I love making pit fired pots because it is more of an event, rather than just a firing. It's an alternative firing that you can do in your back yard, it's fairly easy to assemble the 'pit' & you don't need a kiln!
Keep an eye out for my next post about a mini smoke firing in my garden.
It's also exciting that the results are a surprise - I have no control over how the pots are going to come out. Of course I choose what I include in the 'pit' but the way in which the smoke colours the pots and creates the patterns is relatively unpredictable. Therefore each vessel is beautifully unique. I also love the surface & the colours that can be achieved without using any glaze.
The majority of my pit fired pots are made using white earthenware. Occasionally I do make some using red earthenware but the smokey effect does not show up as well as on the white pots. As you can see in the video below, when making my pit fired 'eggs' I throw them from a lump of clay and close the top. Later on to prevent the pot exploding I make a small hole in the 'egg'.
In my workshop it takes about 2 days for the pots to become leather hard. Once they are I burnish them using the back of a metal spoon. In the most recent pots I made I tried a tip I read about using baby oil to make the pot even smoother.
After being bisque fired they are then placed in a pit filled with sawdust, wood shavings, newspaper and wood scraps and fired very slowly. The smoke and the flames create patterns on the smooth surface. When the materials gave burned away, the pots are cleaned and sealed with wax.
The final pots are still porous and are for decorative use only.
I'm always interested in hearing about alternative firings and any tips and tricks you have to share! I look forward to reading any comments you may have!