Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Pit Firing and the Art of Destruction

On Monday, May 13th at approximately 8:30 AM I began to set up the fire pit at Alki Beach for a pit firing.   The pit firing was to coincide with my 42nd birthday.   I often like to celebrate my day of birth with an art event of some sort and I was eager to introduce some of my students to the process of primitive firing.

The fire pit at Alki Beach looking North.  Filled with sand, these iron hexagonal pits are first come --first serve at the beach.

Box of pre-bisqued pots for the fire.  I fired them in an electric kiln at  cone 018, to keep them from exploding.

Dry wood is essential for having a great fire, you want the coals to develop  so the fire gets hot enough to  leave various colors
Dried moss, sea weed, driftwood bits, saw dust and kelp also enrich the color spectrum.

For reds and yellows we sprinkled some copper oxides and sea salt onto the pots

At Alki there is an abundance of dried seaweed, which I used to line the bottom of the pit.   I also layered the seaweed and driftwood bits between and on top of the pottery.

I used some butcher paper scraps to help ignite the fire.  I also brought some wood chips leftover from my carving projects and some thick fennel stalks from the garden.

I start off with lots of smaller sticks stacked in a tee-pee style, then I ignite.

The fire burns and larger boughs are added.  When there is a bed of coals,  the pots are  possibly ready.

Pots that have their bodies exposed to the open air tend to come out lighter, while ones that are buried in burning debris often come out blackened. 

Here is a terra cotta coaster of an owl.    I used white terra sigillata for the accents

An owl vase and a primitive skull

Many of the were made with found and recycled earthenware.   I used clay from Beacon Hill and Ellensburg both as slip applications and as a sculpting body.

On the way home from the firing I was elated.  I was looking forward to rinsing the pots in the sink, but sadly things took a turn for the worst.  

The entire box of work slammed into the dashboard on impact, crushing or chipping  about 40% of the work

Shattered plate: Kittitas earthenware with various slips

Floater:  Beacon hill earthenware with Terra Sigillata and kittitas slip

Top: Bull Plate Terra Cotta mic with Terra Sigillata and terra cotta slip,Below: Owl Coaster Terra Cotta/Terra Sig,   Moon Platter  Beacon Hill Earthenware with various slips

More damaged work

Easy come easy go, luckily the guy had insurance.    Since a bunch of the pieces are ruined I'll just have to make  more.  After all the potter's motto is:

Make Another One!
Special thanks to Elaine Haegele and Ted Johnson for their participation.  I couldn't have done it without their help and enthusiasm.