Beginner’s Luck — My First Pit Fired Pots (2)

I wrote about trying — and failing miserably — to copy Dick Lehman‘s method for transferring carbonized images of plants onto pots in a previous post. Well, that pot was just one of the two on which I had attempted that trick. Here is the other one, which seems to have fared somewhat better — at least here we get a hint of the leaves (if they are indeed what I think they are) I had placed under a clay mask on the pot (figure 1). The clay mask is simply a big wad of moist clay fixed to the pot with newspaper and twine before the firing.


figure 1: image of leaves (I think)

Again, this is a wheel thrown pot, 5 1/2 inches (14 cm) tall, made from a white porcelain-like stoneware clay body, and bisqued to cone 06 prior to the firing. As usual, a terra sig had been applied to the bone dry pot before the bisque. But here the terra sig also has had cobalt carbonate mixed in (2 teaspoons per cup of liquid terra sig) to give it a blue tint. Notice how the various grays and color flashes mix with the blue of the terra sig, giving the pot surface some unique colors and textures not usually seen on white untinted pots (figure 2).


figure 2: orange tint over blue

A subtle but clearly visible light orange-reddish tint over the blue (figure 2) probably came from the plentiful salted grasses that were wrapped around this pot before the firing; but it might also have come from the base clay of the terra sig itself. For some reason, I have recorded the base terra sig here as a red terra sig in my notebook, even though it behaves — and looks — more like white terra sig. Unfortunately I don’t remember the exact circumstances under which I had made this tinted terra sig — it might actually have been a half-and-half mixture, i.e. half white terra sig and half red terra sig. Well, I’m a better note taker now, but I wish I had been a good one back then as well… :-(

Incidentally, if you want to know more about terra sig, Dan Ebert has a good write up on how to make them. For a white terra sig, we usually use Tennesee ball clay (OM 4) as the base; and for a red one, we usually use Red Art.


figure 3: another blue pot

Now, time for a counter-example: this pot above (figure 3) has the same blue terra sig on it and was in the same firing, but it shows no sign of that subtle orange-reddish tint as far as I can tell. Where it does show the red, it is a very strong and localized dark maroon red — characteristic of copper carb fuming (and there was plenty of copper carb in the pit in that firing.) So maybe the subtle orange-reddish tint in figure 2 did come from the salt in the salted grasses after all.

One more interesting thing about this pot: it was the only one (out of a total of 7) of mine in this pit with banana peels wrapped around it; and it was also the only one with the deep maroon red flashes on it after the firing. This dark red probably did come from the copper carbonate that was all over the pit, but could it be that the presence of the banana peels also somehow “attracted” the copper fumes there, too?

One of these days I’ll have to do some serious experimentation with banana peels — I’ve had similar experience with banana peels on other pots in other firings, so there might be something more than luck involved here…

UPDATE (June 14, 2006): I was wrong about the pot shown in figure 3 being the only pot packed with banana peels in this firing; it turns out another pot had banana peels around it too. And that pot had some deep maroon red flashing also — so the “banana peels => deep red flashes” hypothesis still holds (so far.)

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