Over the past couple of winters we have been experimenting with ceramic firings in an open fire. We collect the clay ourselves from the cliffs of a local beach and for fuel we use prunings from our olive trees and some old pieces of timber.
First we dig a square pit:
These are house bricks which the ceramic pieces are put on to keep them off the earth:
These are old olive oil storage cans with the top cut off. They are placed top down over the ceramics to keep air out causing a reduction process that darkens or blackens the clay: Then more ceramic pieces are put on top of and in between the cans
Then we surround the can with wood and put a thick layer of greenery over the top. This insulates the ceramics from a sudden change in temperature when the fire is lit that would cause the clay to crack and break up. The fire is lit above all of this allowing the pieces of wood around the cans to gradually burn over a 24 hour period.
Then olive branch prunings are piled on top and lit. We have over 80 olive trees and end up with a huge amount of prunings after we have finished harvesting the olives in December.
The olive branches and leaves comtain some oil and burn very fiercely. We keep the fire burning for about 2 hours and then leave it.
This is the firepit the following morning, it’s still very hot. In this fire the ceramics were fired to about 800C.
This is a small pinch pot Pete made, out of the fire:
and then cleaned up. The dark colour is from the reduction process. The shine is from is from burnishing – polishing the clay with the back of a spoon as it dries out. The slight irridessant sheen and markings are from banana skins which contain potassium. The pot was fired once only without any glazes.