Monday, January 10, 2011

How a pit turned into a barrel

Remember those bisqued pots in my previous post ? Here they are, after an absolutely thrilling barrel firing. An amazing display of colors, don't you think ?  With the help of some copper sulfate, copper carbonate, red iron oxide, a bit of rutile, salt, seaweed, mandarine peels, and coffee grounds, to name a few.

It was another overcast and cold day in San Diego, even colder in Alpine. Weeks of rain have drenched the soil, turning our pit into a frog pond ! But my friends Rose and Myra were undeterred. They found a recycled oil drum and two metal trash cans, drilled a few holes at the bottom, and our pit firing turned into an improvised barrel firing. I love it !
Nancy and I drove to Rose's on Saturday afternoon to prepare our pots and start the firings. At our disposal: oxide-soaked strips of old T-shirts (red iron oxide, copper carb.) or corn husks, salt-soaked pine needles, iron oxide soaked twine, seaweeds, oxide powders, coffee grounds, Kosher salt, various plant cuttings,...Tieing, wrapping, sprinkling, it was a flurry of activity in the studio, the air saturated with creative vapors. The most fragile pieces were caged for protection. Good thinking !

Nancy, Rose and Myra
All wrapped up and ready to go
Next, load and fire. Pieces were piled into the three "barrels", alternating layers with straw, woodchips, salt and oxides. I don't know how we managed to fit it all, but we did ! Rose inaugurated our first barrel firing by lighting the first match **Drumrolls** Fires roared and pieces of wood were added for an hour, while we celebrated with cold beers. Then we let the combustibles burn out slowly. It was finally time for a light dinner by the fires, under the stars, warm and the belly full.


It took the whole night for the fires to die down. By early morning, it was all cold ashes, pots peaking through, ready for unloading. It was hard to wait so long ! I am so used to the instant gratification of Raku firings. The excitment was hard to contain, sleep was light and short. But I wasn't alone in that predicament. When Nancy and I showed up the next day, Rose and Myra had already dug up a host of treasures. Splashes of colors were already shining through the dust. A good sponging, a thorough waxing, and a quick buffing revealed a magnificent array of colors on most of our pots. It was a great firing !

My first barrel firing, it was such a thrill ! Hardly any breakage, beautiful colors, everyone did an awesome job. Rose, Myra, and Nancy, mission accomplished ! Thank you Rose for opening your house and your studio to the crazy potters that we are ! I can't wait for our next barrel firing !

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