001 Why Clay? – MudTalk Podcast

MudTalk Podcast
MudTalk Podcast - Pottery, Ceramics, Business
001 Why Clay? - MudTalk Podcast

Why Clay? MudTalk Podcast 001Welcome to the MudTalk Podcast!

The goal of this show is to share as many different opinions, perspectives and thoughts as possible. Each episode will cover a different topic related to pottery and ceramics.

If you want to share your thoughts on the MudTalk Podcast, go here and leave an audio or written message.

In this first episode, we’ll hear why it is so awesome to work with clay.

Unfortunately, since this was my first ever podcast episode, the sound quality is beginner-level. Don’t worry, things get better in future episodes!


Welcome to the MudTalk Podcast. My name is Brandon but you can call me Fuzzy if you prefer. This is the first episode. It could be one of many or the one and only. We’ll see how it goes.

Since it’s the first episode, I’m going to give a bit of an introduction. First of all, what am I doing? Basically, I’m reading through some of my favorite comments in the MudTalk Monday discussions. If you aren’t familiar with MudTalk Monday, you can follow Pottery Making Info on social media. Every Monday, or every other monday, I’ll put up a question or prompt to provide an opportunity for others to share their thoughts or stories about clay and clay-related topics. I have been delightfully surprised at the quantity and quality of the response.

Okay, so why am I doing this? For one reason, it scares me out of my socks. I hate talking in front of people. In fact, I try to avoid talking as much as possible. I’m way more comfortable writing. So I’m trying to get out of my comfort zone and grow as a person. I’m also doing it as a way to help spread the word about another project I’m working on. More on that later. And lastly, I’m just trying to do something that will make the clay community a little bit better.

So, why a podcast? I’m always looking for things to listen to while I’m working with clay. And I wish there were more pottery specific podcasts. I also discovered it’s not as hard as I thought – I was recently listening to a guy do these 5-10 minute podcasts as he was driving in his car. So I thought: I can get out this $10 mic I’ve had for at least a decade and plug it into my 7 yr old laptop and lock the kids out of my clay studio for a little while and probably end up with something that is at least as good as somebody else out there. Don’t expect anything fancy- probably not a lot of editing. No fancy intro music. Probably no guests in the near future. But one thing that I’m trying to remember and apply to my work is “done is better than perfect.” I’m just getting it out there and then I can make improvements as I go.

So, with all apologies to the names that I will now skewer, let’s get started.

The first MudTalk Monday question was pretty basic: Why clay? I try to leave these as vague and open ended as possible to encourage a variety of discussion. There were a lot of great responses and a handful of themes started to emerge. I’ve sorted the responses into 6 categories including: the tactile nature of clay,  the unpredictability and variety that clay offers, the functional and practical uses for objects made of clay, the ancient or from-the-earth practice, the feelings/ therapy/expression clay offers and last, kind of a miscellaneous category. Let’s start with responses that mention the tactile nature of clay.


Notleann15 I like clay because it’s all tactile. The making, the product… it’s all about how it feels.

Claybylaura Touch. it’s the tactile nature of clay that keeps me coming back for more.

Marilu.melange I love all the different textures, when the clay is smooth and muddy, when you add water, when it gets dry and hard and you are able to shine the object, this is like meditation to me and in the end strong, hard, and cool – nearly unbreakable…..

Nboldenart it’s magical. i take a ball of soft malleable mush and manipulate it to realize whatever it is i’ve imagined. it’s also fragile and ephemeral once finished. the tactile sensation is the greatest therapy i’ve ever experienced.

Lisavalley I love the tactile quality of the material. Working with clay provides quiet and focused time and allows me to create something real, away from the computer.

Unpredictable Nature/Possibilities/Variety

Dowidat.ceramics Clay offers the diversity. It can become personal, influential to others how a sculpture is interpreted or how a mug touches your lips. I love creating from sculptures to now my functional works and there are very few days that I set in my studio and wonder what I will create next because the possibility are so endless.

Grace.your.table It has so many applications and is more reusable than other mediums. It’s so elemental and innately satisfying ?

Laurie.landry.pottery Clay is humbling. It’s been my life for the last seventeen years. Yet, I barely know what I’m doing. Clay continues to challenge. It never bores me. It’s possibilities multiply daily. I’ve only just scratched the surface!

Katthepotter Each piece is a journey. You start with an idea and the elements of nature each have their parts in the direction you travel to the finished piece. And so many changes can happen along the way. And I love to play in dirt?

Ash.fro Building your own canvas (of which the possibilities are endless) on which you can implement so many forms of expression through various techniques to answer the call of creativity!

