Sculpting with black clay

Our backyard on the banks of the Merri Creek has a heavy fine black clay that makes for difficult gardening but great sculpting. Extracting the clay itself isn’t just a matter of digging it out of the ground. Even though the soil appears to be almost all clay – there’s still plenty of organic material, sand and pebbles that needs to be removed. After a bit of experimentation, it turns out to be a three step process – soaking, filtering and then drying.

The final clay is black and very malleable. It’s a pleasure to work with and I’ve made a couple of pieces so far – a small bowl and a tiny figurine. I’m pretty happy with them especially when burnishing the surface brings out a nice shine. I’ve been air-drying the pieces. With a bit of care, drying hasn’t resulted in any cracks.

One of the other main pleasures is the deep but simple satisfaction that comes from knowing that I made everything from scratch and from the backyard.