Cone Six Throwdown: Laguna #16
In my search for the ultimate cone 6 porcelain, I really lucked out when my buddy Jim Gottuso, AKA Sofia’s Dad, generously offered me some of his clay to try. Jim puts his pots through hell and back, just as I do. He does this in the form of a process he calls “water etching” also called “hydro-abrasion”. Basically, parts of the dry but unfired clay are protected with shellac, and then water and a sponge are used to wear away the clay, yielding a relief design.
This is not easy on the clay. Jim’s pots get soaked and then dried numerous times before they are completed, so I’m thinking that clay he’s using must be really forgiving.
This clay, Laguna #16, also called Miller #617, is a porcelain marketed for cone 6. On their website, Laguna describes it as “Grolleg Cone 6 porcelain similar to #15 with more ball clay, making it less white, more plastic and forgiving. Additional silica reduces crazing in some glazes. Good for slab forming.” Now, I have to hand it to them, Laguna really knows what is important to include in a description! Rather than something like “a dream to throw” there is some useful and honest information geared toward guiding the customer to the correct choice for their needs. Amazing.
This is one of those clays that needs to be “shocked”, or thrown down on the floor with force, before use. It felt very hard, but after I did that, it was the perfect consistency, soft and pliable but not at all sticky or slumpy. The consistency is very dense and very smooth. It is amazingly white in appearance. As white as Helios. Below is an image of a cup made of it, with my clay making up the disc. Bear in mind that my clay is also a porcelain, which fires much whiter than any of the clays already reviewed with the exception of helios, but only slightly less white.
I begin to throw a bowl. Compared to my very grainy clay body, this stuff feels incredibly smooth and wonderful. I am pleasantly surprised when my exact form of a bowl just realizes itself on the wheel. the clay goes where I put it and doesn’t move. There is perhaps a bit of the typical slump, but not anything that would jeopardize the roundness of the lip the way helios slumped. I already feel good about this clay. The bowl transfers off the wheel with no problems.
Again, with the tumbler, the form simply appears between my hands. There is no struggle to translate what I do with my normal clay into this clay. It happily goes where I want it. It collars back in with great enthusiasm. The tumbler went nicely thin, testing the lateral strength of the wall – it is strong. There is a nice balance between tooth and plasticity. I think I’m in love.
I will report on this more later, but of the 5 clays tried so far, all of the others were eliminated for glaze fit issues or just that they weren’t white enough for my glazes to look good. This is the only one that I have decided to finish the pots with. I was amazed to find that the properties during leather hard actually lend themselves to my process much better than my current clay! Not only will this be a sufficient substitute, but I have realistic hopes that it will make things possible that weren’t before. The next step will be to order 100 pounds and try out a kiln-full, and I can’t wait!