Harvesting clay at Morris & James

Ask any of the team at Morris & James about their unique Matakana clay, and they would say there’s something very special about working with a natural medium harvested right where you work. Although it’s well known that the pottery harvests its own clay, there’s a lot more to this process than you might think. 

It all starts with a large clay deposit adjacent to the pottery. Every four to five years the raw clay is dug from the quarry face and spread out onto a paddock. The clay is turned over and left to face the elements, letting nature break the clay down into smaller parts.

Every summer, the top layer of clay in the paddock is rotary hoed to break it down even more before it’s collected and placed into the on-site storage facility for further processing. This stores up to 400 tons of dried clay, about three years worth of pots and other ceramics.

Crushing rollers are set-up in the storage shed to refine the clay into a finer dry powder. Black sand is added to the dry mixture, to help reduce shrinkage, which means fewer cracks in the final items created with the clay. 

Lastly, the dry clay mixture is transported to the pottery factory where it is reconstituted with water in a trough mixer. High speed rollers help refine and smooth the wet clay before it passes through a de-airing extruder to remove any air bubbles, and form clay blocks for easy storage. 

The clay is wrapped and stored for three weeks to allow moisture to penetrate evenly throughout the final product. The result? A beautiful sticky terracotta clay, that is robust and perfect for making large hand-thrown pots and ceramics.