Clay blankets our earth’s surface with tiny particles of weathered granite.
“If one takes any finely grained non-clay mineral and mixes it with water, a crumbly mass will be produced with almost zero formability. If the same is done with clay, however, there is produced a mass that is readily formed into any desired shape and, most interesting of all, it will retain that shape under the force of gravity. In other words, the clay mass has three unique properties; first, it may be deformed without cracking; second, when the deforming force ceases, the shape will remain fixed; and further, when the clay mass is dried, it has considerable strength.”
— Studio Potter, Volume 4, Number 2 (Winter 1975/76)
It’s plastic because its molecules are shaped like dinner plates, with an average diameter of one micron (one millionth of a meter). When wet, the ‘plates’ slide against each other due to thin sheets of water between them. The presence of water allows clay particles to move against each other and change the clay form without breaking.
Pull, pinch, slice, carve, stick, roll, press, twist, and squash!
We can form almost anything out of clay.
As early as 24000 BCE people were making figurines for ceremonial purposes. Functional pottery flourished when agriculture became prevalent around 10,000 BCE.
Venus of Dolni Vestonice Ancient Mesopotamia pottery
(26,000 – 24,000 BCE)