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:

Original_Inspiration_Piece_6406_web

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_Front_6454_web

Original Tile Front – Pottery Mark Design ©31 May 2018

Original_Back_6456_web

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.

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About Suzanne Gunter McClendon

I am a South Carolina native, but have been living on the Texas Gulf Coast for 14 years now. David and I have been married for 34 years. Our children are grown. Some are here at home, others are out in the big world doing their "thing". I enjoy genealogy, reading, writing, photography, digital art, fiber arts, cooking and much, much more.
This entry was posted in 2018, Clay, Pottery, The Gunter Potters. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to My First Adventure With Clay

  1. Vanessence says:

    It’s an awesome first try! You will get the hang of it, never fear! All crafty adventures have to start at the beginning. 🙂

    Next time you want to get an imprint like that, perhaps use a sheet of clear plastic wrap as a barrier between your clay and the thing you are imprinting? That way your clay won’t get dirty, I would think.

    You are doing great! Maybe one day I will need your skills to make soap dishes, lol. 😀 Wouldn’t that be cool? 🙂 ❤

    Blessings!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much for your encouragement, Vanessa. I think it would be awesome to make soap dishes for you, once I get this whole thing figured out and get a kiln (or access to one!).

      I will keep the plastic wrap idea in mind and will put it on the grocery list, too. There are some really nicely shaped leaves on a plant growing through our patio (someone called it a “concrete maple”). I think those leaves would make a pretty imprint on something. I saw a video recently of a lady making a leaf shaped bird bath which turned out really cool. She used concrete instead of clay, which might be another fun adventure. 🙂

      For the first time in a very long time, I feel like I am working toward what I am meant to do and it is a great feeling. I didn’t even have a crying fit (read: tantrum) when my pottery mark sample cracked and that’s a big step for me. It didn’t reduce my desire to try at all. 🙂

      Thank you so much for your encouragement, my friend. It is appreciated more than I can express. ❤

      Have a blessed night. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Vanessence says:

    PS – you can use any old plain jar or can as a rolling pin, too. 🙂 Fill it with water to give it some weight so you don’t have to press so hard.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. ghostmmnc says:

    It was so interesting to see your learning process in clay! Love the pottery mark you chose, too! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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