Entry from Mack Baker

Blog Post- Clay 6.26.17

Hello! My name is Mack and I’m an Intern with Nancy at Bread and Butter farm. I am currently studying Psychology with a minor in writing and Studio Art at the University of Vermont. After undergrad, I hope to go into Art Therapy. I have been working with clay and the earth for many years and it is a media that I hold very dear. I believe that the earth is a conduit for spiritual balance and has brought much harmony to my life.

Right now, at the farm we are working with the earth as a way of creating both functional and sculptural ware. What I am focusing on is figuring out the clay’s limitations and ultimately, trying to make a functional piece from it. First, I harvested the earth from the ground, separated it into small particles, and then dried it out in the sun until the earth was bone dry. Once the earth was dry we ground it up into a fine powder, which I then added water to until the mixture was of a yogurt like consistency. This gooey clay mixture is called Slip. I then spread the slip onto a tin plate and began to torch it so that the earth dried at a consistent temperature. Once this was completed, I then began to work the earth so that I could sculpt with it. Right now, I am testing out the limit of the earth’s plasticity by forming it into a functional bowl. I am doing this by using a salad bowl as a mold and sculpting the clay to the inside of it for maximum support. 

What’s most interesting about this kind of clay at the farm is that it is very versatile. There are different ways to make art from it. At first we added hay and sand to it to create cob, which is an old technique that was used to make housing. By adding the hay to the earth, we are making the clay less flexible but more durable. We began to sculpt a cow head (using found skull bones on the farm to understand the form) from the cob by taking material away. In the past couple of days, we have begun to burnish the outside of the sculpture by using a technique called tadelakt. Tadelakting is a method originating from Morocco to use oil and stone to make the earth to be as smooth as possible. It has some very interesting effects. 

This process is very much experimental and fosters a new experience for me in how the earth reacts to this method of working the clay. I am excited to see how this all turns out!