Clay Marbles by Linda Starr
In my first ceramics class I started experimenting and pushing the limits of the clay from the very beginning, trying different techniques and different types of clay. I was often told that won't work, those will explode, you can't do that with clay, or we don't use that type of clay. But I persisted and I insisted. (I'm a stubborn little cuss after all). At the time I was working with three different stoneware clays - a red, a dark brown, and a tan. I knew little about clay then, I was just attracted to the colors and textures of the different clays.
Clay Marble by Linda Starr
At the end of the semester I had a little bit of each of the three clays left. It seemed I didn't have enough of any one color clay to make anything, but I hated to waste the clay. I thought about combining the three clays into one piece. I made a hand built tray layering the three clays together. Then I noticed I still had a little bit more of each clay left, so I decided to roll the three clays into some marbles. The marbles are solid clay and range in size from 0.5 to 1.5 inches in diameter. Amazingly the twenty-two marbles just fit inside the tray. I couldn't fit another marble in if I wanted to.
Marbleized Clay Tray by Linda Starr
6.25" x 7.25 x 1.75"
6.25" x 7.25 x 1.75"
When my instructor saw the tray and marbles he explained that different clays shrink at different rates and they might not stay together. I asked him if I could try firing them anyway, and he said OK. I bisque fired them and, much to my surprise, they made it through the bisque. When I was unloading them from the kiln, in my inexperience, I picked up the bisque tray with the marbles inside from the side without supporting it. The side gave way from the weight of the marbles. I was so disappointed I put the tray with the marbles in a cabinet at the college thinking I'd worry about them the next semester.
Marbleized Clay Tray with Clay Marbles by Linda Starr
This year, many years later, I was rummaging around in the cabinets and was happy as a lark to find my marbles and tray at the back of a cabinet on the very top shelf. What a great surprise; sometimes the littlest things bring me such unexpected delight. I decided to fire them to cone 10. When I took them out of the kiln the other day, I saw the tray and marbles made it through the cone 10 firing. They have a rough texture and beautiful colors all blended together randomly.
Gary said the broken side of the tray looks like it has deteriorated over time, like an ancient game of marbles just discovered. This marbleized tray with marbles feels special to me. I guess it is marks a time when I first realized I truly loved working with clay.
I remember I used to love collecting and playing marbles when I was a child. I remember cat eyes, puries, boulders, aggies, and others. I got to thinking about clay and did a search and found out there were actually clay marbles mass produced back in the 1800's in Akron, Ohio. Before that clay marbles were imported from Germany and some of these vintage marbles were called Bennington clay marbles. I learned there is a whole repertoire of marble terminology. I also learned there are folks who now specialize in making contemporary clay marbles.
Wonder what else I can make with three colors of clay, hand blended together? As I was photographing the marbles I noticed they looked nice arranged in a pattern and thought about making some marbled discs or squares and mounting them on a board. As I was looking at the tray I realized I can't even remember how I made the marbled clay. Have you made marbleized clay? How did you go about making it?
My first year working with clay I learned it never hurts to try. This year I again learned, it never hurts to try. I think I'll explore marbleized clay a little further. The flowers are dahlias blooming near my studio.