Elliot Stork, Hali’a Buchal, Phoebe Ward
The purpose of our experiment was to turn raw materials (clay, grog, water) into loom weights, by fashioning the materials into the desired shape (a doughnut). We conducted the experiment in the ceramics studio under the guidance of Kelly Connole, who helped us with preparing, handling, and marking the clay with our initials. We were split into three groups, but we were all given the same set of instructions: make three clay loom weights, and leave them out to dry.
Some of our research questions and goals included:
- To gain an experiential understanding of the steps in the chaine operatoire outlined by Roux, particularly hydrating, adding temper, wedging, fashioning and finishing
- To better understand the constraints the properties of raw materials imposed on the desired finished product and the skill and experience necessary to overcome them
- Which steps of the process are the most challenging?
- How difficult is it to achieve a uniform result between your individual pieces and those of your peers?
- Grog (ground up fired clay) + earthenware clay mix
- Tools (for poking holes and decorating)
- Plastic bin
First, we had to weigh out the temper and clay powder. Instead of making one big chunk of clay and dividing it in three, we made the loom weights one at a time to preserve as much uniformity across the class as possible. After 200g of clay powder and 15g of temper were weighed into a bowl, we mixed the dry mixture to distribute the two ingredients evenly.
Next, water was gradually added to the mixture and worked until the desired consistency was achieved. We did not have a set amount of water to add, so there was some variation with the wetness of the clay. If the clay was too wet, it could be rolled on the table so the canvas would absorb some moisture. However, when the clay was extremely wet, rolling it on the table led to some loss of mass.
Once the clay was the desired consistency, we weighed it to determine how many grams of water had been added. We then had to decide which of two methods we would use to make our “donut”. One method was poking a hole in the middle of a slightly flattened ball, then stretching and smoothing the weight until it was approximately ⅓ of the diameter. The other method was rolling the clay out into a snake, and joining and smoothing the ends together. We measured the diameter of the entire loom weight as well as the diameter of the hole in centimeters. Some people chose to poke holes so that the clay wouldn’t be as thick, therefore reducing the risk of it being blown up in the kiln. The number of holes per weight varied. Some also chose to add decoration. The whole process was repeated twice more for a total of 3 loom weights. The next day we smoothed out our weights and weighed them again to see how much water had been lost.
|Weight of wet clay||Water added||Weight day after||Weight lost after one day||Diameter||Hole Width||Ratio of HW to dia.|
|242 g||27 g||225 g||17 g||8 cm||2.85 cm||0.35|
Making a loom weight is both harder and simpler than it looks. None of the steps themselves are particularly complicated, but each one is important. For example, adding too much water to the clay-grog mixture can result in an unusable soggy mess, but using too little won’t allow it to congeal. The ratio of temper to clay is also important: while our ratio was given to us by Kelly, this wasn’t necessarily the case in the past. That said, we were artificially controlling our clay mix, whereas it would be possible to just fix a wrong ratio by adding more of another ingredient. We also don’t yet have any idea how the weights will fare during firing: how many will explode? Will our holes help?
Many people said that the whole task of making a loom weight felt childish. Most people in modern societies only work with clay as children. This may not have been true for ancient peoples, but the task did feel simple enough for a child to master, despite the significance of the nuances and details. It’s interesting that we now associate use of clay with either children or masters, not just mundane tasks.
Finally, we have yet to test the loom weights as, well, loom weights. Will their differences in size and shape have an effect on our cloth? (Our guess: no.)
Group Data Reports
The following are the quantitative observations of the loom weights made by Group C: Maddy #1: Dehydrated Weight of Materials 215 g Hydrated Weight of Materials 249.8 g Weight Diameter 8 cm Hole Diameter 2.5 cm Final Weight: 225 g Maddy #2 Dehydrated Weight of Materials 215.3 g Hydrated Weight of Materials 250.7 g Weight…
Data Gathered Note: Two different scales were used, for the sake of consistency data reporter dropped everything after the decimal for the scale that did display that data. Note: For holes, a T denotes holes that were pushed all the way through the clay, N denotes holes that were not. Person/Attempt Weight of Dry Stoneware…
Quantitative Observations Elliot #1 unhydrated weight of material 216g hydrated weight of material 275g full diameter 8.5cm hole diameter 2.5cm edge width height 3.0cm Margie #1 unhydrated weight of material 215g hydrated weight of material 235g full diameter 8.0cm hole diameter 2.5cm edge width 2.5cm height 2.5cm Hannah #1 unhydrated weight of material 215g hydrated…