Cathy G I am a tailor and fiber artist. I started pottery classes at the art museum as something fun to do for myself. It quickly turned into so much more than clay. I have a renewed creative spirit that was because of the creative and artistic people I have met, and learned with and from. I like clay because it is 3 dimensional and fused creating garments (3D) with painting, drawing,fiber designs (2d). I like thinking about clay ideas with fabric ideas. Clay is also fabric in many ways. I really enjoy sculptural pieces.

Maggie T It has a beginning and an end that always is a challenge. No matter how long your in it there is always yet another way to go. Creation as if to give birth each time your hands are on clay.


Piperpottery I love all the media, and I would love to be able to draw or paint, but the wheel came naturally to me. It’s also a way to make functional pieces. As much as I love art for art’s sake, it appeals to my sense of minimalism to have a beautiful and useful object in my home.

Zombiecazz I really had to think about that. I do lots of different crafts, but I think Clay is my favourite because it’s useful. I hate creating clutter or stuff and with Clay I produce useful. Sometimes with other media I think “am I just producing something else to clutter this world and gather dust”. I rarely feel that about clay.

Studio2ceramics Clay is real. When I’m at my day job, all I do is write and read emails about emails. But in the studio, I’m doing something real, grounding, and practical.

Dirtkickerpottery Because with clay, I can contribute something beautiful and useful to the world.

Heathermlee Because it’s a melding of science, nature and artistic expression from which you can make something beautiful and useful

Ancient Practice/Of the Earth

Freedazi To escape from the boring modern life… Too feel like our ancient ancestors.. to concentrate… To feel like giving birth to a child…

Waysideclare Because it’s from the earth and an ancient art. You can escape all mundane or stressful thoughts and explore your imagination. And because it’s unpredictable and anything can go right or wrong or become a happy accident:)

Pottrygyal it is as eternal as the earth itself, and yet can be as fragile as dust. Clay is beautiful and demanding; it demands complete attention, patience, and discipline which nourishes the soul of any practitioner and offers invaluable perspective on life.

Val.cassandri Because it connects me with earth, with myself, energy and the rest of the world. It makes me feel part of nature!

Jacqui shrimpton Working with clay is primal. It’s pure creation; intuitive, instinctive and meditative.

Maryan P A true connection to the Earth. It will outlast us all. A most forgiving medium. Fun.


Kimwanless It takes me to a place that has no name. Where hours disappear – where my mind empties – where my hands just unconsciously Create – where my heart is contentedly happy.

Evilknowlesyou I work in customer service all day- and it can be quite mentally draining. The feel of the clay and how it responds(and sometimes doesn’t) helps melt the stress. It is a mediation and the hours disappear. ?

Nicoleshankspottery It is a true place of meditation. It helps keep you focused, humble, and happy.

Tarihuffaker Clay is great therapy. It has saved my sanity (unless this is what it feels like to be fully “over the edge”) I maintain that it is impossible to center clay until you get centered yourself.

Pinezenpottery I love the sensual nature of clay–feeling its silky smooth surface run through my hands. When I’m in the flow of making with clay, all else drops away and I feel present and grounded.

Buddylaur The physicality of creating with clay engages my whole self and makes me feel so alive and present.

Jpr_studio Clay allows me to remain humble in my practice. In the process of creating, I find myself deep in conversation with the clay. It teaches me lessons about patience. At the end of the day, it heals me and makes me a better person.

Allisonbmalloy Because I can beat the crap out of it and it’s actually productive to get bubbles out ? but helps relieve stress and tension allows me to think clearly and get lost in thoughts

C.strybel I can be messy, speak through my hands to a not yet born object, hug, caress, hold with love, grow and delight. It is a soulful thing.

Natsudds Something magical about taking squidgy dirt and transforming it…it’s transition is almost spiritual, healing, meditative, pure, freeing.

Judy F You grab the clay and get on the wheel then your bad day just disappears!

Chris C H When I work with clay I go into the zone!

Barb S It does change your mood, push yourself to start, and after a few pieces the whole day changes for the better….

Grace W It’s an outlet for my mind… Another way to speak without words… A hands on therapeutic art form!

Pharis M Clay gives you freedom. The imperfections and uniqueness of the final product is a very honest statement.

Marcia G-K A legimate way for ‘grown ups’ to play in the mud! A true way to simultaneously spark the inner child, and connect to my spirit (perhaps they are the same thing). Also, there’s nothing more sensuous than throwing porcelain on a wheel. If I could throw cream cheese, I would, but I can’t so it’s smooth porcelain.


Barrelmakerpottery Process, process, process… always room for improvements.

Terraforms The transition to clay was a reluctant one for me. I began my exploration of functional wares in glass, but after the birth of my daughter, I quickly found that I didn’t have the time or money to continue down that path. So I started throwing and pinching. I was bitter about it at first… but then, almost all of the sudden, I discovered I was in love with the material and process. The responsiveness the physics… clay was just like glass, but more sensual. And here I am, 4 years later, learning new things every day, and tremendously happy.

