Digging for Natural Clay Deposits

Looking at the photos of my friend Tom’s class digging natural clay deposits reminded me of how much fun I had when I did that with Mr. Carson’s class in high school. It’s very gratifying to process the clay we found and make something with it, even if it was backbreaking work. It made me think of the clay deposits in this area. A local potter once told me where to find clay here. The location is in the Chineside Park area in Port Moody. To reach it, find Hope Street, between Elgin and Douglas, then,  mid-block, head south into the Chines (see the map above). You’ll be walking up a draw on the east side of a creek. Up a ways, on the left bank, you’ll find a natural clay deposit. You’ll need buckets to haul it out and it’d be best to have several people help haul it out in buckets to make it worth your while. This clay body is tried and true, according to a reliable area potter who lives near this outcrop.

I also became curious and did a little looking into the history of clay deposits in the area and found there were several companies that processed clay in the area. One of them was Pacific Clay Products Ltd., at Pleasantside, on Port Moody’s north shore, and it closed in 1950, according to Clay and Shale Deposits, Bulletin 3o, put out by BC Dept. of Mines in 1952. The document states,”fairly extensive stratified deposits of very fine-grained highly plastic blue clay occur at several places in the area, notably Capilano, and Lynn Valleys, near Port Moody.” It goes on to say that other clay bodies had been “worked…in Port Moody” and that the color of the clay is gray or red. I will see if I can find more current information and follow up on this for us.

If you want to pursue digging your own clay in your area, you’ll need to know a bit more before you begin. I like this article from About.com: “How to Use Locals Clays in Your Pottery,” by Beth Peterson. It’s a good run down of what you’ll have to do once you find your clay deposit. She covers finding the clay, processing it, making test pieces, firing it, and testing maturation. Plus, she refers you to other links along the way. I have not followed Peterson’s instructions with the Port Moody clay I gave you directions to above, but I’m passing it on to you because About.com is a very credible source. It is my ‘go-to’ site for anything I want to look up on the internet. If you do decide to dig in your own area, make sure you are careful. Take care of your back! Wet clay is very heavy….

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About Jan

I have a background in ceramics, graphic design and journalism.
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