Sam Mukumba has been researching clays and the alchemical processes of working with this natural phenomenon for over thirty years. For the last twenty-five years, he has carried out practical research of the potential of clays from different parts of the United Kingdom and some clays from Uganda. He sources clays from these areas with learners, on his own or through friends. Then he processes it into a usable resource using different methods. From here Sam kneads and blends as required and if time allows, he keeps the newly made clay for months to mature.

From the newly made clay, Sam makes samples which, once dry, he fires to biscuit ware, which is between 950–1000 degrees Celsius. After this, some of the clays give him indications of their potential. If successful, he takes samples and fires them to different temperatures without a glaze. The next test he fires some of the biscuit fired tests to earthenware, ranging from 1060–1180 degrees Celsius. Some samples he fires to 1260 degrees Celsius, then some to 1280 degrees Celsius and lastly firing some to 1300 degrees Celsius. All this is done without entering the glazing territory yet which comes at the last testing following the same firing.

Sam also experiments, investigates and teaches making glazes from different natural materials such as rocks, river mud, salt, and raw metal oxides. In addition to this, Sam uses eggshells and ash from different plants to make special glaze effects. He also makes his own stains from different metal scraps such as copper wire and scrap iron bars by soaking them in acidic fruit juices, such as blackcurrant juices, elderberry juice, and pineapple juice. Through all these experiments, he is able to make functional, sculptural, and decorative work of competitive quality. This process has enabled him to come up with purely original work.

Monday to Friday he works as a tutor teaching pottery to young people with learning disabilities and challenging behavior. This work has been a joy because work at times turns into play. The young people are very creative and inspiring. He has done this for over twenty-five years. He also teaches on a teacher’s development course as well as on Ruskin Mill Trust’s Master’s degree in Nailsworth, Gloucestershire. One afternoon a week, Sam runs a practical and therapeutic education skills induction training for the new staff of Ruskin Mill College.

Sam makes ceramics as well as artwork for group collaboration and solo exhibitions. He organizes, initiates, and runs social sculpting projects. At different times of the year, he gets involved in collaborative art and community projects.

Recently Sam invented a new ceramic alchemical process using carbon pyrolysis to produce a unique glaze quality on ceramic items. This process is completely new and was unexpected.

Sam would like to meet experienced ceramists/artists/galleries/collectors who would be interested in promoting this work. Sam is at the stage of looking for funding to explore his new findings fully and to be able to have enough time and resources to experiment, distill, record and share the experiences with bigger audiences. He is planning to produce printed materials and short films, and hold exhibitions of physical items, and give talks and lectures. The outcomes will generate new insights and inquiry into the field of chemistry, contemporary ceramics, art, education, history, and commerce.

Most of this work is physical, timed, and analyzed.

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