Women Women, Wild Clay

Women potters of Tamborine Mountain 1940 - 1980

With each step you take on life’s shifting ground,
put your foot squarely down on your own heart.

1939 South East Qld potters were encouraged to share their clay with other women potters in more remote areas of Australia, including S.A. and Alice Springs.

Each clay has been found on Tamborine Mountain. I have used local fb pages to encourage locals to find clay, researched art and craft makers who sourced clays here in the 40’s to 90’s, visited historical homes and had many cups of tea with the historical society members!

This commercial glaze by Amaco fit nicely.

Where our work will end up I’m not entirely sure. It would be great to exhibit them in the future. The art we make now will hold strong memories and document this interesting time where we have stood still. If we don’t exhibit, then perhaps we can publish or digitally share our results. I am more than happy to hear your ideas. An article in the Journal of Australian ceramics late in the year is a definite possibility.

With this in mind, it would be great if you can document/ photograph your making with this clay. What are the features of the clay you like and what needed improvement.

I have been developing my own body of work with these clays as a separate project and hope to receive a regional arts development grant through my local council. This will allow me to follow up with my research about the mid century female potters who used these same clays. It will also involve working with a geologist.

The ‘Miss Morris sisters of The Poplars 1950’s gas fired to 1000oC. Previous work was fired in a pit in their backyard. As you can see the work is certainly of its time, with borrowed stylisation and motifs.

Location #1
Red Retreat

Found on an empty block near us, this red clay can be thrown or pinched/coiled. Quite a few organics fire out of the body and the result at cone 9/10 can be porous, with some great texture. Results suggest it could be fired even higher but I haven’t pushed it yet. If you wish to throw with this clay, keep it moist, but you may not be able to reach much height unless you add some grog. It trims and carves well. I haven’t tested it with any glazes. 15-30% red raku could be added to help provide more strength if you were hoping to throw thin or hand build with no slumping.

Red retreat location, and recent work with the Red Retreat + 20% Red Keane Raku T.

Base was wheel thrown and I am now adding coils and hand building for height.

Location #2
Eagles Close

I was really lucky to have a retired art teacher contact me about this clay found under her house. This clay starts as an intense orange, stays orange in bisque at 1000oC and fires into a rich iron purple at stoneware. The small pot on the right had most of the original sand and earth left in the clay body. It throws great, and can handle quite a lot of manipulating. The stoneware colour can greatly change depending on which cone your fire it to. It has good commercial glaze fit., and no bloating. I have made various batches of this, some processed through a very fine mesh and others with some original sand and rock left in. Shrinkage is high. More test results to come.
Eagles retreat dried and mixed into a decorative slip and inlayed into Poplars clay.

Location #3
Poplars-Morris Sisters

This clay is the most special to me and it took a while to locate it! The Poplars was a home made up of 3 apartments, built in the 1940’s. Originally it was a convalescent home, as the mountain was well know for its healing properties of fresh air and calming environment. Morris sisters, Isobel and Joyce bought it in 1948 and turned the front room into a gallery and coffee shop. Yep, I knew you’d like them too 😉 After quite a bit of research at the local library, with the council and the historical society, I finally located a lovely lady in her 70’s who remembers visiting the Morris sisters and buying pottery with her mother. She had a great collection of their work, all fired to earthenware, most with a clear gloss glaze and decorated with a black slip. Before the Morris sisters had a kiln, they pit fired in their back yard. The clay is mostly white, but marbled with red, resulting in an orange at cone 06 and then a lighter biscuit colour at cone 9. I have a few different batches of this clay, one being very pale, the other a warmer creamy tan. This clay can remain a bit sticky. It has porcelain properties to it. It can be thrown or hand built, but if it stays too sticky, perhaps add 10-15% of a white stoneware clay or ball clay to it to act as a temper. When throwing it makes quite a lot of creamy slip.
The new owners of the Poplars were very kind and gave me a tour of their home and gardens. I was amazed at how much clay there was, apparently when it rains their whole carport sinks and the white clay becomes liquid.

left to right; Red Retreat, Poplars, Eagles Close.

Mountain mixes. I have made 2 different mountain mixes- a) Red Retreat/Eagles Close- far right b) Poplars/Eagles Close- left