Natural Clay 101

Natural Clay 101

Knowing how to find and process clay from nature is a hard thing to learn without a teacher. I am contacted by people frequently about this so I know it’s a serious problem especially for those just getting started. In this course I will explain what clay is, how it is formed and what different types of clay deposits are out there. Then I will take you out into the field around the American Southwest to look at over 20 different natural clay beds. This is the kind of help that you need when starting out but is hard to find, seeing clay and being taught what to look for and how to tell if it is good. I will then cover how to process your natural clay to make it usable for hand-building or throwing. When you are done with this course you will know how to locate and process natural clay like a pro anywhere in the world.

Natural Clay Video Trailer

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testing natural clay for plasticity

You Will Learn:

How to identify clay as it exists in nature, recognizing it by the texture or color of the soil.

What tests can be performed on natural clay to know if it is suitable for pottery or sculpting.

How to turn found clay into a usable material suitable for art and craft projects.

What minerals you should avoid in your clay body and how to identify them.

Plus, get support from an expert as you learn. The author of this course, Andy Ward will provide personalized help and answer your questions as you progress through the Natural Clay 101 course.

a freshly processed block of found clay

Course Objective

  • What is clay
  • About the different types of clay
  • What tools are available to help locate clay
  • To identify native clay in the field
  • How to test native clays 
  • Different ways to process clay
  • What temper is
  • Some materials commonly used for temper
  • Problem minerals to avoid
  • How to process temper
natural clay being dug from the ground

After finishing this course you will be qualified to locate natural clay and process it into a workable material practically anywhere in the world.


Take this Course

I've been making primitive pottery since I was a teenager in the 80's. My work focuses on reproducing the beautiful and complex polychrome pottery styles made in the fourteenth century. I have taught workshops and lectured at venues all over the Southwest. While traditional potters are notoriously closed about sharing information, I believe that "when information is generally useful, redistributing it makes humanity wealthier no matter who is distributing and no matter who is receiving." Because of my feelings about sharing information I created AncientPottery.how to help others who want to learn.

4 Comments

  • Andy, I may take your intro pottery course. What are your prices? That black clay I have that was too sticky and it was decided that letting it weather might help it…well it had 5 weeks in the yard and is ready to slak.. I mixed up another batch of that clay and it came just fine..not sure why the first batch did not cooperate… ..I grew many gourds but all but one succumbed to fungus…need to cut the one up…have been spending a good bit of time gathering and processing clay here in South….Lacombe, La. across the Lake from New Orleans….have a small 110 electric kiln and have not fired it yet…but do have a pile of test strips which I need to paint…I enjoy your videos..best Allen

    Allen Bealle Reply
    • I’m not sure what the price will be yet, I’m still deciding, I plan on making it available next week. As you may remember I used to live in Denham Springs, LA so I know what the part of the country is like.

      Andy Ward Reply
  • Hi, I am highly interested in you class. The part that is missing is how to fire the clay preferably in a bonfire, and where is an appropriate place to build the bonfire, how to build it and out of what, etc. This is exactly the information I am looking for otherwise. Any thoughts on how I can acquire the necessary firing information? Otherwise, I’m in.

    Robert King Reply
    • Robert, I have several good firing videos on my YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_3BTjvtaAsCwfwjQDSqFTQ

      I am working on the firing class now and hope to have it ready by early July. Best places to fire is public land out of town somewhere, I’ve been driving out to Gardner Canyon to fire lately.

      Andy Ward Reply

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