Sunday, June 14, 2009

Raku and Pit Firing at Pig Pen Pottery

What can be more fun than a bunch of women (and one fellow!) playing with fire?

Last Saturday I joined a group of potters from the Kiln Club for an afternoon of raku and pit firing at Hidden Springs Farm, a pre-revolutionary farmstead that is home to Laura Nichol and Pig Pen Pottery. Laura choreographed our dance around the raku kiln while Mia van Zelst showed us her terra sigillata technique for burnishing pots for sawdust firing.

Our raku dance was a sight to see as, on Laura's cue, we each pulled our red-hot piece out of the kiln and placed it in a can with flammable material to begin the reduction process. Flames shot up as the hot piece touched the material in the can and we threw in more sawdust before covering the can tightly. Thus starved of oxygen, the fire pulls the chemical oxygen in the clay and glazes before consuming itself. We had great results! I am particularly happy with a mask and a vase that show all the effects of the fire.

The sawdust firing was done with cedar chips in a metal can. I had two vases and a small box in that firing. All three came out beautifully: dark black from the smoke with ghostly white shapes where the pieces touched each other and were thus protected from the effects of the smoke.

At the end of the evening we gathered on the gallery of Laura's house to share a delicious potluck supper (potter's are such great cooks!). My only regret is that I didn't take more photos, but I was too busy having a wonderful time! I got home late in the evening, dirty and smelling of smoke, but very happy with my four raku pots and three pit fired pots. More importantly, it was great to spend an afternoon enjoying the company of such generous potters and partaking of the view and the great food. Oh yes!, and I also brought home a dozen farm-fresh eggs from Laura's chickens.

No comments: