From three pockets of clay – Foreland, Octomore Farm and Octomore Spring aka ‘The Well of the True Water’ (all on the Rhinns of Islay), material was dug by hand and then carefully transported back to the studio, where Rupert embarked on months of experimentation. The notion was to create his own version of the traditional cups and jugs of the western islands.
He begins the process by separately drying each single-source clay, followed by breaking these batches down with a hammer, soaking and then mixing (“blunging”) the clay in water, and passing the resulting slip though a series of sieves to breakdown and purify the clay. The tumblers and jugs he has created using these clays are glazed with glazes made from rock dusts, peat and draff (the waste from the whisky mash) ash; all researched and found across the island. It’s a vital feature of his work that the collection of materials has minimal impact on the local environment, for example with clay being shaved off ditches or taken from building sites (where possible), and some glaze materials being sourced as by-products or waste from the whisky making.
He admits it has been a long sequence of painstaking trial and error. “It’s a bit like trying to find a needle in a haystack, trying to find which combinations of glaze materials will “fit” which clays, providing colour and safe. smooth surfaces for daily use. Hundreds of small test tiles showed me clearly what would not work – but thankfully, there were a few that pointed the way to combinations that create colours, textures, and surfaces that I feel work well for holding a dram.” The underside of each pot is stamped with the clay source, date and maker’s mark.