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Choosing Clay

Where to start when choosing clay?

With so many options, whether you are a beginner or professional Potter choosing the right clay can be a difficult decision. We believe these are the key areas that should be considered when making your decision.

Firing range of your kiln

The firing range of your kiln should be the first consideration for any potter, as this will determine which type of clays you will be able to use. Lower temperature kilns are more suitable to earthenwares. Higher temperature kilns can accommodate porcelains and stonewares.  

Forming method and intended function

The type of work that you intend to create is an important factor when considering the most appropriate clay. Whether it will be thrown, hand built, sculptured or modeled will dictate this as will the end use of ornamental, inside or outside use, functional, or domestic.

Size of your work

A key factor is the size of work you plan to create, larger pieces often require a more heavily grogged clay. Smaller pieces of work can require more plasticity.

Texture you would like to create

Texture of the clay body you choose is important when identifying the best clay for use. The feel and look of the ceramic piece you are creating is affected by the amount of grog within the clay body. No grog will result in a smooth polished finish, a fine grog will give some strength and stability, or by increasing the grog size and percentage within the clay you will be able to achieve a coarser finish and high strength result.

Fired colour

From Terracotta’s to Porcelains or black clays there is much more choice for the studio potter. Remember – each colour may
predetermine the temperature range.

Glaze firing temperature & compatibility

Glaze compatibility and application will vary from one body to another. It is important to test with the clay you choose. The temperature of your kiln is also a contributing factor when considering the most appropriate clay and glaze combination.

Testing

Once you have selected an appropriate clay body based on the above criteria be prepared to run a number of small-scale tests to prove that your intended outcome is achievable. 

Pottery, like any craft, has an art of learning the rules and growing your experience to reach beyond those rules. We offer the table below as a starting point to suggest clays that will well suit your early experiences.

For the purpose of this table we have split out the terms Modeling and Sculpting. Modeling can be taken as finer, smaller work, with Sculpting indicating larger, more substantial works.