There's nothing like a good fire which attracts a crowd. Potters are a strange mixture of alchemists and lovers of beauty so its only natural that the promise of an evening together with flames will get us all together.
I have been a member of the Midlands Potters Association (MPA) for about two years now, and we meet on a regular basis in geographical groups, as well as en masse for demonstrations and events. I find it really invaluable to hang out with people on the same wavelength as me, who like to discuss the intricacies of successes and failures in our beloved ceramic pieces.
Recently our group got together for an evening of smoke-firing at an established potter's home, Sue Lilleman. Sue was extremely generous with her knowledge and gave advice about how we could add varying elements to our bisque fired pieces (fired to around 900 C) to achieve varying effects and colours.
So we gleefully wrapped copper wire, wire wool, sea-weed, banana skins, Eucalyptus leaves and mango peel around our pots, having no idea how the finished vessels would turn out.
Next our pottery was placed into the fire-pit or saggar with sawdust and green copper carbonate. (The saggar was fired to a temperature of 850 C but not totally sealed).
Once the firing was over the pots needed to be washed and or lightly sanded; and then they can be burnished. To do this the pot should ideally be warmed; coated with beeswax, then left to cool before a final polish.
I have a few photos of some of the finished pieces. I was particularly happy with my own little creation with hints of pink and minty green with some smokey dark smudges too.
So, we all had a great fun with that little experiment. And of course any gathering wouldn't be complete without food and drink which we were able to enjoy in Sue's lovely garden.
I think all this smoke-firing has left us hungry to try more. I have a long garden which we may be able to use under the cover of darkness, if anyone in the Midlands fancies joining us in the future?
Sue often exhibits with the MPA, and I think our next annual exhibition will be in November time at the Woodbridge Gallery in Moseley. Check the MPA website for details closer to the time if you are interested is Sue's smoke-fired, ornamental vessels.