[Clayart] Ball clay

David Woof woofpots at hotmail.com
Thu Feb 4 21:45:20 UTC 2021

hi Joe,

Mining method aside.... All clays do not readily "ball up" so perhaps the "rest of the naming story" is in the particular clay's useful balling character.

I call to mind an obvious hand formed basketball sized ball of clay, with the handprints still visible, being dug up in an ancient "Indian" (pre-Anglo Conquest) irrigation canal in the Phoenix Arizona area.   We could all make up a story of how it got in the canal but it appears that a pottery production industry was thriving and Indians were mining and transporting "Ball" clay.



From: Clayart <clayart-bounces at lists.clayartworld.com> on behalf of Joseph Herbert <josephherbert827 at gmail.com>
Sent: Wednesday, February 3, 2021 12:07 PM
To: clayart at lists.clayartworld.com <clayart at lists.clayartworld.com>
Subject: [Clayart] Ball clay


I have read that the ball clay name originally came from the mining
method.  In underground mining the clay would be shaved off the mine face
with a shovel, then rolled into a ball to get it out of the mine. Very low
overheads, men working on their knees or bellies.  Makes me cringe.

When that traditional name, ball clay, meets commerce, some consistency in
composition of the material has to emerge.  Companies need a dependable
supply of a material that is inherently variable.  Modern analysis better
identifies the mixture of clay minerals in a particular clay, but I guess
the supplier occasionally announces the changing content and users have to
deal with it.

Sometimes, the material disappears entirely- Albany Slip - when a mine or
processor closes.  Also, several popular feldspars have faded into memory
as mines closed.

There is another materials issue that sometimes occurs, although I don’t
have a pottery example.  A material of use is extracted as a small
byproduct of something else.  Silver recovered from lead mining is an
example. The impact is usually on price.

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