Play with LOCAL CLAY


Amy Joy Hosterman has been working in clay for almost 20 years, and has been testing and working with the clay at the VCAC since 2012. With the assistance of artist Jordan Olsen, she will lead participants through the entire process of using this local clay, from digging to firing.

The ground at the site of the VCAC is made up almost entirely of sedimentary clay that was deposited long ago by a slow-moving river and migrating glaciers. These deposits run at least 200 feet deep in some locations at the site.  It is a beautifully smooth low-fire red clay which can be used with minimal processing. 

This residency experience is focused on exploration and experimentation, while going through the ceramic process from beginning to end, by hand and from scratch, using simple, straight-forward, accessible tools and materials. Due to the nature of this process and material, we make small-scale work, push the material to its limits with drying times, and employing experimental and primitive firing techniques.

Participants have the opportunity to learn about clay testing and clay body formulation.  Amy Joy will lecture on the usage of this particular clay, testing its properties, making adjustments, and finding a balance between what the clay is naturally best suited for and what can be accomplished through simple modifications. She will also discuss with participants options for building your own simple kiln, and methods of firing and finishing without costly equipment.

Previous experience with clay is helpful but not required! Come with an idea, an open mind, and an inquisitive, playful attitude, and you will leave with an increased understanding of ceramic materials and processes, as well as finished pieces made completely from the ground up!

This year, participants using the clay facilities will be collaboratively building a new clay-drying system including a wood-fired rocket stove with a horizontal flue built below drying racks. We will also be working on sheltering and setting up burners for our newly adopted large outdoor gas kiln!

During the Residency participants can expect to:

  • Collect and process raw clay on site using simple methods and basic tools
  • Formulate their own simple clay body for their intended purpose
  • Create hand-built, slip cast, wheel-thrown, or organic burn-out work
  • Fire, glaze, and finish work using accessible techniques such as pit, barrel, and raku-firing
  • Work together to build an outdoor clay-drying system using a rocket stove and warming racks

Ceramics facilities include : 

  • Two treadle potter’s wheels
  • Plaster clay-drying tables
  • Large work table for hand-building
  • Barrels and pits for primitive-style firings
  • Propane-fueled kiln and kiln furniture for low-fire glaze and raku firing
  • Electric kiln for bisque and oxidation firings
  • Various throwing and sculpting tools available (but bring your own favorites)
  • All the clay you can dig/process. 
  • Low-fire glazes provided
  • Buckets, screens, mixers, etc, for clay slip processing
  • Raku-firing heat safety gear (heat aprons, face shields, welding gloves, tongs)
  • During our workshop, we will be constructing a new drying system for our clay. We will build a wood-firing barrel stove with a horizontal flue running underneath drying racks for the clay.

Participants are responsible for their own basic safety gear (safety glasses, dust masks, work gloves, work boots, etc.)