Monday, May 30, 2011

Feats of Clay

"Feats of Clay", strange name, funny logo.

If the little city of Lincoln, California has a claim to fame it is "Gladding McBean".  Never heard of it?  If you are an architect who likes to use decorative Terra Cotta in design or a ceramics artist who wants to enter her  work in competition, then you probably know Gladding McBean and the "Feats of Clay"

Clay pipe for sewers and fresh water is the most obvious product,but the truth is that since the housing bust there has been no market and these pipes have been sitting here for several years.

So what do they make at this large plant?  This stuff at the left.  These broken pieces of decorative terra cotta have been sent here to be replicated for the restoration of the buildings from which they were removed.
Each year in May, Lincoln Arts in cooperation with Gladding Mcbean hosts a tour of the plant and a juried competition for creative ceramics.

The first step in the process is the making of a model.  For new work the architect would send a detailed drawing, for restoration drawings would be made from the old pieces.  The model must be larger than the finished piece because the clay will shrink during drying.

Molds are then made from the models and clay is beaten into the molds.  There can be no air pockets.

The clay spends several hours in the mold, once out of the molds they are finished by hand and then sent to the drying room before being glazed and fired.
There is only one firing, unlike the pottery some might have made as a hobby, there is no bisque firing here.

The kiln room is huge, mostly containing these large beehive kilns used for the clay pipe.  They haven't been in operation for several years though some still hold the fired pipe.  I guess there was no point in removing it if there was no one to buy it.

The decorative terra cotta goes in this smaller kiln, roof tiles and quarry tiles in a similar kiln a bit bigger.

It is an interesting tour with too much information to take in all at once.  Fortunately, Gladding McBean has some informative videos and pictures on their website.

The tour of the plant is only one part of the"Feats of Clay", the other part is the amazing works of art on display.  The competition draws artists from around the world and I'll show you some of it in a latter post.

This is a part of my world, find other views of our wonderful world at That's my World, Tuesday, hosted for us by Klaus, Sandy, Wren and Sylvia.


katney said...

How exciting to have something like that in town! Here, I guess, the equivalent would be a winery tour.

Sylvia K said...

Such an interesting place and post for the day, Martha! Sounds like a really fascinating tour! Your photos are great! Hope you're enjoying a wonderful Memorial weekend! Enjoy!


Gaelyn said...

I love the Feats of Clay logo. Bet the tour was interesting.

Life Moto said...

thanks for sharing this info . have a nice day too!

Janie said...

It's a good thing the company has the decorative terra cotta business to supplement the pipe business that isn't doing much.
Interesting info here!

Gary said...

Interesting post!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

Spiderdama said...

So exciting and interesting post. Looking forward to see the art work.
Happy evening to you:-)

Arija said...

That was a great little tour.
Not only does the clay shrink while drying, the greater shrinkage occurs on firing, you put a 12" pot into the kiln and it comes out at roughly 10".
It is so nice to see a pottery that can adapt itself to the vagaries of commerce and serve the world in restoring former beauty as well.

Carver said...

I enjoyed the tour of this interesting place.

Karen said...

An interesting tour, thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

How wonderful a place it must be. Made me wonder, who might in the end be the one that is forming humankind, time, life itself.

Please have a good Tuesday.

daily athens

Kay L. Davies said...

I think "feats of clay" is wonderful!
Very interesting tour through the clay factory, Martha. We have a lot of clay in our soil here and most of it is made into bricks, but there was once a thriving pottery industry here as well.
— K

Kay, Alberta, Canada
An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

Life Ramblings said...

looks like a wonderful tour. it must have been a real treat to see this up close.

Barb said...

So interesting, Martha. The kiln no longer used is the largest I've ever seen!

Eden said...

Nice photos. I is a lovely place to visit. Thanks for the info.

Stewart M said...

Hi there - I think its great that we can still connect with a technology like clay working - it must be one of the oldest human crafts.

Nice set of pictures.

Stewart M - Australia

Yogi♪♪♪ said...

Hey, I learned something. I love terra cotta but never really thought very much about where it came from.