Some Times Life Is The Pits, And That is Okay

Particularly when you are doing a pit firing!

What is a pit firing?

It is a pottery firing technique that I have been keen to try for some time. And I will be far from the first to do so. You see this is the oldest known method of firing pottery known to man. Pit fired pieces that have been found have been dated back to 29,000 to 25,000 BCE.

In order to prepare for my pit firing, there was the usual throwing of pots! This is the group I have chosen for the pit firing below:

Pottery for pit firing
Pottery pieces for pit firing

Another enjoyable step in this process was a mystical walk on the beach to gather combustible materials for my pit firing here:

Apparently anything saturated in salt has the potential for interesting effects. Thank you beach!

A more physically exerting step in the process was to dig this pit. This hole is about 2 feet deep.

Pit firing hole
Pit firing hole

After waiting two days for rain to pass, finally today, I was able to get my pottery and pit ready for firing. I had a small amount of copper wire hanging around, so I added that to two of the pots, and as you will see from the following pictures I also added some oxides. Aren’t the colours pretty? They kind of remind me of some of the colours in the Hindu festival Holi.

Pots in Pit for firing
Pots in pit for firing.

As you can see, I had a pretty roaring fire going. I just hope it got hot enough to create some interesting effects with what I added into my pit.

Pit firing on the go!

I slowly waited for the fire fuel to reach an ashen stage so that I could cover the pit.

Today I walk in the steps of the first potters and experience some of the magic of an ancient technique.

What awaits me when I open up the pit? I have absolutely no idea, but we will find out very soon. Stay tuned!

47 Comments

  1. EEEKKKK, this is truly so thrilling to me. I look forward to seeing what the results look like:D I’m absolutely certain it will be wonderful. This has inspired me to try something “the old fashion” way… I’m not sure what, though.

    1. I am hoping to be able to share some pictures and the results tomorrow once the pit has cooled down πŸ˜‰ I am looking forward to hearing about what you will try! Hope your day has been a good one Nova πŸ˜‰

    1. Thanks. I do read pottery books, and usually do a fair bit of research before I try something.

      1. Wow! You must have some fascinating books there in your collection! Have you read many of them? What has been the most fascinating or interesting thing about pottery that you have read?

      2. haha! You have that many of them? Maybe you could donate them to a library?

      3. I guess I can understand that. It is a pretty niche area. Maybe you might have some luck selling them on ebay?

  2. Years ago, on a visit to a Native American Museum in Arizona, I saw displays of ancient pottery that was so beautiful! They described it as having been pit fired, then covered with earth for a period of time (days?) before removing it from the pit. They said the fuel was buffalo manure and that was what gave it the metallic black sheen. I don’t remember if they said it was the predecessor of Santa Clara pottery, or not, but this particular pottery on display was found in ancient pueblo ruins in that area.

    I also read about a method in an early issue of Mother Earth magazine that seemed interesting, too. They used brick to build the kiln (out of doors, above ground, no mortar), stacked the pottery, then filled the kiln to the top with saw dust. The fire was lit and the kiln covered with sheet metal and left to burn out. The sawdust burned very slowly. When the fuel was exhausted and the kiln completely cool, it was opened. If I remember right, this took days, as well.

    I always wanted to try it, but never did. I thought it would be especially wonderful to see the mysterious results after having to wait so long. In the old days as one had to dig and prepare their own clay, there was even more risk – the not-knowing for sure if the clay was good – if the pottery would even survive the firing at all!

    I am so excited for you and looking forward to seeing the results of your project with much anticipation!

    Thank you so much for sharing! πŸ’ž

    1. That is very fascinating! In my research, I found that people often used dried cow manure in this type of firing, so it makes a lot of sense to me that American Aboriginal people would use the buffalo variety!

      Mother Earth is a great magazine and I may have to try a sawdust reduction firing like you describe there. It is also possible to do that in a pit firing too, but I did not cover my pit so it was air tight this time. I am thinking of doing that for my next firing.

      I have often thought about digging up my own clay. There was some sandy clay in the bottom of my pit, but the consistency was not right for throwing. Maybe if I keep on digging I will find some πŸ˜‰

      I should have some pictures of the pieces up a little later today. I have just removed them from the pit and there may be some interesting results!

      Thanks for your comment and I hope you are having a wonderful start to your day!

    1. I have just had my first glimpses and it looks promising. I hope to have some photos up a little later.
      I hope you have a great day ahead!

  3. This is truly exciting! I love it when people return to the old ways of crafting and re-ignite the art from the bottom up. So much of art has become commercialized and expensive and has lost the organic feel. Thank you for letting us experience this with you!

    1. You are very welcome and thank you so much for your kind comment. One of the things I love most about pottery is that it is one of the earliest art forms and I find it fascinating to try different techniques from various cultures and times. I should have some pictures up later today of the pots from the firing! I hope you have a beautiful day!

    1. Thank you so much for your kind comment! I hope you are having a nice day, and you can be sure I will keep creating.

    1. Thank you for your kind words! I just posted the photos from the firing in my blog, so feel free to take a peak when you have a moment. I hope all is well with you!

    1. I really love the feeling of being able to make something and use some of the ancient techniques and walk a little bit in the steps of those who came before us! I hope you have been having a wonderful weekend!

    1. You should if you have the chance. It is a fascinating and almost primal experience. I hope you have a wonderful weekend.

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