In search of Cumbrian clay - Part 1

Last year, I took some time to gather information on where I could find a reliable source of natural clay in Cumbria. Despite the fact that there are few places I could start digging at, they were either in the boundaries of the National Park or on private land. I didn't really fancy getting chased by a farmer, landowner or National Trust rangers so I gave up my search without much to show for it.

In early Feb this year, we (me, my boyfriend Chris and our sidekick Paddy) went for a stroll to one of our usual afternoon hang out spots and as we were leisurely walking, I noticed a change of colour in the soil along the path-I stopped to examine the soil and quickly realised it was in fact clay.

Pictured wild clay deposit in Cumbria.

Wild clay in Cumbria


I collected some samples in a poop bag (cheers Paddy), brought it home for processing and after deciding it was indeed really plastic and great to work with, we went back for more.

This local clay is full of roots and pebbles but totally worth the effort of processing it. Below are some photos from harvesting and processing this material and once it is fully ready, I will share another blog post showing the next stages of the process.

The brick coloured blob is clay that detached itself from the main deposit:


After harvesting, I divided the clay into smaller chunks and left it to dry in few roasting tins. I did actually stick it in the oven at low temperature for a couple of hours towards the end in order to get rid of any remaining moisture.


Once thoroughly dry, I popped it in a bucket of clean water. This process is known as slaking. Slaking occurs when completely dry clay is immersed in water and breaks down (in this case releasing any contaminants, such as roots and pebbles). 


Slaking in process.


The clay is currently sitting in a bucket, waiting to be dried again so I can go through the slaking process again before I can test it on my wheel.

I will post updates here!

Thanks for reading.