When Midsummer arrives, in flowers and greenery, Tatiana the Faerie Queen opens the Realm, for mortals to mingle with fae folk. (Yes, there are trolls, goblins, and mer folk as well.) This revelry takes place in New York state, in dappled sunlight and beside a flowing stream. Sounds idyllic? It is a magical place. This year was the 10th year, and although it was unseasonably hot – we had a lovely time!
For the first time – a few of us that are ceramic artist/potters/lovers of clay got permission to do a thing. Friday nights events include a large bonfire/drum circle. With fire spinners, and performers, and dance, and music – its a pretty amazing night. We got permission to place a little chamber of fire brick in the base of the fire!
Emma and I made small votive offerings and goddess figures, and we decided to bisque fire ours in advance. Although this means we were not relying not eh bonfire to actually FIRE our pieces, we were taking less risk of breakage. Our white stoneware pieces would still be pit-fired or smoke-fired and change color.
Friday evening we built the kiln chamber and filled it with organic matter all found in the immediate vicinity: twigs, pine cones, pine needles, leaves. They were not very dry. Pieces in teh firing ranged from green terra cotta, green stoneware and bisque stoneware as mentioned above. We also included some medallions made form clay from the property itself. These were pretty rough as the clay was very raw, with inclusions, etc.
Ye s- we are a motley crew. It IS a faerie festival! We had been vending all day in the heat, although it was to get much hotter…
Two bricks to cap the kiln and offer some protection from falling logs as the large fire was to burn for hours that night.
Saturday morning was already brutally hot – and here was our first look at our kiln! Still warm to the touch, but not smoldering.
Results: the nature raw clay did not fire, still crumbly… All the other clay bodies fired well. We had some areas in the bottom of our kiln that were not heavily reduced ( in oxygen/ reduction atmosphere) so there were color variation. Basically – when a piece IS in a reduction atmosphere, the fire steals the oxygen, and the piece absorbs carbon in the exchange. This results in the dark tones on the clay itself.
A beautiful palette of smoke fired colors and a few flashes of green!
This was am amazing opportunity. I have done many, many pit fired before: on the beach, with students, large, small, exciting, commonplace. But this was was magical. To have these pieces imbued with the spirit of community from Friday nights events, from this place, at this time? Wonderful!
We gave the pieces away. To the Fire crew, the land owners, the Queen, to the people who make this faire happen! And we hope to make this pit fire happen again next year!
If you are still reading, and want a little more – here is the video reveal of the opening. Silly, excited, irreverent, and un edited.