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Pit Firing Workshop and Event

June 15, 2019 @ 3:00 pm - 7:00 pm


Pit Firing Workshop

June 15th – Tyalgum – 3pm (exact location upon registration)

What’s a pit firing? Well here are some results from Pinterest to give you an idea (my own pit firings were done a long time ago and they are in slide format and I don’t know how to digitise them!):

(photo credits – all from Pinterest)

Pretty interesting, yes?

So, how do you do it?

Well, you dig a pit, put your pots in, pack wood and sawdust, etc., light a fire, cover it up and let it smoulder like a hungi! The colours come from various metallic oxides as wash, sprayed on, or applied in a pad of wet clay (that explodes and cracks while being fired letting the smoke in). You can also wrap your pots in banana leaves, banana skins, seaweed, salt packs, salt soaked drift wood, and various other green wet materials – think plants with oily sap or interesting smells – they often have some cool effects! The pit is carefully loaded with small pieces of sticks – different woods create different colours as well – sawdust, newspaper and even dung! You use clay, wet materials and heavy materials as a resist to the smoke, and you plan more open spaces around your work for variation around the heavier blackened areas!

Then you light the fire, make sure it’s well and truly going, cover it over with some corrugated iron and dirt with just some small vent hole – this will stifle the oxygen and make the materials burn slowly, producing a patchy partial “reduction” atmosphere inside the pit. Then you light a bonfire, have a few beverages and some food and chill out. We can camp around the bonfire, or head on home. The pit can’t be unloaded until a couple of days so you won’t miss anything if you choose not to stay the night.

Stay the night? OK, so where on earth are we doing this? Good question! Cherie, one of our wonderful interns, has a property at Tyalgum and has space to either sleep on the floor of her weekender (with no internal walls) or pitch a tent in the open spaces around the campfire.

The pit will be dug by Cherie and myself (Lynda) (and no doubt our hard working hubbies) the previous weekend, and Cherie and I will unload the pit the following weekend. You will just have the fun of packing (it will take a few hours, depending on numbers) and then lighting the fire.

What will come out – what results can I expect?

NO guarantees at all – your work will be subjected to uneven heat, heat shock, open flame and more! It can explode, crack, have nothing interesting happen to it at all, or come out unexpectedly wonderful! The temperature in the pit does not exceed about 800 C so your work will be no harder than the bisque fire before hand. It will not be functional, you won’t be able to use it as a vase unless you seal the inside very well with epoxy! You cannot glaze the inside first, if it is too vitreous (cooked) before hand it won’t accept the colours from the fire.

What is the best clay?

I cannot vouch for any clay other than Walkers #10 as I have not experimented with it. All I can say is I used Walkers #10 30 years ago in my pit firings and the results were soft, wonderful, mostly soft pastels and smokey greys and I did not lose any work. I also used a red clay, not unlike Keanes midfire #33, and I suspect that clay will work very well for red results. Other than that, BRT or any raku clay or paper clay should work. The black clay won’t produce results, special k might work, and you could also try Feeney’s white clay as well.

What are the best forms and how many pieces can I make?

Pit firing lends itself to organic forms, large forms through to small things (too small and we won’t find them ever again in the ashes!), hand built or thrown. You should start planning the forms now, make them by the end of May, and put them out for bisque firing asap! You will need to pay for your bisque firing before you take your work away.

What do I need for the Workshop?

  1. Bisque fired work – 2 – 6 pieces, depending upon size (smaller = more work in the pit!). The work should be sturdy and not intended for functional work.
  2. The work can be decorated with coloured slips and white slip, slip trailed, underglazes can also be used (bear in mind some of your design will be obliterated by reduction soot that won’t wash off – so keep the designs organic in nature), as can the metallic oxide washes.
  3. If you want to gather some seaweed and other interesting materials that (might) burn – great time to experiment! Whether the material acts as a flammable substance, or a flame retardant or mask – is not important – it will produce an effect!
  4. BYO food and drink (alcohol permitted as long as you are not driving home!)
  5. Camping gear if you are staying (there is no additional charge for staying- that part is up to you and free) – please indicate in the notes on your order if you are staying.

What is provided?

  1. The hole in the ground!!! Plus sawdust and basic firing wood.
  2. Wet clay for masking and holding oxides
  3. Oxides and other colourants for loading into the pit.
  4. Discussion around firing methods, oxides and their roles, reduction effects, and more regarding the pit firing itself.
  5. Great fun around the campfire and lots of learning about oxides and materials!

Space is limited to 12 people, so book early to ensure you are part of the fun!!!

Tickets – $100

Firebird Studios Members – $90 – please book in person in the studio.


June 15, 2019
3:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Event Category:




Firebird Studios


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