The Pit Fire Process

Pit file pottery, like raku, is intended for decorative use. Because it is not glazed, it will not hold liquids and it’s not considered “food safe.”

You can, of course, use a pit fire bowl for a utilitarian purpose, like holding loose change or dried flowers.

How Pit Fire Pottery is Made

throwing Soft clay is formed into bowls by throwing on a potter’s wheel.  The bowls are then allowed to dry. Once dry, the bowls are usually burnished with a smooth stone to compact the clay and to form a smooth, shiny surface.
2014-08-18 17.58.44 Next, the pots are fired in a kiln, to a relatively low temperature of 1400-1600° Fahrenheit, and allowed to cool.  This produces a hard, durable form called bisqueware.
00050 Pit firing requires a lot of work, so it’s usually a group activity.  The first step is to dig a large pit in soft ground or sand.
00052 The pit is layered with sawdust, salt, and sometimes other chemicals that will add colors to the pots.
00053 The pots are then placed in the pit…
00057 … and covered with wood.  The wood is doused with lighter fluid.
00059 Finally, the pit is lit and the fire is allowed to burn.  When the pit is dug on a beach, perpendicular to the shoreline, the offshore breezes drive the flames.  As the fire burns, everyone takes a break for lunch, plays in the sand, or takes a swim!
00063 When the fire burns down and is completely cool (several hours later), the pots can be removed and cleaned.
DSCN1350 The finished pots may be waxed or sprayed with lacquer to protect the colors from fading.