There is a small quarry at the northwest foot of Beinn A' Chlaidh on the Isle of Berneray. I was told its clay-rich gravely soil was used for building the roads on the island - a possible source of local clay?
I sieve the earth removing bigger rocks, then stir the remaining material in a big bucket of water. Leaving the mixture for a few minutes allows for all tiny rocks to fall to the bottom, while the lighter clay particles are still suspended in the water. I then scoop the brown water into a couple layers of cotton sheets in which the clay accumulates while the water runs through. After a day or two, a thin layer of clay can be scraped off the sheet. It is still very runny, like slip, so I leave it on a wooden board or plaster bat to dry a bit (same as when reclaiming) and finally kneed it into a nice smooth lump of clay.
I do not have the knowledge to list the properties of this clay or what additions it needs in order to become a stable and workable clay in a traditional sense. Most ceramic artists would probably only use it as a slip for decoration or mix in a small amount into other studio clays. Nevertheless, I am exploring different sides to this clay without any addition, pure Berneray clay. So far I have discovered its beautiful bright orange colour at 1000ºC, however very fragile. At 1240ºC it melts down into a dark brown leather-like bubbly surface.
Below will be links to my experimental pieces using Berneray clay:
- orange tile with nails