I’ve been busy getting ready for my “Hombres de Arcilla” (Men of Clay) exhibit at The Point Campus here in the Bronx. One of the things I really like about working with clay is the chance to use natural materials. So when I first learned about pit-firing, I knew this was something I wanted to try.
Last summer, I had the chance to learn more about pit-firing and raku-firing with Barbara Reeley at Monroe Clayworks in Troy, New York. She taught me a lot about how even though pit-firing might seem simple, it can still yield beautiful results. Personally, I really like the look of the raw, unglazed finish that pit-firing gives. The organic matter that you add to the fire imparts flashes of color and shadows onto the piece that you wouldn’t get in a regular electric kiln.
This was my first attempt pit-firing by myself. So certainly I had an idea of what to do, but was unsure of what kind of results I would get. All of the pieces I put into this pit fire had previously been bisque fired, which is preferable but not required. The reason for bisque firing a piece before pit firing is to prevent cracks and other damage to the piece.
For this pit fire, I tried using many different kinds of organic materials including copper wire (recycled from old internet cables!), coffee grounds, egg shells, banana peels, aluminum foil, and steel wool. I was surprised to see that the copper wire really gave me some fantastic flashes of pinks, reds and greens on one of my masks. I can’t wait to try that again this weekend!