For the last 6 years I have done pit firings each summer out in Kittitas County at Green Canyon. This year with the wildfires, I opted to stay in Seattle to fire my pit fired wares. I made a special set of pinched plates, and platters for the firing and burned them in my back yard.
Pit Firing is a primitive firing process, where smoke and fire are recorded on the surface of a pot. No glaze is used,but the surface is made shiny by burnishing with a polished stone. I used colored slips, some natural and some made with mason stains.
A natural clay I use often comes from the hills near Ellensburg . It is dark brown when soft and orange when fired. It is a gritty basalt based clay that is high insulating, porous, and great for bricks. It cracks while drying, but will handle some burnishing.
Potters in Mexico and elsewhere use cow dung to turn their pots black. Black also comes from burning other organic materials such as sawdust and seaweed.
Each piece is carefully stacked with organic materials laced in between, around, and inside. The fire will be burnt slowly if possible to prevent uneven distribution of heat which may cause pots to crack.
I like pit firing because the artist is fully involved in the firing of the pots. Selecting the proper fuel, the duration of the fire, and weather conditions help determine the outcome. Sometimes a firing just feels right.
The next morning it's like opening presents..... mystery unfolds with each pot
These are the pots after the firing. The one's to the right are student's work. These pieces are still very fragile. They are also porous, which makes them unsuitable for food. They are nice as art though, once they've had a rinse.