There seems to be some consternation around problems with current clay bodies available. I don’t know, but here’s John Lawrence’s assessment….
In 1963 Ann Verdcourt and I were senior lecturers in ceramics on the 5th floor of Luton Art School, England. We were struggling with about 300 students per week, anaemic clay and commercial colours and Russia threatening to eliminate us. We read an article on NZ pottery by Helen Mason and within months were winging our way to NZ with two small children.
We had been told that the school had a pottery department but all there was was a hut with no water or tables. We ordered a pile of Crum clay and waited for our first class of students – mostly ladies. Whatever their expectations they were confronted with the task of wedging a mass of dry materials into the wet Crum…they loved it!
Later after reasonable success with this, a young geological student turned up with a box of dry white materials. I tested this but I had no experience of clay in the raw and was not impressed until I saw the line of potters waiting to dig the clay on a nearby hill side. With an auger of some 8 meters I bored into the hill from the bottom of a 2 metre pit….the white clay went on and on.
From then on things moved fast, within a month or so there was a registered company entitled ‘Taruaru (Tararua?) Minerals’. . A lot more could be said about the progress of the company, some very amusing. It does not exist today.
However, most of the potters using the clay had piles of cracked bisquit behind their sheds showing that something was needed. With the help of Michael Cardew’s book ‘Pioneer Pottery’ this was worked out.
Now in my 86th year I have not returned to the hill for some 20 years, it is today a dairy farm sitting on top of millions of tonnes of the nicest clay I have ever used. There are several large deposits of the same clay in the North Island.
Ann recently bought 3 large amounts of ‘paperclay’. All the OZ ‘paperclay’ has different labels but it is all similar, = crap! I know what the problem is as we were some of the first to make it here. It is very easy to make.
The first two she discarded together with1 tonne of other PZ clay. She is now ‘trying’ to use the 3rd lot. What the hell do we do with it? I have not got the strength now to do too much. I think the ‘paperclay’ could work if mixed equal with non ‘paper’ clay I will try that.
If I was not 80+ years old I would be back in the hills of Pahiatua digging some of the 8 million tonnes of near white clay and making it into paperclay. I made a small amount last week and it was very good. We used that Pahiatua clay for everything for 10 years as did a lot of NZ potters.
With great respect Paul (Pepworth) is not a clay man I tried to get him interested in some of my recipes, he is brilliant otherwise, and there are a lot of people that could help; who know more than I do. Pahiatua Clay have just been refused funding.
Now John did not explain further about the funding failure so I’m not sure what that part is about but if anyone has any comments please add here and if you have something more to say maybe write to John – he has the knowledge and is always happy to be helpful if he can.
We’ll await with bated breath to see if more can develop from all this. The Lawrence/Verdcourt household would be most interested as would many others as clay seems to be a hot topic these days.