Tales of clay, tales of earth. Every clay has its story; encountering it is akin to meeting a person. What’s its personality? Will we get along? Will the clay mesh with my refined, somewhat snobbish glazes? Will it suit my demanding kiln, which prefers long, meditative firings and has a Zen soul?
Introducing a new clay is always a risk; you have to test it, see how it reacts, understand if it will accept your ideas. Will it follow your hands, in harmony? Or will it have a mind of its own? Clay tales are sometimes stories of love, friendship, passion, or even breaking.
Years ago, I found a fascinating black clay, soft to the touch, able to remain moist without drying out. It waited in its bag, always ready to be molded—a pleasure for my hands. Once fired at high temperature, it took on a wonderful black hue, intense and full. However, any glaze I applied, after many attempts, caused it to break. I tried tirelessly to find a solution because I truly admired it. Yet, I had to accept that we had no future, or simply put, we could only go so far together.
In contrast, another clay tale unfolds with what I call my first love: a rough, strong chamotte clay I affectionately term “the breakhands.” Only suitable for sculpture, it requires gloves for wheel throwing. Yet, our relationship clicked instantly, evolving through moves, glaze changes, and countless pieces, never a disagreement. A successful marriage that still thrives, now with even greater synergy.
In summary, if it works, it works well from the beginning. Sometimes, the best choice is to accept the limitations of what doesn’t work and let it go.