Harvesting Your Own Clay, Dirty but Delightful!

3 Materials
4-7 Days
One of the many wonderful things about nature is that it provides so many wonderful opportunities to create with what is available to us.
Sand becomes glass, trees become homes, fallen leaves provide a winter blanket, everything serves more than one purpose. This Instructable will help guide you in finding and further creating works of art from what might otherwise be deemed a mere chunk of mud. Naturally dug clay can be harvested, cleaned, processed, and even fired into permanent items.
Put on your dirty duds, and follow me to the creek. Let's get digging!
*Note* The tutorial is actually quite lengthy, and difficult to dissect into a short blog post. For complete details, loads of information, and plenty of pictures, please visit the link provided.
Wonderful clay can easily be dug and cleaned.
From a miserable mess to a work of art!
Manicure, shmanicure.
Creeks, river banks, lakes, ponds, and other bodies of water such as a shore will often yield natural clay, which can be collected and processed for handwork and pottery. It may be in dried form if the water has receded, or in the case of a creek, run dry.

If you are searching for clay in a public park, please be sure you have permission from the park ranger to do so. They will likely not mind a small bucket of testing material, but you wouldn't want to break any laws. Be safe and civil-minded. :-)
Saturating the clumps of soil, clay and such.
Lightweight debris will float to the top.
Leaves, sticks & stones stuck in the clay.
Once you have found chunks of soil and / or clay, give them a good soaking, then a straining, and a bit of sifting. This is a project best completed outdoors, as it can be quite messy.
Pouring the clay and water into a cotton Tee.
A few days of drying, and getting closer.
Testing to ensure consistency throughout.
After drip-drying for a few days, your clay will begin to form a nice chunk of clay. A bit more drying time, and it should be ready to play with.
Think of it as a cheese wheel of mud.
Cutting open the mass of clay should reveal what almost might remind you of a soft cheese wheel.
Cookie cutter are great for clay work!
A clay project, fired one time. Color!
Your imagination is the only limit to what you can do with your newly acquired pile of clay.
Suggested materials:
  • Dirt, mud, soil   (Outdoors)
  • Water   (River, creek, faucet)
  • Patience   (Practice)
Karen Manasco
Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!
Frequently asked questions
Have a question about this project?
  1 question
  • Kambi Briggs Kambi Briggs on May 11, 2021

    Can these be baked in the oven, or do they have to sun/air dry?

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