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Christine Homer Weaving

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Salt Glazing Wood Firing Raku Firing Gas Firing Pit Firing Firing Details
Firing Methods and Results
Pit Firing


Generally speaking, pottery that is referred to as being pit fired, is not glazed, and has been fired in an open bon-fire or primitive pit kiln.

Terra Sigillata ( a liquid clay)  is used to seal the pot's surface.
 The technique predates the development of glazes.
 Pre-Columbian pottery as well as Greek Attica wares used Terra Sigillata
Robert applying Terra Sigillata with a brush to an unfired pot. He then uses a soft cloth to buff the surface, compacting the fine clay partials, and producing a polished surface.

Pit Firing

Pit Fired Pottery  is an imprecise term.  Generally referring to an open fire often without a kiln like structure.

 In an open fire, the potter can only expect to attain a temperature of 1500 F.  This is adequate for hardening earthenware, and is commonly employed in primitive societies.

 Contemporary studio potters use pit firing to attain specific surface effects, such as Carbon Trapping and Color Fuming.

Few potters who specialize in pit firing, use the process for functional wares since the pots are not glazed and porous.


The Process of Pit Firing


Pots in Sawdust

 Where pots come into direct contact with sawdust, a deep black color may develop from carbon trapping. Fine sawdust produces deeper blacks.
Copper and Salt

Copper is added to encourages a rainbow of colors, from deep red to blues and orange. A small amount of salt helps with color development.
Wood filled Pit

The firing takes 16 hours. Robert stacks wood directly on top of the pots, but uses care to evenly distribute the weight of the wood.
Burns to Coals

Roberts firing method involves filling the pit with wood and letting it burn.  Some potters do not add as much wood on at the beginning , then stoke the pit during the firing.
Pottery in the ash

Pots taken out of the pit have a small amount of ash clinging to their surface. Ash is removed using soft brushes so no damage is done to the pots surface. Then a sealer applied to protect the finish.

Surface Protection for Pit Fired Pottery

 The black areas are the result of carbon trapping from sawdust, the bright colors derive from copper in the flame patterns. Ash will be removed gently to prevent scratching the pots surface, then a hot wax sealer used to enhance the colors and seal the surface. Once ash is removed, the still warm pots are coated with butchers wax , which melts into the porous surface, and is then polished to a high gloss.

Durability of Pit Fired Pottery

Pit Fired Pottery

 Pit fired pottery, is unglazed and fired to a low temperature, there fore it is porous and not watertight.

 The colors developed on Pit Fired pottery are not fused in a glass, as they are in a glaze.

 In many ways these pots should be thought of as a painting
created by fire and smoke. Their color could fade if placed in direct sunlight for long periods.

Carbon Trapped

 Carbon Trapped
Smoke Fired

In the American South West, black on black wares, made famous by Maria Martinez  in the early 20th century, have been developed to a high form of art.  Such works attain great value in the collectors market. 

 The kind firing done by native American potter is done in an open bonfire. Producing a type of pottery known for "carbon trapping".  The deep blacks result from  the heavy smoke generated at the end of the firing when the hot wood coals and pots are smothered with organic matter.

 Typically dried horse manure is used for the organic matter which produces  the smoke. The manure is applied in large quantities directly on the fire and immediately covered with dirt. This smolders the fire and
impregnates the pots with black carbon.




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