Pitfiring dates back 25,000 BCE . Unfired pots are nestled together in a pit in the ground or on top and are covered with combustible materials such as wood shavings, leaves, paper etc.
But we really enjoy every opportunity we have to pitfire, as its the perfect excuse to lounge outdoors around a fire amongst friends and enjoy the evening while firing pottery as well. Most tend to have already bisque fired their clay pieces prior to a pitfire due to the uneven firing temps and unexpected drafts which can be quite risky to greenware.
We however like to walk on the wild side just a bit when taking chances, I mean I can always make more..its just what I do as an artist every day just about, I create some type of art with my hands. www.clayfulintentions.com but here lately really enjoying the clay again, and the pitfiring as well.
I usually let my pieces dry completely, with not even a hint of moisture left before attempting a pitfire then we build our fire segment by segment and easily get the wares used to the heat and flames a little at a time, until after a few hours the piece is completely within the flames. Then we continue adding more wood to the fire until a very nice large fire is roaring. we then feed the fire for about two hours keeping it very hot. we then let it die down, and leave it for the night. That is our first firing for my greenware.
When we do the second firing and trust me you really want more than one as it strengthens your pieces to fire more than once or longer firings in regards to pitfire. It is vital to achieve deeper color, and more prominent markings. I've learned to not be scared to really fire your pieces, or too antsy in removing them. You see a lot of the colors and patterns achieved is not actually from the fire itself although the hotter and longer fire is essential, the cool down is where most of the magic takes place. I have seen pieces removed to quickly from a pitfire only to have them crack from a sudden change in temperature or subjected to wind drafts. Also sometimes removing while hot in a lot of cases end up with very light in color and effects. When the ashes literally cool against the pots or pieces the carbon gets trapped in the clay causing some very striking contrasts.
I tell you it's like Christmas the next morning digging thru the ash to see that wonderful piece of cooled clay with striking splashes of Natures brush strokes just encased forever within the clay. We have had many failures as well as surprising success with our firings which can be a gamble at times, but for the most part things usually run pretty smooth with proper planning, and most important..patience.
Some pieces from previous successful firings..
This one was actually pretty much covered with alot of sawdust and paper so we got a really deep
black and a few hints of gray here and there, but I still lloe the outcome.
I was so very excited in pulling this one out, check out all the lighter markings, these were often referred to as "Clouds" that meant good fortune. I just love how this one turned out. Quite striking contrast.
These pieces from the same firing that night, they all look similar yet slightly unique in markings and colorings.
This one I notice got alot more burgandy and greens ,probably from the copper carb we used that night.
You can often rub your pieces down after cleaning with a bees wax that not only protects the markings but also provides a nice light shine as well.
Love this coiled vessel I made and how it survived the firing,
I'm not quite sure but so thrilled.
Some deep Earthen Red pieces fired, I just love the look of these.
This one was packed down with sawdust on the inside that I
unknowingly caused a deep black, but hey I love it that way.
Always love the jewelry beads and pendants I've made from the firings,
always makes for some very creative works.
Some pieces awaiting the next pit fire
and the big one to be pit fired...oh my..certainly proceeding with caution with this large handcrafted white clay vessel I made..yes I'm gonna be nervous that night.
just intrigue me so much, a real passion that lies quiet within, yet so fascinated.