Several weeks ago I collected my final samples before returning from Barbados. After interviewing several potters it was discovered that two of five do not use local Barbados clay. When asked for a reason, one potter stated that there was too much variation within the local clay. This means that the content of iron and sand within the clay was not uniform throughout the entire clay deposit. Differences in the variation of the clay body can lead to variance in the firing temperatures of the pottery. If too much iron is present in the sample, the ceramic will fire at a lower temperature with the iron melted out of the clay. This would lead to more shrinkage in the ceramic than desired, and in turn to the breaking of the vessel due to the high heat of the kiln. Too much sand presents an entirely different problem, the ceramic fires at too high of a temperature. This leads to seeping of the ceramic, thus ruining any expensive mahogany tables underneath it. The potter explained that he had lost a whole kilns worth of work because of the local clay and changed sources, as well as complaints from clients about mahogany tables being ruined.
I have been in Barbados now since the third of July. Since that time I have not had much of a chance to roam around the countryside and identify clay sources. The initial plan in the collection of my data was dependent on the discovery of the clay sources used by present day potters in the Chalky Mount area of Barbados. After a discussion with Professor Smith, we decided that it would prove to be difficult to find the actual sources on the island. The difficulty mainly arises in the time commitment that would be required each day to gather information on the location of the sources through interviews of potters, as well as the further time needed to locate and collect clay from the sources. After some thought, it was decided that an alternative approach would prove to be more fruitful. Instead of finding the clay sources myself, I now plan to collect samples from the potters themselves. These samples would derive from either: raw clay from the source collected by the potters; or the collection of “waster” pots from the potters. During the manufacture of pottery many ceramics are destroyed due to various variables such as: imperfections (e.g. air pockets) in the structure of the ceramic leading to a failure of the structural integrity of the pot; human error when handling the pottery leading to a breaking of the ceramic; and over-heating of the ceramic due to the placement of the ceramic within the kiln leading to excess heating of the ceramic and the subsequent cracking of the ceramic.
As this is my first blog entry, I would like to both give a short blurb about myself, as well as briefly outline my research for this summer. I plan to use the subsequent blog entries during my research itself.