My First Adventure With Clay

First things first, many of you already know this, but for those that don’t, I have discovered that some of my forefathers were potters. The first place that I discovered them as potters was in Edgefield, South Carolina, in the early-to-mid 1800s. They moved to the Hart County, Georgia area, where they were pioneers in the alkaline glazing technique. They trained other potters in this technique. I wish I could have been there for them to teach me, too, but c’est la vie.

As I understand it, it wasn’t typical for women to be potters, but some of the Gunter women were. My Gunter forefathers (my daddy’s side of the family) were utilitarian potters, making jugs and containers for storing dry goods and liquid goods (or bads, however you want to look at whiskey storage). This was their livelihood and way of life until cheaper, mass produced pottery came in vogue, greatly reducing the volume of business and, therefore, their income.

Now comes me. I want to learn this craft that my forefathers mastered so many years ago. Maybe it will never be a livelihood for me or pay the bills. That is okay. It is in me to do. It is part of who I am. I can hear them calling me to the clay and the pull is strong. I don’t want to fight it. I do know that there will be challenges to fight through and I’m willing to do so. Hey, I’m a Gunter by birth. We don’t back down from fights! 🙂

While reading on the history of pottery making in Edgefield, I learned about pottery marks. It is a way for potters to mark their goods to distinguish their works from those of others. I have been praying and pondering over what my mark should be. One day, while out watching the birds, Heavenly Father gave it to me. Here is a picture of what I saw:

Pottery Mark Inspiration ©30 May 2018 Suzanne Gunter McClendon

Heavenly Father definitely has a sense of humor. How fitting that the pottery mark He gave me would be the very thing that keeps me sneezing almost non-stop. 🙂 Nature is very important and peace-giving to me, in spite of the sneezing. This mark fits me. It represents to me nature, the family tree and, of course, an “S” for Suzanne.

I made a batch of air dry clay using a recipe that I got from a craft website. I wanted to try to recreate the above design, plus, I needed to know if I would actually be able to manipulate the clay before I invested in more costly clay. I have rheumatoid arthritis and multiple hand injuries that cause a great deal of pain at times and limit the use of my left hand. Thankfully, I was able to manipulate this clay.

I decided that I would pat it out by hand (I don’t currently have a rolling pin) as good as I could and take it outside to press it into the “nature” that was displayed on our patio. This part worked out okay except that it got the clay dirty. This was expected, it is outside, after all. I brushed off as much of the extra nature as I could, much of which would not come off. That’s okay. Then, I put the tile in a safe place to dry.

This is the part that didn’t work out so well. It cracked all the way through as it was drying. At this point, I assume it cracked because the thicker area of the clay took longer to dry than the thinner areas. This is why rolling it out evenly is important, which I can’t seem to achieve having to pat it out by hand. That problem will soon be remedied.

Here are photos of the front and the back of my original air dry clay experiment, featuring my pottery mark design:

Original Tile Front – Pottery Mark Design ©31 May 2018
Original Tile Back – Pottery Mark Design ©31 May 2018

As you can see, that is a pretty significant crack. Oh well, maybe next time will be better. This one will always be a treasure to me, cracks, extra nature, and all, because it is the first step to joining my ancestors as potters.