Clay is one of the most prized naturally occurring substances known to man, used for making flower vases, plates, jugs and other forms of pottery. It is made from soil particles, decomposed plant life and animals, which are filtered through rocks and sand, leaving silt to settle into beds of clay. These can generally be found in areas where streams or rivers once flowed.
Stage 1: Preparing the Clay
After clay has been collected, it will definitely will have few particles and stones, so it needs to be prepared to render it suitable for use. These are the steps taken in the preparation of clay:
I. Soak Clay in Water: You will need a bucket or any medium that can store water, soak the clay for 1 week maximum so that the clay will dissolve totally, (like water) and all stones and particles will be easy to remove.
II. Sieve the Clay: In this process, you will need a very light piece of fabric (cloth) and an empty bucket or whatever medium you prefer. Cover the empty bucket with the fabric (cloth) and pour the clay into the empty bucket, few bowls at a time. This will process will separate the clay from particles and stones.
III. Soak the New Clay: Now you will need to soak the clay in order for it to sum-up for 2 days before removing the water. (Careful, not to pour out the clay with the water). After the water removal, leave for 1 day more for it to solidify and then your clay is ready to use.
Stage 2: Molding the Clay
The earliest methods for molding clay into desired shapes (e.g bowls, jugs, boxes) was Hand Building which involved using only the hands and clay. This approach is still used today and is summarized in the following steps:
I. Clay Balling/Pinching: The clay is rolled into a ball on a hard, flat surface. The ball of clay is then pinched or pressed to form a bowl.
II. Clay Coiling: The clay is rolled into ropes or coils that are then wrapped in upward circles until the desired height is reached. The coils are then smoothed so that they are no longer distinct.
III. Clay Slab: A large ball of clay is flattened into a pancake-like slab. The slab is then cut into rectangles, which are attached together by moist clay, making the sides of a clay box. To make a bowl, the entire slab is placed over a round mold (base).
Stage 3: Drying the Clay
Having molded the clay into the desired shape, the next step is Drying. This involves leaving it in the sun or a cool dry place for at least 3 days before taking it for to the kiln for firing, afterwhich you have your finished molded clay masterpiece.