eek out two pieces that I was fairly pleased with: