Smoke firing at the farm

I have been making lots of pinch pots out of white clay to pit fire. I haven’t done it before and so was really looking forward to seeing how it worked and combine it with a few days holiday at the hut with the children who were interested too in seeing how this process planned out. I needed an extra few pairs of hands to be honest as well! We were all absolutely delighted with the results. It was important to me to include within the firing some of the plants from the area around my hut and so I chose dock and thistles since they are so prevalent and also so beautiful and to me emblematic of my recent time here.

A time-lapse of putting together the pit firing and getting it going. At the end of the film I put on some metal lids and left it for 24 hours.

In terms of the results there were some surprises and some disappointments. I was surprised at how many of the pieces were completely black and I came to the conclusion that this was because I packed the kiln so well there wasn’t much flow of air. But really it was my first go and it’s all experimentation. I also discovered that the process was very unforgiving. You can see every blemish in the original clay pieces. And I need to burnish to create a sheen. However there were some stand out pieces with very clear evidence of print of the dried dock shown on a plate that I need to see if I can repeat.

The next day we did another firing and this time we had less sawdust and more wood shavings which despite being very worried about it ended up with more dramatic results, more sharp black and white contrasts and also evidence of the remnants of the dock seeds again. I am beginning to work out how to do this!

The clay I used was a low fire earthenware white clay which to be honest I don’t enjoy using but I wanted a very white white that would ‘take’ the smoke well and also provide a good contrast with the Hawthbush terracotta I have found. And then I am also using the rather brilliant Ashraf Hanna Raku Clay, but I didn’t work it to a smooth finish which I regret. Learning learning learning! Next step is to do it all again!

First proper firing

The Hawthbush Clay is not easy to work it has to be said. I discovered that up the road in Lower Dicker there used to be a well known pottery and there is a type of pottery called Dickerware. Who knew. But I can’t yet find out whether the clay they used was local or not. More to find out and research. Meanwhile I have been playing with what I have found so far. As a slip it looks great, one firing fantastic and then far more boring when it’s been glazed… but I hate glaze so no surprise there….all experimentation and I am enjoying the process

Look what I found…

On the table in the tent is a tablecloth. Tablecloths became a bit of an obsession during my diploma at West Dean. I will write more about that another time. Suffice to say I wanted a living tablecloth to form a backdrop to my work at Hawthbush. I had been writing notes on it and wiping ink on it, clay dried on it creating a lovely patina and a guest even spilt their coffee on it. A record of my experiences here. And then on my return here after lockdown I found this comment written on what must have been a low day for me. This is something I need to fix over the next year. Promise.

Trying to create a rhythm…

How can I create anything of order or regularity at the moment when horrid madness rules the world? However, here there is a true form of escape. I have on a couple of occasions left home schooling and run off for a few hours to contemplate what next for my residency at Hawthbush – and I am excited about what may come.

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