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Re: green mold on clay

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From: Marvin P Bartel (marvinpb_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Sat Mar 30 2002 - 07:35:06 PST


>In a message dated 3/30/02 4:27:29 AM Central Standard Time,
>judiej50@mindspring.com writes:
>Just wondering if anyone knows if the gorgeous green mold that grows on
terra cotta clay while it is still in the bag is dangerous. >>

I have taught ceramics for many years. In my experience, out of about 2000
students, only one student has had a mold allergy that was quite serious.
If others had a problem, they did not report it to me. The one student,
unfortunately, had to switch to a different class. She also suffered from
other allergies.

We have always reworked all our scrap and over the summer it ages in a soft
state. While this clay is very nice to work with, molds do form. Often
black streaks and surface patches of gray or green, form in any batch of
moist clay. In ancient China potters aged their moist porcelain clay in
caves for the next generation to make it plastic enough to use. Like
pollen, mold is one of nature's substances that some of us can not tolerate
very well. We do not stop growing flowers, grass, and so forth, but some
people have moved to find better air quality. By the same token, it need
not be a strong enough reason to stop using clay in our art programs.

Modern building methods complicate this issue. Many art rooms need better
ventilation, a point we should always make when a school is constructed or
renovated to provide an art room. In some cases where a teacher or student
has a serious allergy, clay might become a "seasonal" activity. It may
work to pick nice weather days and take the class outdoors to work with
clay. Why should physical education and recess be the only outdoor
classes? Potters have successfully worked outdoors in tribal cultures for
thousands of years.

Marvin Bartel

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