There’s a bit of received wisdom that was shared with me amongst the ceramic community – there’s no clay on the Scottish inner or outer isles. I have followed other ceramicists working in Scotland, mostly experimenting with hand collected glaze ingredients added to stoneware and porcelain clay bodies, but then something prompted me to push a line of investigation further…..
A conversation with some friends of my son drifted to my project with pints and my local pub, and then onto other possibilities and the subject of whiskey. I went on-line to investigate, and searched using Islay – the source of some of my favourite whiskeys and ‘clay’….. and hey presto, a site focusing on Scottish Back and Tile works over the centuries ( https://www.scottishbrickhistory.co.uk/foreland-brick-and-tile-works-isle-of-islay/ ) brought up a link to a site that produced bricks and tiles, mostly for agricultural drainage, in the 1840s. I was hooked.
I arranged to visit the site in April of this year, helped with advice from various phone calls and email exchanges – particularly from the Islay Natural Heritage Trust. I found the site using the grid references given on the site mentioned above, and the clay pits highlighted on the 1840s edition of the OS map. I took a few small bags as samples, and later that week came back to the workshop to experiment.
The clay is sandy, and silty. It’s like throwing mud. But taking it through a 30, 60 or 100 sieve makes in workable – just, and adding 20% of my hand dug Clee Hill clay helps. The real advantage is that it fires to stoneware temperatures – hence the glaze tests – which is very exciting.
A walk through the woods to the clay and tile works
The original 1840s blunger – for mixing clay, with Rowan tree
The ‘Standing Stones’ – which are the piers that would have supported the roof of the drying shed
Window – clay and tile works building
The clay – being dug at the site of the 1840s clay pit
Samples of clay for the first biscuit ware firing experiments
A tumbler fired to stoneware temperatures with draff ash and rock dusts
#brakspearceramics and #worcestershireopenstudios2017
Thanks to everyone who came along to Dean Clough in Halifax for the opening of the Autumn / Winter shows – including my show in the Link Gallery; Lost and Found (which now runs through to January 22nd 2017). It was great to see many of the people who helped me with the project; Mick – who let me dig his clay, Aaron and Victoria – who let me photograph their favourite baking bowl, John – whose knowledge for ceramics / pots and their uses over time with a connection to food is an inspiration……. It was great to have family and friends there (thanks for making the journey you all). I am also very grateful to Vic Allen at Dean Clough for giving me the opportunity at DC and to the Yorkshire Film Archive (YFA) for agreeing to lease me the wonderful Isaac Button photographs taken by John Anderson in 1964…..
And on this…. We are hosting a film night on Wednesday 23rd November (7.30 pm) to show Isaac Button Country Potter by John Anderson and Robert Fournier (1965), which we have also leased from the YFA – who have been incredibly helpful and supportive to this end. If you would like to come along – do let us know.
Lost and Found – Halifax (2016)