As a professional potter, one of the cornerstone materials in my work is natural clay. The feeling of molding and shaping a piece with my own hands, knowing that it came from the earth, makes the end result that much more special. However, finding and processing your own natural clay can seem daunting to a beginner. Fear not! I have compiled 5 easy steps to guide you in finding and processing your own natural clay.

Step 1: Scout Your Location
The first step is to locate the clay. Look for areas with a high clay content such as riverbanks, creek beds, or at the base of hills. You can also sometimes find it in areas with vegetation that suggests a constant water source, like cattails or bulrushes. If you are unsure if the soil is clay, try adding a little water and kneading it if it turns into a malleable paste, you’ve likely found your clay.

Step 2: Dig It Up
Once you have located your natural clay source, it’s time to start digging. You don’t need to dig deep, a shovel or even your hands will do. It’s important to gather enough for your needs, but avoid taking too much from one area, as it can disturb the ecosystem.

Step 3: Remove Debris
When youve finished digging, you will have a sticky lump of clay mixed with rocks, roots, and other debris. It’s time to get your hands dirty (literally) and remove this unwanted material. Break apart the lump, removing any stones, twigs, or roots from the clay. If there are any pieces left, they will damage your tools and ultimately ruin your piece.

Step 4: Dry and Sift
Once you’ve removed all the debris, the next step is to dry your clay. Spread it out on a flat surface and let it dry for a few days. Cracking is a sign that the clay is drying well. After the clay is totally dry, you will need to sift it to remove any stubborn impurities that are left. Use a mesh screen or a t-shirt stretched over a frame to filter out any particles that are larger than the screen mesh openings.

Step 5: Store and Use
Finally, once all those steps are done, you can store your clay in a container and it is ready for use whenever you want to start creating pottery. It is also important to note that natural clay can be unpredictable in terms of strength and texture, so testing your clay is necessary before using it in your projects.

So that’s it – 5 simple steps to finding and processing your own natural clay! While it may seem intimidating to start, it is so rewarding to work with your own clay and create beautiful pieces. There’s something so special about knowing the material came from the earth and that you were part of the process in bringing it to fruition. Don’t be afraid to experiment and have fun with it!

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