:: Pit Firing
My choice of pit firing comes from wanting to get back to the most basic form of making pottery. To understand the correlation of mud and fire at it’s most basic level. A grounding of the creative process.
Pit firing is “the” original way of firing clay to maturity going back some 30,000 years. The process was typically done by digging a hole in the ground, a pit, and the pots placed into this pit and combustible material is placed around them and burned. Pit firing is also an atmospheric process where the elements used to burn influence the pottery by adding color and patterns. By using known colorants, wrapping the pots with material to create a sagger (walled barrier) to separate the fire from the pot, one can control the process and influence the works outcome. It’s knowing what to do in the setup, and during the firing, that gives the pots their distinctive look. It doesn’t mean there aren’t surprises, and mortality is quite high, due to the unpredictability of the heat.
Colorants can be copper or cobalt, seaweed or kelp, pine needles or sawdust, and in addition the type of firewood that is used, be it soft or hardwood, all have an influence on the coloring processing and the outcome of the pot. Thankfully all are in abundance here in the PNW.
Firing is done with a permanent brick pit firing station that stands in my backyard, which has a lean-to over it to keep the rain, that is always prevalent in Seattle, from interfering with the firing process.
I spent the first ten years of my ceramic career making carved celadon ware.
Coming back to making ceramics over a year ago, I had to think about what it was I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to try something new and break from what I’d done before.
When I was young boy I had traveled to New Mexico with my parents and met the Navaho potters of the San Ildefonso Pueblo. We experienced watching how the pots were made, the process of pit firing, and it’s always been something that stuck with me.
So it starts with playing, and with that play a process develops, and the work takes on a look based on trial and error of the techniques learned.
Once the process is set you then give thought to what shapes will work best with the process, and for me there has always been a fondness for the vessel form, but with a practical application. So I started making vases, and that led to bowls, and then vessels. There are many designs that I’ve found to have been bouncing around in my head for the last thirty years.
There comes a point when you notice the difference between the amount of time you’ve lived … and what you have left … empowering you to disconnect from things which don’t give your life meaning.
I used to do clay. There was a studio, and festivals, and galleries and years of making a living from what I created with my hands. I loved that part of my story. Then a downturn in the economy prevented me from continuing that. I had to go get a real job. But I always dreamt about coming back to having a studio again … because those were really good memories.
But then there was a thirty plus year hiatus. Doing something else. Not as fun.
Then the opportunity came to stop ghosting my own life, walk away from this empty business life I’d been living for thirty years, and step back into into a creative one.
Originally from Seattle ... and residing there once again and happily working in a new studio that is my home.
1977 - 81 :: Laguna Beach Festival of the Arts
1979 - 81 :: Vorpal Gallery - Laguna Beach