Clay is found as part of the soil nearly everywhere. Different clays develop as a result of a variety of geologic forces, but can be understood in a certain light as composted rock that has been ground by the slow speech of time into a malleable mineral material. Every stone tells a piece of the long history that has shaped the current landscape.
All of the clay I use is hand-harvested with reverence and ceremony from her wild, mountain home. According to my geologic understanding, micaceous schist bedrock formed in the Pre-Cambrian age was brought to the surface of the earth during the formation of the Rocky Mountains and as the micas, quartz and feldspar weathered, they developed into the clay minerals that formed these primary clay deposits. This micaceous clay is considered to be self-tempered and needs no additions to be a workable paste. The mica contributes to a durable cookware that is wonderfully insulative and tolerates thermal shock, allowing these pots to be used on the stove top and other direct heat sources. Traditional Jicarilla Apache micaceous pots had conical bottoms so that the liquid could circulate evenly as the pots nestled in the cooking fire’s embers.
While all of my work has been with primary micaceous clays, the micaceous cookware tradition in the Southwest also includes ceramics where potters ground mica-rich rocks into a temper that they added to a non-micaceous clay body. Additionally, there are cooking pots that were formed of a non-micaceous clay but which used a micaceous slip as a surface coating.
Micaceous cooking pots are also found in many other parts of the world; including Colombia and Turkey. Each has their own rich history, culinary uses and cultural significance. Culinary traditions and clay pots evolved in relationship with local clays in every part of the world. While metal pots have proliferated due to cheap industrial production, and replaced clay in many kitchens, this staple element of cooking has not been entirely forgotten. Many cuisines still contain dishes which can only be made with the subtle alchemy of clay pots.