Bob’s Quest for Clay

Bob Deane Thoughts On Clay

“In this day and age, when the food we eat comes in plastic and cardboard, and hot or cold substances are packed in Styrofoam,  there is a lack of connection with the Bob Deane Pottery Creek Clay Bowlsources of our food, shelter and clothing. I wanted for my pottery to be more hands-on. ‘Bring[ing] new meaning to the phrase local pottery,’ (according to the Philadelphia Inquirer) my creek clay pieces are dug out of creek beds in Delaware County, PA. They are my effort to bring the source back to the forefront.”

Bob Deane Carved Sculpture plate 2

When clay is bought, it is standardized, and everyone who buys that clay is using the exact same thing. The goal of most artists is to find their own voice. The clay I dig is a unique mix of iron, calcium, fine metals, organic matter and other particles. It comes naturally from the processes of the Earth, rather than artificially mixed by a manufacturer. My locally dug clay gives a new depth to the phrase “farm to table”…my work is “creek to table.”

As a child, I loved to go down to the creek and play in the mud. Now, I get to do the same thing in my artwork. The clay is used as both the clay body and the glaze. I also use ash in some of the glazes. By looking to natural sources for my materials, I am returning to my childhood to find my voice in creek clay.”

Bob Deane Sits in the clay at the Mudhole



Bob Deane MudMan 1

Why Hand Dug Clay (2014)These are the reasons for hand dug clay:

Clay costs around 35 cents a pound. I use about 5 tons of clay a year. That is yearly savings of around $1800. 

Art, life, breathing is all about connection. Going down to the creeks I played at as a child and digging clay feels so right, so connected to my Bob Deane MudMan 2childhood, to the earth, to the river. Spending an afternoon in the woods hiking, looking for frogs and crayfish, feel as right as an adult, as it did when I was 10 years old. Bringing clay back from the woods after romping around for hours is the icing on the cake.
Meditation mudhole V2


Hand dug clay is much more complex, spotty, so much more alive than the clay from a bag. I screen my clay to remove twigs and rocks; the mesh is larger and lets through a lot of iron. This makes the clay dark, rich and feel warm and alive. I have many pots that are lost to the imperfections, but I have never doubted that digging my own clay is the right choice for me.