Potters & Sculptors - Making Rock from Mud
Why aged clay is smoother?
Stoneware in particular changes characteristics over time, but all clays do to some degree. The common thought is because of bacterial growth (fungus/mold, etc. Bacterial growth is a reflection of how much organics is in the clay itself (ball clay primarily). If you are getting a lot of bacterial growth on your clay: it indicates high levels of organics: which means you need to bisq slightly higher, or with a hold to burn them off completely.
The "aged" effect is actually due to the clay particle itself. On a molecular level, clay particles look like Swiss cheese: porous. When you first mix clay it is all soft and gooey because the water is binding the clay particles together. However, when you bend or twist it: it has the tendency to snap because it is "short." As time passes: molecular H20 penetrates into the molecular pores of the clay: and then the full plasticity level of the clay is obtained. (WOPL= water of plasticity). You will also notice a change in consistency from very soft when first pugged, to various degrees of firmness as time passes. The clay has not lost moisture content, it has absorbed moisture content. Which is also the reason blunged clay is more plastic than pugged clay: because mechanical forces speed up the process of absorption.
Normally within 30 days there is a marked difference, which improves over the next 90-120 days. After about 6-8 months, the process begins to reverse because the clay is actually starting to loose water: dehydration. Absorbing water is hydration, losing water is de (loss of).