Aquafreako It’s dependent on your energy and responds accordingly

Zeldalune it requires moments of centeredness

Karen.brinsn The smell of earth, the beauty of skin, the love of form and it just seems to center and simplify my focus

Hey_rachel_xo It’s quite easy to see progress fairly quickly when working with clay. I have a short span of focus so it’s difficult to continue a piece that doesn’t come together quickly like drawing or painting

Robin.chlad The process of making something out of a blob of clay always reminds of how God took nothing and created some beautiful out of it. It still fascinates me, moves me, and delights me.

K.digrassi.artist As an artist I’ve search for my voice forever…. the vocabulary that allows for communication between the creative and audience…..

Amyhiggason For the first 30 years of my life I was a 2d artist. I took a clay class at a community center and it was fun. After a few years just playing around on and off, I took a wheel throwing class at Lillstreet in Chicago. That’s when I got hooked and never looked back. As my skills improved I started carving and drawing on my pieces. Wrapping 2d designs around 3D forms became a focus that I have explored for 20 years. Clay completely altered the course of my life, gave me a sense of community and opened my eyes to new possibilities.

Marterburnstudio Clay allows me to develop ideas about texture, mass, space/volume in 3D. I often switch back to 2D artwork, but I always return to clay.

Therealsheal Working with clay is to take the most humble of things and turn it into something useful, or even dare I say, art. It’s a passion that has been a part of me since learning to make play dough sitting (on) the floor of my grandmother’s kitchen. I couldn’t be happier to continue those memories today with clay.

Rawrytori Because it was my last studio class to complete to get my art degree. 6 years later I’m still getting dirty. Fell in love with the first attempt to center. Now I can’t imagine life without it.

Lithopsstudio I started working with clay when I was in primary school but took a hiatus from it until I graduated university and now I’m hooked again! I love how flexible clay is. From an amorphous blob it has the potential to become anything your mind and hands can conjure! And ultimately it creates a sense of calm within me, it’s gentle yet bold. It’s just wonderful!

Favorite Responses

Markterrywoodfireartist More than merely an ancient medium, clay is at the very root of civilization. Humankind’s discovery of the relationship between clay and fire is the beginning of scientific inquiry, technology and settlement. One can devote their life to working with it and never more than scratch the tip of the mountain of its history and possibilities. More important, for many of us, working with it satisfies something deep in the innermost being.

Rainstormworks It’s the most contradictory medium. It’s functional and decorative. It’s manageable and unpredictable. It’s simple yet takes skill. Primitive and technical. Ancient and avant-garde.

For me, I worked with clay in high school a little bit with Mr. Oakley. Mostly slabs and coils and sculpting. Then in college I took a ceramics class with Professor Coffman which included throwing on the wheel. And I was hooked. I think the challenge got me at first, just figuring out how to center clay and pull up walls. Each little victory kept me going. Back then I was interested mostly in craftsmanship and working a piece until it was just right in my mind. Through the years I learned to love how quickly pots could be made on the wheel and at the same time each one could be as expressive as you want it to be. I love the immediate feedback while working with clay. Back in college and for a few years after I was big into oil painting. But I was interested in showing off the beauty of the paint itself while painting realistic still lifes. So I would build up all these translucent paint layers which took forever but really looked great when they were finished. I like how you get more immediate feedback when you’re working with the clay but you also have the long process which involves forming the clay, decorating and applying glazes in a certain way and then a variety of firing options. So you can still really get some beautifully complex pots through these layers of process when you get them all to work together just right.

And the whole process is pretty amazing if you think about it. You get to work with stuff you can get right out of the ground. And if you put all this specialized dirt together in the right way you can make workable clay or an infinite amount of glazes. You can get really deep into the chemistry and math and how things melt and vitrify and that is pretty interesting by itself even though I’ve barely dipped my toe in that water.

I think one of the biggest reasons I like working with clay is that it allows me to make functional things that quote unquote  “normal” people can appreciate. You don’t have to be some elite art critique to appreciate a pot. But you can also make pots that get into galleries and are clearly works of art. It seems like there is an added layer of meaning if you can appreciate a pot as a work of art and it can actually be used in daily life. There are so many perspectives from which you can appreciate a pot.

And of course the clay itself is pretty amazing. The feel, the smell. It can be stretched, torn, twisted, squeezed, squished, flattened, cracked, textured, stamped and shaped like nothing else.

So, anyway, I guess I could talk for a long time about clay. And I know a lot of you out there could as well. Perhaps in the future I’ll figure out how you can send some audio to be included in a future podcast. But I better not ramble on too long. For now, keep looking for the #mudtalkmonday posts on the Instagram, FB and Twitter accounts for Pottery Making Info. Add an answer there and it may show up on a future podcast. Thanks for giving this a shot. Thanks for listening. Until next time, stay muddy.

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